nelzajamal/ShutterstockGetting your head around all the different types of fat you should and shouldn’t eat is confusing—here are some myths about fat you need to stop believing. A quick answer is that it’s a good idea to eat plenty of monounsaturated fat, the kind in olive oil, seeds and nuts, and avocados. Limit saturated fat—found in animal products like red meat and butter and linked to weight gain and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. And avoid man-made trans fat altogether. (Here are some foods high in cholesterol you should definitely avoid.) Now, a new study, suggests swapping out saturated for unsaturated might help your cholesterol.
Published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, the new research analyzed the findings of eight randomized controlled trials to investigate how diets with similar amounts of calories, but high amounts of either saturated or unsaturated fat, altered blood lipid levels and bodyfat. The researchers collected studies that included people who were obese, but had no other signs of disease, such as heart disease or diabetes.
The findings were a bit of a surprise—regardless of whether the participants ate unsaturated or saturated fat, their weight remained the same. In fact, a saturated fat diet helped people trim their waists more than an unsaturated fat approach. However, when it came to cholesterol, those eating a diet featuring monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat cut their levels by 10 milligrams per deciliter. Again, the news was slightly undercut by the fact that the findings weren’t quite strong enough to be significant—and the saturated fat diet actually raised good HDL cholesterol more than the unsaturated approach.
Check out more drug-free ways to lower cholesterol.
What’s it all mean? Past research has suggested that unsaturated fats are better for the heart. “More than 60 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese or overweight, placing them at greater risk of weight-related diseases, including high cholesterol and stroke, and we need evidence-based strategies to recommend that will prevent disease development,” says co-author Sharon V. Thompson, a registered dietitian and pre-doctoral fellow at the university, as reported on EurekAlert! “We know that metabolic health, in the context of obesity, is a transient state that may not persist over time, and these individuals are at increased risk of developing different comorbidities.”
Obese or not, it makes sense for everyone to know how to lower cholesterol, to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Simple dietary changes go a long way, says co-author Margarita Teran-Garcia, PhD, a nutritional sciences professor. Start with substituting olive oil and canola oil while cooking, swapping your regular margarine, salad dressing, milk, cheese, yogurt, and orange juice with versions fortified with plant sterols, snacking on nuts instead of chips, and eating cholesterol lowering foods, like fish, fruits, and vegetables, every day.
Here are signs you need more healthy fat in your diet.