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Fats research: good news for fresh departments


For years, health experts have waved a finger at consumers, warning them about the unhealthy consequences of gobbling down saturated fats. But new evidence shows they may not be so bad.

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concludes that a person’s intake of saturated fats has no impact on the risks of developing heart disease or stroke.

And at a Dairy Farmers of Canada symposium in December, Dr. Arne Vernon Astrop, head of the department of human nutrition at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, presented evidence from 20 recently published scientific papers showing that saturated fats may have more of a neutral effect on the risk of heart disease than previously thought.

Instead of shunning foods known to contain saturated fats, dietary experts now suggest that consumers consider the nutritional benefits of the whole food, rather than just a single ingredient. Take cheese, for example. It may be high in saturated fats, but it also provides essential nutrients such as protein and calcium.

“The bottom line is, you have to look at the whole package. Whole grains and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables should form the basis of a healthy diet. If you do that, you shouldn’t worry about including some saturated fat,” says Shannon Crocker, a dietitian in Ancaster, Ont.

It may take some time for consumers to feel comfortable with this new thinking. For years consumers were told to do exactly the opposite; any food high in saturated fats was to be avoided and shoppers were trained to look for “low fat” alternatives on store shelves.

However, experts now say the real diet no-no is the high levels of refined carbohydrates typically found in processed foods, including some baked goods, bread, pasta and rice. “Many of these foods are not healthy because they can raise cholesterol levels and put people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,” says Crocker.

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