A recent study conducted at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published in the journal JAMA found that eating saturated fat and trans fat was associated with higher death rates while eating unsaturated fat was associated with lower death rates. Saturated fat is found mostly in animal foods like butter, cheese and red meat. Unsaturated fat is found in plant oils, nuts, seeds, avocados and fish.
The debate over which fats are good or bad isn’t so simple. Foods that are rich in unsaturated fat can also contain a little saturated fat, so we can’t completely eliminate saturated fat from our diets. That saturated fat alone causes bad health has not yet been proven. Rather, a diet high in saturated fat may be a marker of poor eating habits, such as high intake of fatty animal foods.
Replacing saturated fat from animal foods with unsaturated fat from plant oils is a step up, but we can do even better. Plant oils are processed, calorie-rich and nutrient-poor. Whole plant foods like nuts, seeds and avocados are a better source of unsaturated fats. Whole plant foods have fewer calories, more fiber and more nutrients than plant oils. For example, studies have shown that nuts have a greater longevity-promoting effect than olive oil. They also help with weight management and reduce cardiovascular and other diseases.
Limit foods that are especially high in saturated fats, like butter, cheese and red meat. Replace them with unsaturated fat from plant foods, but limit your intake of plant oils. The best sources of fat are whole plant foods like nuts, seeds and avocados.