After having its name sullied for years, fat is making a comeback.
But with multiple fat sources and types available, it’s tough to distinguish what’s ‘good fat’ and ‘bad fat’.
According to a new study, however, there’s a simple rule of thumb you can follow: plant fat sources seem to be better all-around than animal sources, at least when it comes to monounsaturated fats.
The research, delivered at an American Heart Association conference in New Orleans, found plant-based monounsaturated fats — like those found in vegetable oils, avocados, nuts and seeds – were linked to reduced risks of heart disease, and early death from related causes. Comparatively, Animal-based monounsaturated fats — like those in meat, dairy and eggs — were linked to higher risks.
“We have observed a beneficial role of monounsaturated fats for the prevention of cardiovascular and total mortality when plant-based foods are the primary sources,” says Marta Guasch-Ferre, a research associate in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who co-authored the paper with Dr. Geng Zong and Dr. Qi Sun.
Diving into the numbers:
- People who ate lots of plant fats had a 16% lower risk of dying compared to those with lower intakes, while those who ate lots of animal fats had a 21% higher risk.
- Replacing even a small number of calories from trans fats, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates with an equal substitute of plant fats cut a person’s risk of dying from 15% to 10%.
Related: 10 Foods with the Most Trans Fats
The difference, says Guasch-Ferre, is likely due to other nutrients found in the foods. Plants are typically rich in vitamins, polyphenols and polyunsaturated fats – or longer-chain fats that’re proven heart-healthy. Animal fats have more saturated fats and cholesterol, which lead to heart disease.
“Recently, dietary recommendations have shifted toward diets including higher quantities of plant-based foods over animal-based foods,” Guasch-Ferre wrote. “Our results are in accordance with these recommendations.”
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