Over the past decade, nutritional advice on how much and what kind of fat to eat to keep our weight in check has shifted much like the colors and shapes in a revolving kaleidoscope.
Ten years ago, most of us thought that eating fat would make us fat. Based on this belief, consumers sought to eliminate all fat from their food. In response to the demand, food manufacturers rushed to fill grocery stores with hundreds of reduced or fat-free products, from fat-free ice cream to reduced fat Oreo cookies.
Today, our understanding of the role fats play in maintaining a healthy weight is more nuanced. Minimizing the consumption of trans fats (an inexpensive ingredient in processed food that is easy to use and lengthens shelf life) and saturated fats (found mostly in food mostly from animals but also a few plants) is still considered sound advice. Both are believed to increase the risk of heart disease by reducing the good cholesterol in our bodies and raising the bad cholesterol.
But while trans fats and saturated fats are being ostracized, the surprising benefits of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAS) are making headlines. MUFAS are found in certain oils, nuts and seeds, avocados and dark chocolate. PUFAS are found in some vegetables and nuts, and fish and shellfish. For example, a recent study suggests that eating certain unsaturated fats helped participants with prediabetes reduce their risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes by almost 60 percent. MUFAS are also cited as "potential superheros for controlling blood sugar, reducing insulin resistance, fighting belly fat . . . strongly associated with prediabetes and diabetes." For optimum benefits for heart health, researchers advise us to combine MUFAS and PUFAS.
The takeaway advice is this: For optimum nutrition, eat mostly fruits and vegetables, lean meat, some fish and healthy whole grains. Include small amounts of oils (especially olive oil), nuts and seeds and avocados--and an occasional piece of dark chocolate.