Fat has gotten a bad rep over the last few decades, but the fact of the matter is that we need fat, the right kinds of fat that is. '
There are certain fats that are essential to every cell in your body, which is why they’re called “essential” fatty acids. Your body can’t manufacture essential fats, so they must be consumed in your diet. This kind of healthy fat is also essential to help your body absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) and nutrients, keep your cell walls strong, protect your heart, and fight inflammation in your body.3
Think about it, the 90s included the fat-free product revolution, which still persists today. If this actually worked, we would not be a nation in which obesity in adults and children has tripled over the past 25 years and has quadrupled in teens. We would not be a nation and a world that still has heart disease as the number one cause of death.
Just because a product is low-fat, light, or non-fat, does not mean it is any healthier for you, or has a reduced number of calories. If you think this way, then I have to give it to you straight, you have fallen prey to advertising. GASP! Companies are in it to sell their products and do not have your health as their number one priority (or even number 2 or 3). There are reasons that companies have entire marketing departments, focus group studies and marketing experts. The better they market their products, the more you buy them and the more money they make. Plain and simple.
Below, I will give you a few reasons why low-fat, non-fat foods are NOT actually healthy options, but may even be worse for you.
And, I will also detail out the right kinds of fat you should be getting in your diet.
Let's begin with what the fat has been replaced with...
1. Studies have found that people actually gain more fat when they eat “low-fat” diets. “People are basically substituting sugar for fat,” says Marion Nestle, head of the New York University Department of Nutrition. “As people focused on eliminating fat, food marketers came up with fat-free substitutes. But the substitutes they provided were equally as fattening (sugar and chemicals).” Some brands of fat-free food contain fat-mimicking chemicals that can cause intestinal cramps, gas, diarrhea, and contribute to weight gain.3 Sounds fun...
2. If a product is labeled as low-fat or 'light' the chances are they have an increased number of hidden chemicals and additives to enhance the flavor lost by fat. Most of these chemicals do more harm than good. Fat actually provides quite a bit of flavor. So, what is fat being replaced with? A myriad of ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, salt, modified food starch, MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, diglycerides (sugar) and xanthan and guar gum. All these chemicals disrupt your hormonal balance and make losing weight even more difficult. Doesn't sound too healthy, does it? If that is not reason enough to eat the regular version, most low-fat and light foods contain more calories and carbs than the real full-fat versions.
3. As I mentioned earlier, our bodies need the right kinds of fat. Nobody wants to get fat, but just because you eat fat, does not mean you are going to get fat. We should not be focused on eating healthy or unhealthy fats, but instead focusing on the right kinds of fats. I think the consumers have mistaken the American Heart Association's (AMA) recommendation on cutting fat out of our diets, and the marketers have abused their power and used deception to sell their products.
When the AMA recommended cutting out fat to reduce heart disease and clogged arteries, they meant to cut out saturated fats. "The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats – which are found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease." 1 But there is more, there is a new type of manufactured fat, trans fat, that has caused more damage than even the original "bad" fats.
Eating foods rich in trans fats increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Trans fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health and elsewhere indicates that trans fats can harm health in even small amounts: for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by a whopping 23%! 4
"Eating too many [bad fats] instead of healthier fats accounted for roughly 4 percent of heart disease deaths — about 250,000 deaths that might be prevented with decreased [bad fat] fat intake. And, about 8 percent of heart disease deaths were estimated to be due to an excess of trans fats, the researchers said. That means decreased trans fat intake could result in about 537,000 fewer heart disease deaths.2
So, it is not consuming any type of fat that will lead to heart disease, obesity and other illnesses, but just these wrong types of fat, mainly trans and saturated fats. Then, what are the right kinds of fat?
Healthy fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and are found in foods like fish (i.e., wild caught salmon), tofu, sunflower seeds and walnuts and help your body in many ways, including:
- building smarter brains
- providing a reserve energy source
- aiding with vitamin absorption
- supporting a healthy heart
- protecting internal organs
The best fats you can choose are omega-3 fats, which are the prime structural components of brain-cell membranes and the insulation coating of the nerves throughout your nervous system.
These polyunsaturated fats also help produce the skin's natural oil barrier, critical in keeping skin hydrated, plumper, and younger looking. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help keep your veins free of cholesterol buildup too.
The richest sources of omega-3s, in the form that your body can readily use (EPA/DHA), are cold-water fish such as wild salmon and tuna. Flax, pumpkin seeds and walnuts are also excellent sources of omega-3s (ALA), but your body needs to do a bit of work to convert them to usable EPA/DHA.
The healthiest fats are found in foods that swim (fish) or flow (oils). Unhealthy fats are those that just sit there, like the fat on farmed meat and poultry.1
Foods to limit that contain Bad Fats:
- Dairy foods – such as butter, cream, regular-fat milk and cheese.
- Meat – such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb, processed meats like salami, sausages and the skin on chicken.
- Commercially prepared baked goods and other products.
Basically, avoid processed and packaged foods and eat the right kinds of fats, from fish, nuts and unsaturated oils.
However, all oils are not created equal either. "Vegetable and Corn Oil" are pretty damaging to your body as well. Check out my BLOG "GET AN OIL CHANGE" to get a detailled breakdown on the most popluar kind of oils, and which ones we should be including in our diet.