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Saturated Fat: Why Avoiding It Doesn't Always Lower Heart Disease

Not all sources of saturated fat are bad. Eggs and salmon have health benefits.

We examine real-life health issues in our series, Vital Signs, and in this edition - saturated fats. We’ve long been told eating less of it prevents heart disease. But a study out this month in the journal BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) says it’s not that simple. Caroline Susie, a registered dietitian with Methodist Health System, explains.

Highlights from Caroline Susie’s interview:

What the study found: If you take out saturated fat, and replace it with something else that it not so good for you, like sugars, carbohydrates – think bagels, donuts – you’re still doing damage to your body. (Sam: So it’s not enough just to cut saturated fat. If you’re really trying to eat healthy, you have to follow all the way through?) What types of food you’re eating all day long.

Are all saturated fats bad for you: If your diet is high in saturated fat all day long, then yes.  But if you’re incorporating a few saturated fats throughout the day, then actually no. Eggs, complete protein. They’re going to help keep you fuller, longer. Salmon, we know, is wonderful for you. Salmon, a couple of times a week, is going to keep you mentally sharp. And those omega-3 (fatty acids) have been shown to protect against heart disease and stroke. So it’s looking at the types of fat you’re eating, choosing a variety of fats, and balancing that out.

Good types of fat:  You hear them a lot as “mufas” and “pufas,” the monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Almonds, walnuts, salmon or other oily fish like tuna, mackerel, sardines even. Also avocados. But a fat, whether it’s good for you or bad for you, it’s still high in calories. So want to really be mindful fo your portions.

For more information:

BMJ: Study on saturated fa

American Heart Association: Saturated Fats 

Sources of good fats 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.