Fat: Fact or Fable?

You've probably heard these statements about fat before. Find out whether or not they're true.

A bowl of fruit salad

Randy Mayor

A fat-free diet is the ticket to optimal health.

Fable. A multitude of studies have shown that consuming a diet with moderate amounts of fat―emphasizing sources of healthful mono- and polyunsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, oils, and avocados―can help reduce risk for heart disease. What’s more, certain vitamins require dietary fat in order for your body to process and benefit from them.

A fried egg

Randy Mayor

Dietary cholesterol is not the same as fat.

Fact. Dietary cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance found in foods derived from animals. It’s often associated with fats because it is found in foods that are sometimes high in fat. Although some people may be sensitive to dietary cholesterol, saturated and trans fats are responsible for large increases in the body’s production of cholesterol.

Measuring tape

Randy Mayor

Fat makes you fat.

Fable. Fat, carbohydrate, and protein all supply calories in your diet. Fat supplies nine calories per gram; protein and carbohydrate have four. It’s easy for foods high in fat―whether saturated or unsaturated types―to pack in the calories. For example, one tablespoon of olive oil contains about 120 calories from mostly unsaturated fats. Excess calories, of course, lead to weight gain.

fish oil pills

Randy Mayor

Eating fatty fish is better than taking fish oil pills.

Fact. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two fatty acids found in fatty fish and some dietary supplements. Preliminary studies have linked fish oil supplements to reduced risks for heart problems. We recommend consuming a variety of fish weekly for protein, minerals, and other nutrients with multiple benefits.

burger and fries

Randy Mayor

All trans fats are bad.

Fact. There are two types of trans fats: artificial ones manufactured from hydrogenated oils and ones that occur naturally in certain foods, like beef or dairy products. There’s little doubt artificial trans fats are linked to health problems, such as heart disease, and research is still teasing out what effect natural trans fats may have on health. Also remember natural trans fats are found in animal-based foods that contain saturated fat, which should be consumed in moderation.

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