30 years ago, it didn’t matter if you were in the fitness world or not – you knew fat was bad news.

Long before the medical mainstream started pushing the (false) idea that eating dietary fat was terrible for your cholesterol levels and heart health, people had been eating low-calorie, low-fat diets in an attempt to slim down. As far back as the 1920s, folks were aware that fat was the most calorie-dense macronutrient, and so had been eradicating (or at least eliminating) it from their weight loss diets.

In the 1940s, physicians started to link a higher fat intake to heart disease. Notable studies included the Framingham Heart Study and the Seven Countries Study of Ancel Keyes. The results became known as the diet-heart hypothesis, and by the late 1950s, the American Heart Association jumped on board with the low-fat ethos.

Things stayed this way for the best part of 40 years, before people started to catch on to the fact that dietary fat wasn’t necessarily the big bad bearer of heart disease and ill health it had been made out to be. [1]

Low-carb, higher-fat diets such as South Beach and Atkins gained popularity, and rather than loading up on bread and bananas, people began gorging on butter and Brazil nuts in an attempt to make fat a more prominent part of their plan while cutting carbs.

To add weight to the good fat gravy train, we hear plenty of dieticians, nutritionists and personal trainers give their patients and clients the blanket advice of – “Eat more good fat.”

But is there really such a thing as “good” fat? And if so, how can it help our weight loss efforts? If it is beneficial, can we have too much of a good thing? And is it about time we all started putting butter in our morning cup of Joe?

 

What is Good Fat?

Here’s how the American Heart Association breaks down fats –

Love It: Unsaturated (Poly & Mono)
Limit It: Saturated
Lose It: Artificial Trans Fat, Hydrogenated Oils & Tropical Oils [2]

Basically, they’re saying we can eat any kind of unsaturated fats to our heart’s content. We’re talking nuts and seeds, oily fish, oils such as olive or almond, and avocados.

We should limit our saturates, which means butter, red meat, and dairy.

And processed foods high in trans fats should be avoided, along with coconut oil or palm oil.

Pretty straightforward guidelines, no?

No one can argue that this is easy advice to follow, and that we wouldn’t all be slightly healthier by switching out trans and hydrogenated fats in favor of unsaturated ones. But as with so much in nutrition, things aren’t quite so simple.

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