Short answer? Yes. A more accurate answer? Yes, but it shouldn’t
be. Saturated fat may not be the one and only bad guy anymore, but it
certainly isn’t the good guy.
Popular meal plans like the Paleo, Atkins, and Ketogenic diets have been
making a name for themselves in the media lately for emphasizing a low-carb,
high-fat diet for optimal weight loss, but recent studies are debunking
the myth that saturated fat is healthy in such large doses. Though a low-carb
high-fat diet can assist with weight loss, the damage it does to a person’s
heart health is enough to argue in favor of its continued limitation.
Controversy over whether or not saturated fat is linked to chronic heart
disease has been a hot topic for decades, and researchers are finally
bridging the gap between the two polarized opinions. “Research has
found limiting your saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your daily
calorie intake will dramatically reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease,” explains
Julie Vu, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group in Garden Grove. “The problem is that people don’t realize
that all fat isn’t created equal.”
People assume that eliminating fat and continuing to eat that calorie equivalent
in refined carbohydrates is a healthy swap, but that’s not the case.
Americans have an unhealthy habit of shunning fat and replacing it with
carbs when they should be working polyunsaturated and monounsaturated
fats into their diets instead. People are quick to think that eliminating
fat from their diet will instantly improve their health, but what most
don’t realize is that these good fats are essential for a balanced,
healthy, and nutritious diet. “Eliminate fatty meats, like bacon
and beef, and swap in healthier fat sources, like nuts, coconut oil, and
avocado,” says Dr. Vu.
Increasing your daily fat quota doesn’t mean slapping butter on everything;
it’s about incorporating healthy fats into your diet in place of
saturated fat and sugars. “Cutting back on total fat doesn’t
necessarily improve your health," Dr. Vu says, “especially
when that calorie total is replaced with equally unhealthy alternatives.”
For example, eliminating butter won’t lower your risk of heart disease
if, instead, you eat three slices of pizza every morning.
The risk of cardiovascular disease is comparable between diets high in
saturated fats and those high in refined carbohydrates, leading some people
to take this as a reason to continue a diet high in fats or carbs. New
research, however, is offering up a much healthier alternative that will
take some of the pressure off your heart: replacing saturated fat and
refined sugars with unsaturated fat and complex carbohydrates, or whole
grains. Studies have shown that replacing your saturated fat intake with
poly- or monounsaturated fats can lead to an upwards of 25 percent decrease
in heart disease risk.
“Physicians and nutritionists need to emphasize the alternatives
when they’re telling patients to limit saturated fat intake,”
explains Dr. Vu. “I often find that when patients attempt to eat
fewer saturated fats, they end up increasing their carbohydrate intake
without really knowing, which doesn’t help decrease their risk of
heart disease. But if they consciously replaced those fats and carbs with
healthier fats and complex carbohydrates, their heart health would improve
Have you had any experience limiting saturated fats in your diet? Share
your personal results and story in the comments.
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