Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, thinks we never should have told people to stop eating fat.
Instead, we should be far more precise about the types of fats we eat, avoiding foods that combine fat and sugar — what Hyman calls "sweet fats" — and replacing red meats with oily fish, he suggests in his recent book, "Eat Fat, Get Thin."
Here's a look at the foods Hyman avoids — along with what the science says about them:
Sweet fats, like full-fat fruit yogurt
"The real danger is sweet fat," Hyman said in an interview with The New York Times. "If you eat fat with sweets — so sugar and fat, or refined carbohydrates and fat — then insulin will rise and it'll make you fat."
This isn't always true — an occasional rise in blood sugar doesn't mean you'll suddenly gain 10 or 20 pounds.
Still, Hyman highlights a point that's been echoed by several nutritionists and public health experts: Sugar, when combined with fat or carbohydrates and eaten consistently in high amounts, has been linked with weight gain. Several studies of low-fat diets that are still high in carbs and sugar have also shown that they are no better than high-fat diets for weight loss.
Refined carbs, like white bread or white rice
When it's used to refer to foods like rice, pasta, and bread, "refined" isn't typically a good thing. Essentially, it means that processors take out the whole-grain portion of the food, which cuts out much of its fiber and B vitamins and allows it to be digested faster and more easily.
Diets that are high in refined carbs and low in whole grains have been linked with health problems, while diets that are high in whole grains and low in refined carbs tend to be linked with more positive outcomes.
Red meat — eat fatty fish instead
"About 70 to 80% of your diet should be plant foods," Hyman told The Times. "It should also include good-quality fats like nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, and fatty fish."
This doesn't mean you should completely cut out red meat, but limiting your intake of foods like steak and ribs to a few times a month probably wouldn't hurt. Instead, incorporate more oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and trout into your diet. These are rich in a group of fats called omega-3 fatty acids.
Unlike most fats, which the human body has no trouble making on its own, omega-3 fats are "essential" fats because the body can't make them without a little help from our diet. Plus, studies suggest omega-3s may help prevent heart disease and stroke.
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