Men's Health: Eat More Fat

ByABC News
March 13, 2001, 10:15 AM

March 16 -- A growing pile of research proves that one of the healthiest things you can eat is the very evil youve supposedly been trying to avoid: pure fat.

Pure monounsaturated fat, to be specific.

Thats the variety of grease found in nuts, olives, and avocados. It tastes just as good and satisfies your hunger just as well as its killer cousins, saturated fat (the type found in beef and butter) and trans fat (the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil found in chips and cookies), but it doesnt carry the health risks those fats do.

Instead, it actually reverses those health risks.

Good and Good for You

Thank biochemistry. Molecularly, saturated fat and trans fat are loaded with hydrogen atoms, which makes both solid at body temperature. When you eat fats, they become part of the liver membrane. Solid fats make it more difficult for your liver to absorb and filter out harmful low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol the sludge that eventually clogs every artery it touches. So eating a diet high in saturated fat (more than 30 grams a day) can lead to impotence, heart attacks, and strokes.

In contrast, the monounsaturated-fat molecule is missing two hydrogen atoms and is liquid at body temperature. Eat the stuff and itll make the liver membrane more fluid and allow LDL cholesterol to pass more easily into your liver and out of your body. That little trick pays enormous dividends. In fact, eating a diet rich in monounsaturated fat can give you:

A stronger heart: Penn State researchers found that 22 people who ate diets high in monounsaturated fat and low in saturated fat saw their LDL-cholesterol counts and triglycerides (both big factors in heart attacks) drop by 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively, after about three weeks.

These results show that eating more monounsaturated fat can reduce your heart-disease risk by 25 percent, says Penny Kris-Etherton, the study author and a professor in the university's Department of Nutrition.