Forget what you learned in the ’80s: Here’s the best way to eat less fat

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Back in the late 1970s and ’80s, fat became the enemy. Health experts recommended reducing fats in the diet to lower cholesterol, and the food industry responded with fat-free cookies, reduced-fat peanut butter and nonfat cheese. But in processed foods, losing fat meant losing flavor. So, added sugar and refined carbohydrates replaced the fat in a lot of foods.

“When the health recommendations said to lower fats, rather than eating fruits, vegetables, pulses and whole grains, people veered toward a high-refined-carbohydrate, high-sugar diet. That can be a recipe for some health problems,” Samantha Cassetty, a registered dietitian based in New York City and the coauthor of “Sugar Shock,” told TODAY.

These days, we have a better understanding of the different types of fats in our diet and the roles they play. And some people turn to low-fat diets to lose weight. But do they work? And are they healthy? Let’s dig in.

What is a low-fat diet?

The U.S. dietary guidelines call for up to 35% of calories to come from fat. Low-fat diets aim for 30% or less — sometimes much less. Foods that contain 3 grams of fat per 100 calories or less are considered low-fat foods.

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