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In recent years, nutrition research has evolved to show that not all types of dietary fats are harmful to health, and some are beneficial. Since then, retail dietitians have educated shoppers about “good” and “bad” fats, but a new survey from the Hass Avocado Board (HAB) suggests that although progress has been made, consumers still have a lot to learn.
"Today's consumer knows that there's a difference between good fats and bad fats, but they can't yet make the distinction," said Emiliano Escobedo, HAB Executive Director. "This tells us that more education is needed to help differentiate these types of fats, and identify the role they play in our diets and the impact they have on our health."
In the survey of more than 2,000 adults, more than a third (36 percent) incorrectly thought that all fats play a role in increased cholesterol levels, compared to 42 percent of respondents in 2014. Respondents categorized as Millennials (aged 18-35) may feel more educated today about which foods to eat and which to avoid (66 percent), but they also incorrectly indicated that saturated fats are considered good fats (21 percent), up seven percent from 2014.
The additional findings below compare responses from Millennials to the overall population.
- There’s a hunger for healthy choices. Millennials try hardest (71 percent) among the overall population (67 percent) to make some or a strong effort to eat more foods high in good fats.
- Millennials also said they feel more educated today about which foods to eat and which to avoid, (66 percent) versus the entire population (62 percent).
- Encouragingly, more than three-quarters of overall respondents (82 percent) said they're paying attention to this type of information. But this doesn't equate to understanding.
- Despite this level of confidence, there are still an alarming number of misconceptions. One in five people (21 percent) mistakenly thought that trans fats are good fats. The Millennial group responded similarly, at 22 percent.
- Millennials (63 percent) trail behind the overall population (72 percent) in believing a positive impact of including good fats in their diets is the lowering of bad cholesterol. Even fewer Millennials (61 percent) feel including good fats lessens the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
- While most respondents were fairly adept at indicating that nuts (76 percent), salmon (74 percent), olive oil (69 percent) and avocados (68 percent) contain good fats, Millennials haven't quite caught on (71 percent, 65 percent, 59 percent and 65 percent, respectively).
- Specifically, more Hispanics (73 percent) know that avocados are a source of good fat than the population at large.