We’ve all been told that foods like avocados, olive oil, and nuts are high in fat but that their fat content doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy. Why? Well, as a new study released by the American Heart Association shows, not all fats are created equal.
Researchers analyzed the dietary patterns of about 100,000 people over 22 years. They found that plant-based monounsaturated fats were linked to a lower risk of dying from heart disease and other causes, whereas monounsaturated fats from animal products were associated with a higher risk.
Study subjects who ate a lot of plant fats had a 16 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease than those with lower intakes, while those who consumed lots of animal fat had a 21 percent higher risk than those who consumed less.
Marta Guasch-Ferre, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of the paper, said, "We have observed a beneficial role of monounsaturated fats for the prevention of cardiovascular and total mortality when plant-based foods are the primary sources."
According to Guasch-Ferre, the different effects of plant versus animal fat sources are likely due to the other nutrients the foods contain. Plant sources of monounsaturated fats are typically rich in vitamins, polyphenols, and polyunsaturated fats, longer-chain fats known to favorably affect the heart. In contrast, sources of animal fats, like meat, dairy, and eggs, contain high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, which are known to cause heart disease.
Countless studies prove that plant-based foods are significantly healthier than animal products. Scientists have shown that a plant-based diet reduces one’s risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. In fact, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that long-term vegetarians lived on average 3.6 years longer than their meat-eating counterparts.