Why This "Outlaw" Nutrient Is Healthier Than You Think
If dietary fat was a character in a film or TV series, it would probably be Dr. Richard Kimble from the late 1960's TV series The Fugitive, or maybe even Dr. David Banner from the 1970's version of The Incredible Hulk.
Hounded by the authorities... always on the run... falsely accused of a crime it didn't commit
But fat is not, and never has been, the "villain" that it’s been portrayed as.
In fact, dietary fat (and that DOES include saturated fat) has a number of important benefits for anyone wanting a better body.
Both saturated and monounsaturated fat, for example, have been linked to higher levels of testosterone, a hormone that's vital when it comes to burning fat and building muscle.
Now it seems you can add another benefit to the list. And it's one
that very few people know about.
Recent research shows that fat acts as a nutrient "booster," increasing the absorption of many of the nutrients found in vegetables, such as lycopene and beta-carotene.
It's a quick and easy way to get more of the valuable health benefits these nutrients provide without the need to eat more vegetables or pop lots of pills.
In one study, published in the American Journal of Clinical
Nutrition, Iowa State
University researchers compared nutrient absorption after eating
salads with varying levels of fat .
Seven healthy men and women ate salads of spinach, romaine lettuce,
cherry tomatoes, and carrots topped with Italian dressings containing
0, 6 (0.2 ounces), or 28 grams (almost 1 ounce) of canola oil on
different occasions during a 12-week period. Hourly blood samples
were taken for 11 hours after the meal and tested for nutrient absorption.
As you can see in the figure below, only negligible amounts of alpha- and beta-carotene
and lycopene were detected in the blood after eating a salad with
fat-free dressing (black triangle).
But more of these substances were detected in the
blood after eating salads with reduced-fat (white circle) or full-fat
dressings (black circle).
Similar findings have been presented in the journal Nutrition, this time using avocados rather than canola oil .
For the study, a group of men and women consumed salads and salsa with and without
fresh avocado. And the results were very similar to those seen in the Iowa State
More than four times as much lycopene and twice as
much beta-carotene was absorbed by subjects who ate avocado with
salsa compared to those who ate only salsa.
It was much the same story with the salad. More than five times
as much lutein, fifteen times as much beta-carotene, and seven times
as much alpha-carotene was absorbed by subjects who ate avocado
with salad compared to those who ate only salad.
Only a relatively small amount of avocado (75 grams) was needed to boost nutrient absorption significantly.
"Many fruits and vegetables are rich in beneficial carotenoids,
but most fruits and vegetables are virtually fat free, which may
limit the body's ability to absorb some of these nutrients,"
says Dr. Steven Schwartz from Ohio State University, who is a co-author
of both studies.
"Our latest research shows that the natural fat content in
avocados increases carotenoid absorption, which offers nutritional
advantages over other sources of fat like salad dressings."
Dr. David Heber, Professor of Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine,
concurs with Dr. Schwartz.
"While it is well known that fats
help in the absorption of colorful compounds that are good for you
such as lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark greens, the
good fats from olives and avocados are better for you than many
processed salad dressings made with hydrogenated vegetable oils."
"We're certainly not advocating a high-fat diet, or one filled
with full-fat salad dressing," says researcher Wendy White,
associate professor of food science and nutrition at Iowa State
"But what we found compelling was that some of our more popular
healthful snacks, like baby carrots, really need to be eaten with
a source of fat for us to absorb the beta carotene," says White.
"If you'd like to stick with fat-free dressing, the addition
of small amounts of avocado or cheese in a salad may help along
If you enjoyed this post, there’s a good chance you’ll also like Truth and Lies about Building Muscle: 10 Muscle Myths Debunked By Science.
It's a FREE 20-page special report (PDF) I put together to debunk 10 popular myths that are still widely believed, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Click here now to download a copy.
About the Author
Christian Finn holds a master's degree in exercise science, is a certified personal trainer and has been featured on BBC TV and radio, as well as in Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Fit Pro, Zest and other popular fitness magazines.
If you want better, faster results from the time you spend in the gym, click here now for instant access to his step-by-step muscle-building and fat-burning workout routines.
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1. Brown, M.J., Ferruzzi, M.G., Nguyen, M.L., Cooper, D.A.,
Eldridge, A.L., Schwartz, S.J., & White, W.S. (2004). Carotenoid
bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than
with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical
Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 80, 396-403
2. Unlu, N.Z., Bohn, T., Clinton, S.K., & Schwartz, S.J. (2005).
Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced
by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. Journal
of Nutrition, 135, 431-436