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Instead of obsessing about dietary fat, eat healthy foods, from Harvard Men's Health Watch

When it comes to healthy eating, dietary fat often tops the list of things that are "bad" for health. But such lists ignore the fact that some fats are good for you. What's more, scrupulously counting how much fat you consume or avoiding all fats indiscriminately are not helpful moves, according to the September 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch.

"Focusing only on grams of total fat, whether in a food or in your diet, can lead a person to make poor decisions," says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

One choice to avoid is eating processed foods and fast foods that bill themselves as low-fat, reduced-fat, or fat-free, explains Dr. Mozaffarian, an expert on how diet and lifestyle influence the risks for disease. Lowering total fat alone does not make a food healthier, and many of these products are high in salt, sugar, and refined carbohydrates.

Instead of obsessing about fats, focus on eating healthy foods—including those that contain healthy vegetable fats. "Eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, vegetable oils, whole grains, and modest portions of dairy," Dr. Mozaffarian advises. "Avoid processed meats, sugary beverages, and foods high in refined grains, starches, sugars, and salt."

Read the full-length article: "Stop worrying about fat"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch

  • Stop worrying about fat
  • On call: High triglycerides
  • On call: Aging voice
  • Flu shot: Good insurance, not a guarantee
  • Relief from intestinal gas
  • How to sleep better with chronic pain
  • Dry eyes? Finding the right lubricating drops is essential
  • In the journals: Counting steps kick-starts health
  • In the journals: Statins linked to muscle injuries
  • In the journals: Fast food packs unexpected calories
  • In the journals: Prostate biopsy side effects are common

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.