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The Skinny on Fat

While nutritionists have long praised the good fat in avocados, olive oil, and nuts, they’ve universally recommended avoiding food high in its stepsister, saturated fat. Because saturated fat can raise levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), it’s been thought to increase your risk of heart disease. Yet while some studies supported this association, the findings were far from conclusive – and may not have taken into account other dietary factors (like potentially negative effect refined carbs can have on the heart) or the fact that saturated fat can actually raise good cholesterol (HDL).

Still, the idea stuck: Sat fat is bad fat. But now emerging research is shedding new light on the debate. A scientific review of studies involving more than 600,000 people, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this year, found no significant link between dietary saturated fat and heart disease – suggesting that we don’t, in fact, need to shun foods like red meat, butter, and whole milk for our heart’s sake. But before you go hog-wild, here’s what you should know about popular fatty foods.


There’s a difference between unprocessed meat – like beef, lamb, and pork – and the processed varieties that include sausage, bacon, and lunch meat. After analyzing 20 studies, Harvard researchers found that while eating one 3.5 – ounce serving or more of red meat daily wasn’t associated with a higher risk of heart disease, consuming just 1.8 ounces of processed meat (the equivalent of about two slices of bologna) a day was associated with a 42 percent increased risk. The main culprit might not be the saturated fat after all, but rather the high amounts of sodium (which can raise blood pressure) and preservatives (which may promote arterial hardening) in processed meat.

EAT SMART: Sticking to one to two servings of red meat per week shouldn’t have a major impact on your health if you eat well the rest of the time, says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and coauthor of the Annals of Internal Medicinestudy. But he recommends consuming most of your protein from sources proved to be beneficial, like nuts and fish rich in unsaturated fatty acids.


Source: Jessica Girdwain. The Oprah Magazine July 2014