Healthy Fats Regaining Popularity with Consumers

Consumers are opting for natural, healthy fats over processed low-fat and non-fat foods, according to a new market industry report.

After years of following the low-fat and fat-free food trend, American shoppers are returning to healthy fats that are actually good for you, a recent food industry study reveals. The change of direction is a result of consumers being better educated about the difference between mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are shown to have health benefits, versus unhealthy saturated and trans fats.

“As a result, consumers who had embraced low-fat diets for years are returning to foods and beverages that feature the better-for-you fats, all in keeping with the larger healthier eating trend that is shaping the food industry,” the report, published by consumer goods market research firm Packaged Facts, says.

Saturated fats are found in dairy products made from whole and 2% milk, like butter and cheese, and foods from animals, like beef lamb, and pork. Trans fats are found in margarine and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is an ingredient in many kinds of processed foods. The American Heart Association recommends that adults keep their trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total calories (which equates to less than 2 grams per day on a 2,000 calorie/day diet).

In contrast, olive, safflower, peanut and corn oil are made up of healthy fats. Other foods containing good-for-you fats include almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, and fatty fish, like mackerel, sardines and salmon.

Recent medical studies have shown that a diet high in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can improve the cardiovascular system and are even used in the treatment of heart disease and diabetes. In contrast, saturated fats have the opposite impact, and can lead to heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes when consumed in excess. Scientists believe that an enzyme in the body differentiates between saturated and unsaturated fat at the molecular level, according to a new report published in the journal Cell.

These and other research findings have helped to kindle consumers’ renewed leanings toward healthy fats, as reflected by growing sales of healthier oils, like olive and canola oil. Packaged Facts, publisher of the new report on the increasing popularity of healthy fats and cooking oils, publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics.