Low-Fat Diet Myths Debunked
Did you know that a low-fat diet is unhealthy?
Your body NEEDS healthy fats in order to function properly.
30-40 years ago there was a big increase in how much saturated fat Americans were eating. Authority Nutrition notes that in 1977 low-fat guidelines were added to the USDA food guide because of the widespread belief that “saturated fat was a significant cause of heart disease.”
Fats were also blamed for weight gain and obesity since they contain more calories than proteins and carbs per gram.
When you cut out fats, though, you deny your body nutrition that it desperately needs.
Consuming too many carbs will also result in weight gain, which is the reason why low carb diets are popular. Nutritional balance is the key.
Even protein, which is often associated with weight loss, should be eaten according to your body size and your activity levels.
Fats are no different. If you eat too much cheese, those calories will add up and you could gain weight.
There are two rules of thumb for maintaining healthy nutrition: source out healthy options (go organic, avoid fast food, don’t consume synthetic additives like sweeteners and preservatives, etc.) and ‘everything in moderation’.
Still not convinced that low-fat dieting is bad for your body?
Read on, we’ll debunk the myths about fats once and for all…
Myth 1: All fats are bad for you (especially saturated fat)
There are three types of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. All three have benefits for your body when you get them from healthy sources and eat them in moderation.
Saturated fat can certainly be a concern, but when it occurs naturally (in grass-fed meats, raw cheeses and coconut oil) saturated fat isn’t something to worry about. In fact, it can be truly beneficial for your health.
Did you know that natural saturated fats play a role in bone health, protect the liver from damage and can increase good cholesterol in your body?
This means that saturated fat can actually reduce the amount of “bad” cholesterol in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease!
Plus, saturated fats are not damaged by heat, so you can safely cook with them, which cannot be said for most unsaturated fats. Butter or coconut oil are much healthier choices for cooking than an oil like flax or unrefined sunflower. These oils (if properly pressed) are very, very healthy, but only if they are not heated.
Raw, unsaturated fats are also very good for your health, as long as they come from healthy sources. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats has been shown to further reduce the risk of heart disease. In other words, it’s not about cutting fat out, but about choosing your fat sources carefully.
Balance is also important. While you need to get both omega–3 fats and omega–6 fats from your food, you may be getting too much of one and not enough of the other. Learn more about omegas, here.
Many fast foods and mass-produced packaged foods (like margarine, crackers, breads, baked goods, etc.) contain what are known as trans fats. These should be avoided at all costs.
Trans fats are polyunsaturated fats that have been hydrogenated. This chemical process involves high heat, hydrogen and a metal catalyst. Insulin resistance, belly fat, excess inflammation and heart disease have all been linked with eating trans fats.
Benefits of Healthy Fat
The benefits of getting healthy fat in your diet are many. They include:
- More energy
- Efficient cell repair and growth
- Improved brain health and mental clarity (fat is your brain’s primary food)
- Improved nutrient absorption, especially those that are fat soluble (like vitamins A, D, E and K)
- Healthy skin
- Regulation of hormone production
- Vital organ protection
That’s a lot of benefits that you’ll be missing out on if you start cutting out fats altogether…
Myth 2: Cut fat to lose fat, aka ‘fat makes you fat’
There are 3 macronutrient categories: protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Most of the time, when people decide to cut fats out of their diet, carbohydrate consumption increases.
When you eat carbs and don’t use them for energy production your body stores them as fat for later use.
Consuming too much protein can also have negative consequences: it can cause weight gain, yeast overgrowth and has been linked to cancer growth.
This is one of the reasons why the low-fat diet doesn’t work for a lot of people; it creates a nutrition imbalance that results in continued weight gain and other health concerns.
Not only that, but healthy fats can actually help you lose weight. We recently published a blog post with our top 4 tips for losing weight and one of them involved eating a particular type of fat. Discover more, here.
According to MindBodyGreen.com “Studies show that healthy fats, not militant calorie counting or low-fat diets, can help you get lean. In human experiments, those who ate high-fat diets had a much faster metabolism. Low-fat, high-carb diets spiked insulin, subsequently slowing metabolism and storing as belly fat. The higher-fat diet group had a faster metabolism, even while eating the same amount of calories.”
Myth 3: Low-fat means low in calories
Since fats contain more calories per gram than protein and carbs do, people assume that cutting out fats and replacing them with low-fat alternatives will cut the calories.
This is not always the case. For one thing, healthy fats may be replaced with smaller quantities of unhealthy fats (e.g. trans fats) and while this may bring down the total calorie count, it can contribute to higher levels of bad cholesterol and to things like unwanted belly fat or excess inflammation.
Similarly, other synthetic additives may be put in to improve the taste or texture of a food that has had its fats stripped away. These can have a variety of impacts on your health. Plus, removing the fat may remove the nutrition. Many of the vitamins in dairy products, for example, are fat soluble so you don’t benefit from them without the fat that would naturally accompany them.
Eating whole foods, rather than processed is always a healthier choice, even if you are consuming slightly more calories in one sitting.
Sometimes, the calorie count of low-fat foods can even be higher than the full-fat original. This is because sugar is often added to improve taste or to make the food more ‘addicting’.
While current research does not support the theory that fat causes weight gain, many studies do indicate that sugar contributes to weight gain, diabetes and other serious health problems.
Sugar has been associated with high blood pressure, it causes the liver to dump unhealthy fat into the bloodstream and it is associated with high LDL levels.
Fat is not the enemy, but added sugar clearly is.
I urge you to educate yourself about types of fat, balance your nutritional intake and ensure you have the right blend of macronutrients in your meals based on your fitness and health goals. Working with a nutritionist or dietician to plan our your macronutrients and micronutrients for weight loss or athletic performance is a great step towards understanding the complicated and often scientific world of nutrition.
Make fat your ally, and find ways to balance your nutrition, exercise and lifestyle to accommodate your weight loss goals.
Looking to get the best fat into your body? Coriander is now known to help your body absorb more omega–3s from all other food sources! A healthy source of unsaturated fat itself, this oil does double duty.
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