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From Third Degree to the full 360 degrees

TV3 gave saturated fat the ‘Third Degree’ in an episode which aired in 2014.  Audiences were left feeling unsure of the facts and confused by the messaging.  Is it okay to eat a diet full of bacon and butter?

Debate is a normal part of science, and evidence does evolve over time. However, this debate is not straightforward, and asking the TV audience to make sense of such strong differing views was a big ask.

One of the things we’ve learnt over time is that instead of having a low fat intake we should instead focus on the type of fat we eat.  That means limiting foods high in saturated fats like bacon, butter, fatty meats, and high fat dairy.  In their place having foods with more unsaturated fats like nuts, avocado, plant oils, and oily fish.

Yes, there are research studies that have found no obvious link between saturated fats and heart disease. However, what we eat instead of saturated fats is really important. If we consider the studies that take this into account, we get a different story.

They show that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats has definite benefits for our heart.  However, eating foods high in refined starchy foods (like white flour) or sugar does not.  This is why we continue to recommend that people get most of the fat they eat from plant foods and oily fish; as well as having wholegrains in place of refined starchy and sugary foods.

But let’s not drown in saturated fat and forget the big picture, which is having a heart healthy way of eating overall.  There is no ‘one’ magic nutrient, food or food group, or way of eating – it is the pattern of what we eat that is most important. 

There is strong and consistent evidence that a diet of mostly minimally processed foods (including plenty of vegetables and fruit; plus legumes, nuts, whole grains, plant oils, and fish; as well as choosing lean meats and reduced-fat dairy) is the best way of eating for a healthy heart.  Think a Kiwi version of the Mediterranean Diet. Our Healthy Heart aims to sum this up (link below), and shows that, yes, we should still limit the bacon and butter.

Find out more about our Healthy Heart