I’ll cut straight to the point. Low-fat foods aren’t good for you. The simplified answer?
- Healthy fats aren’t bad for you.
- When they take out the fat, they are adding in a lot of crap (ie: sugar and chemicals).
That’s the short answer but I’ll add some more details that I’ve been learning over the past year. For most of my teenage/adult life, I chose the low-fat option. “Skim milk please! Low-fat yogurt, please! Oh those cookies are low-fat? Perfect.” At other times in my life I would avoid things like nuts, avocados and olive oil because they were high in fat. Now I embrace them. Here are a few facts that have changed my attitude about fat:
What does fat-free even mean?
Technically it means that the product contains no more than .5 grams of fat per serving (but a serving is determined by the manufacturer). Fat is usually replaced with a polysaccharide starch product like maltodextrin (from corn), modified cornstarch or tapioca starch which will break down into sugars. PLUS the starch is often chemically modified to make it easier to digest. To give the product the same taste and feeling, companies use other polysaccharides like pectin, carrageenan and guar gum.
Products like salad dressings, peanut butter, milk and yogurt are often marketed as fat-free but you should know just how those effect these foods:
- Salad Dressings: Low-fat versions block absorption of fruits’ and veggies’ nutrients like carotenoids (which protect your body’s cells). I usually just use vinegar/olive oil on my salads. Keeps it simple!
- Peanut Butter: The fat in peanut butter is healthy monounsaturated fat which has been shown to decrease inflammation, raise healthy cholesterol levels, promote weight loss and possibly fight belly fat. Reduced-fat peanut butter takes this healthy fat away and replaces it with sugar. My opinion? Choose peanut butter with one ingredient: PEANUTS.
- Milk: Milk is fortified with vitamins A and D, which are fat-soluble vitamins. They are essential vitamins that are stored in your liver and necessary for the absorption of other important nutrients. When you take all the fat out – you can’t absorb the vitamins. Personally, I can’t drink whole milk and actually avoid milk in general but when I order a coffee drink and they don’t have almond milk…I opt for whole milk.
- Yogurt: I was at the grocery store and took a look at a tub of low-fat yogurt. One of the first four ingredients was sugar (weird). Besides the fact that they add so much sugar – it will essentially make you crave more sweet foods throughout the day.
*Note: I’m not saying to seek out salad dressings, peanut butter, milk and yogurt (I actually don’t eat a lot of store bought salad dressings and I keep my consumption of yogurt/milk pretty minimal but these are very popular products that market “low-fat” so I thought they would work well as examples.
Guess what? You need healthy fats and cholesterol.
Yep. It’s true. Fat and cholesterol were shunned decades ago but scientists/doctors/nutritionists are now learning that the low-fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine is causing injury and inflammation in our blood vessels. It’s the inflammation that is causing heart disease. An artery not inflamed can handle cholesterol perfectly. Cholesterol is the precursor molecule in our bodies from which all of our hormones are made. WE NEED CHOLESTEROL. Your cholesterol can actually be TOO low.
What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Simple, highly processed carbs like sugar, flour and omega-6 (like vegetable oils). You can reverse or prevent heart disease by simply eliminating these things from your diet while simultaneously reintroducing healthy fats.
So what are healthy fats?
Together with protein and carbohydrate, fat is an important source of calories. We need essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acid, or Omega 6 and Omega 3 for many important functions. The most obvious function would be to keep us warm. Some of the other roles include regulating proper hormone function (especially for women), keeping our cell walls strong and helping us absorb and store the fat soluble vitamins. Here are some of the most common healthy fats that you can start incorporating into your diet:
- Olives and Olive oil
- Raw nuts, such as, almonds or pecans
- Grass-fed meats
- Coconuts and coconut oil
- Organic pastured egg yolks
- Palm oil
- Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
- Unheated organic nut oils
Hopefully this post can be a great introduction to fats and how we can start making our own decisions despite what our culture has embraced over the last few decades. Where do you stand with fats? Do you notice labels like “reduced fat” or “low-fat” when you’re shopping at the grocery store?
Sources and articles you should read:
- Heart Surgeon Admits He Was Wrong About Low Fat Diet and Heart Disease
- Low-Fat Diet and Avoidance of Vitamin D
- Eating Fat Won’t Make You Fat but These 10 Things Will
- Why Fat-Free Salad Dressing May Not Be the Best Choice
- Fat-Free Food: A Bad Idea
- How to Eat Fat & Lose Weight
- Why You Need Saturated Fats