November 12, 2015

Too often, Americans look straight to the total fat number on the nutrition label, regarding high numbers as an indication of unhealthy food. "It's a myth that eating specifically high-fat foods makes you fat," says Walter Willett, MD, chair of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy. "Eating or drinking more calories than you need from any source, whether it's fat, carbohydrate, protein, or alcohol, can lead to weight gain. Over the past 30 years in the U.S., the percentage of calories from fat has actually gone down, but obesity rates have skyrocketed. Sugary drinks don't contain any fat, yet the billions of gallons of sugary beverages that Americans drink each year have been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic."

Good fats—those from plant oils, nuts, fish, and whole grains—not only satisfy and keep you full but also protect your heart and support overall health. When reading labels, look past the total fat and instead study the ratio of unsaturated to saturated. Look at the ingredients and the quality of the food. Our Salmon with Walnut-Avocado Guacamole (above) recipe has 32 grams of total fat: That's the amount in three Butterfinger candy bars. But the quality of the food—salmon, walnuts, avocado, olive oil—is premium, fresh, and delicious. You'll walk away happy, satisfied, and comfortably full—a fullness that will last for hours. Bonus: It's fast food, ready in less than 20 minutes.

The Takeaway: Fear not the total fat number. Focus instead on the type. Choose foods with a higher ratio of heart-healthy unsaturated fats to saturated fats.

More Fat Facts:

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