Why docs say you should swap carbs with 100 calories of ‘healthy’ fats

Ditch the carbs for healthy fats if you want to lower your risk of diabetes, experts say.
Ditch the carbs for healthy fats if you want to lower your risk of diabetes, experts say. (AP Photo/Katie Workman)

Avocados, nuts, and olive oil over pasta, rice and bread? New research suggests you should load up on “healthy” fats in place of carbohydrates to cut diabetes risk by a steep 20 per cent.

World-renowned scientists out of Tufts University are giving you the green light to add healthy fats to your diet instead of reaching for carbohydrates.

They say a swap of 100 calories of unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats over 100 calories of carbohydrates helps to manage blood sugar levels and insulin resistance – both markers for diabetes risk.

“This is a positive message for the public. Don’t fear healthy fats,” study co-author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the university’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said in a university statement.

“Our findings support preventing and treating [diabetes] by eating more fat-rich foods like walnuts, sunflower seeds, soybeans, flaxseed, fish, and other vegetable oils and spreads, in place of refined grains, starches, sugars and animal fats,” he said.
Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Healthy fats you should be eating more of

Mozaffarian’s latest findings stem from a meta-analysis that combed over 102 different clinical trials that worked with 4,660 adults. The experiments looked at how various sources of fat and carbohydrates tampered with risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Mozaffarian and his team learned that substituting carbohydrates and saturated fats for mono- and poly-unsaturated fats helped to keep blood glucose levels stable.

Ultimately, the swap could cut risk of Type 2 diabetes by 20 per cent, they said.

Every five per cent of dietary energy that was swapped from carbs and bad fats to healthy fats helped cut risk of heart disease by about 6.8 per cent, too.

READ MORE: Watching your weight, heart health? Cook with this oil, study suggests

Those who already live with diabetes or are pre-diabetic would benefit most from this switch, the scientists said.

They’re hopeful their findings will help any confused consumers who may be sticking to traditional advice that urged against eating fats.

Healthy fats aid in weight management, too. Along with lowering blood pressure and fighting against heart disease, heathy fats can help you feel full.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Why you should eat healthy fats, ditch bad fats to protect your heart

“People are still avoiding fat at all costs but evidence is coming out that suggests not all fats are as bad as we thought. What’s most important is the overall diet and where the sources of fat are coming from because fat from an avocado on toast is different from the fat you’re getting from a donut,” according to Kate Comeau, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians of Canada.

Comeau says Canadians should aim for about 20 to 30 per cent of their daily caloric intake to come from fats.

Sources of healthy fats include – nuts and seeds, oils (extra virgin olive oil, canola, soy, flaxseed), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna), and avocados are prime examples.

Mozaffarian’s full findings were published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Infographic by Ben Simpson/Global News