Foods rich in monounsaturated fats
  • almonds
  • avocados
  • canola oil
  • cashews
  • hazelnuts
  • macadamia nuts
  • olives
  • peanuts
  • pecans
  • sunflower oil

Conventional medical wisdom professes that low-fat diets are good for the heart. But new research is telling us to eat more fat, not less. According to a study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (vol. 79, no. 2), those who ate a moderate-fat diet ended up with a better cardiovascular disease risk profile compared with low-fat dieters.

The 53 participants committed to diets that contained the same amount of calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Half the dieters ate 18 percent of their calories from fat (low-fat dieters), while the other half consumed 33 percent of their calories from fat (moderate-fat dieters; half the fat was monounsaturated from peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut oil). The moderate-fat dieters reduced cardiovascular disease risk by 14 percent, while the low-fat dieters showed only a 9 percent improvement. Both groups lost the same amount of weight.

“This doesn’t mean you can sit down with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon,” says study author Christine Pelkman, PhD, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University at Buffalo. “Portion control is still important. But adding healthy monounsaturated fats to a diet of nutrient-rich foods, even during weight loss, may provide cardiovascular benefits.”

—M. Carol Burns