Think you have to go low fat to lose weight? Not anymore!

New research has turned this nutritional bad guy into a must-eat. Good news ahead:

Fat got a bad rap decades ago because scientists assumed, based on misinterpretation of a couple of large studies, that eating foods containing fat would lead directly to obesity and heart disease.  Fatty foods were made out to be our sole dietary vice, responsible for raising our cholesterol levels, clogging our arteries, and causing us to, well, get fat.  But "the low-fat diet backfired," says Frank Hu, MD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "America's obesity epidemic skyrocketed even while our fat intake went down." so experts are getting of the "fat is evil" bandwagon these days -- and we should too.

The upside of eating fat: Like carbohydrates and protein, fat is an essential nutrient.  This means that your body requires it for key functions, such as absorbing the fat soluble vitamins A,  D, E, and K. "Fat is also an important energy source and is vital for keeping your skin and hair healthy and smooth," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of 'Read It Before You Eat It.' Research is also revealing that eating the right fats can actually lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and improve your cholesterol levels.  This is because all fats are not created equal, Dr. Hu points out.

It's not the total amount of fat in your diet that affects how much you weigh or whether you're at risk for heart disease, according to rigorous studies from the past decade.  What matters is the type of fats you choose (and, when it comes to dropping pounds, the total number of calories you eat). 

Here's a breakdown: GOOD FATS - Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) found in plant foods like nuts, avocados, olive oil and in poultry. MUFFA's can actually help lower cholesterol levels and, in doing so, also lower your risk of heart disease. In fact, Journal of the American Medical Association study showed that replacing a carb-rich diet with one high in monounsaturated fats can do both, and reduce blood pressure too. 

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, and corn and soybean oils.  Like MUFA's, PUFAs have been shown to improve cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease risk.  One type is the omega-3 fatty acid, which is plentiful in some kinds of fish - not to be confused with omega-6 fatty acids, found in meats, corn oil, and soybean oil. Some research finds that Americans eat about 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3 and we should be aiming to get closer to four times as much. Eat more fish when you can.

Source: Kate Lowenstein

Susan Arruda