New research is finding that saturated fat may not be the health culprit it was once believed to be.
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Credit: Lee Harrelson

For years, we have been told to avoid saturated fats to prevent heart disease. You know the ones, soft Brie cheese, bacon-wrapped steak, golden skin on rotisserie chicken, creamy butter on your baked potato, and the list goes on. Now a landmark study from the Harvard School of Public Health published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is questioning that advice. Based on their results, "there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for heart disease." And furthermore, restricting fat intake can lead to a whole new set of chronic health problems.

This news is rocking the nutrition world, but before you run out to get a double scoop with extra whipped cream, take a closer look. Saturated fats are found in foods like whole milk, cheese, beef, poultry and pork. Previous research has found that too much saturated fat can potentially lead to heart disease. However, avoiding all forms of saturated fat is out of context and takes the advice too far because many of these foods also have equal amounts of heart-healthy fat. Plus, trying to avoid all saturated fats often leads to eating too many low-fat and processed foods that may be filled with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and trans fats, resulting in increased risk of heart disease and weight gain.

Adding whole milk products, cheese, butter, and red meats back into the diet may not be an unhealthy decision. When eaten in moderation, these natural foods can be included in a healthy diet that's both good for your heart and your waistline.

Tammy Beasley, RD, CSSD, CEDRD is a registered, licensed dietitian, spinning instructor, and certified specialist in sports nutrition and eating disorders. She is the author of Rev It Up-The Lifestyle Diet That Puts You In The Driver's Seat.