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Myth No. 10: Eating fat makes you fat.
The Theory: Fat has nine calories per gram, whereas carbs and protein have only four per gram, so to lose weight you have to avoid fat.
The Reality: Fat is not the enemy. Although fat-laden products can be full of calories, a modest amount of fat may help you feel full (so you eat less overall) and make healthy foods, like vegetables, taste better (so you may eat more of them). Fat also helps with the absorption of certain vitamins and phytonutrients, which are compounds in plants that are thought to promote health.
The Best Advice: Eat fat, but don't go overboard. And think about which fats you do eat, as some are better for you than others. Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in liquid oils such as canola, safflower, and olive; most nuts; and fish. These fats don't raise blood cholesterol levels and may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The fats to limit or avoid are saturated fats, found mainly in beef and dairy products, and trans fats, which are in a lot of packaged foods, fried fast foods, and margarine. These are no more caloric than the good fats, but they are less healthful, as they increase the risk of heart disease. The Institute of Medicine, which advises the government on scientific matters, including health, recommends that when it comes to saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats, you eat as little as possible. If we've learned anything as we've swung from low-fat to low-carb and back again, it's this: There's no need to eat dry salad or forgo any food you adore. Most everything in moderation will keep your weight where it belongs.
November 17, 1999