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Eating Essentially: The Good, the Bad and the Must-Have Fatty Acids

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D.

We used to think all fat was "bad." Not surprising, really. Fat carries a hefty calorie load and Americans are notorious waist watchers. Food manufacturers sold us low-fat, fat-free and "lite" versions of salad dressings, cookies, potato chips, and everything in between.

Weight-conscious consumers chose margarine over butter, vegetable shortening over lard, and even artificial whipped topping over real whipping cream.  

We thought we were doing right by our families. But today we know better.

Despite its calories, fat helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and delivers satisfying taste – an essential ingredient in pleasurable eating. We've also since learned that "hydrogenated" vegetable oils in stick margarine and shortening contain "trans" fat, which raises our blood levels of "bad" cholesterol and increases our risk for heart disease.(1) Oops.

As for whipped cream, I look at it this way: Special events demand the finest ingredients. Choose organic cream, whip it yourself, and savor real food...in moderation, on occasion, and guilt free.

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More Good News About CLAs and Organic Milk

Scientists studying the relationship between milk and CLA intakes and heart attack  (Smith et al., 2010), found that the higher the level of CLAs in adipose tissue, the lower the risk of heart attack. The top 20% of people consuming the most milk had about one-half the risk compared to those who drank the least milk – evidence of a powerful protective impact.

In another study published in the same issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Warensjo et al. (2010) conclude that milk consumption does not raise the risk of a first heart attack, despite the significant increase in saturated fat intake.

Find more fresh research in The Organic Center's newsletter, The Scoop

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