As a society, we are emerging from a long, rocky relationship with all things Low Fat and Fat Free (I’m looking at you, Fat Free Potato Chips). Thank goodness we are coming to our senses and breaking free from this unhealthy romance. Because the truth is, fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact, a low fat diet can actually be WORSE for you than a diet with a good balance of healthy fats. But what exactly are these non-evil healthy fats? Fit Evolution's newest nutrition contributor extraordinaire, Megan, breaks it down for you in this month's newsletter. Read her article here, or check out her website to read the original.
Why We Need Fat 1. We need fat to absorb and use vitamins A, D, E, and K, also known as fat-soluble vitamins. Macronutrients (i.e. fat, carbs, protein) and micronutrients (i.e. fat soluble vitamins) work together to assimilate and be used effectively by the body. Whole foods in their natural form - for example, an egg - naturally contain the fat needed to absorb the vitamin A in the yolk. Dairy products, like milk, contain fat for a reason - to absorb the vitamin D. That's why skim milk fortified with vitamin D is kind of pointless.
2. It provides a steady, sustained source of energy. Eating fat makes you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time. Sugar (i.e. carbohydrates), on the other hand, makes you hungrier sooner with a stronger craving for sugar. That means that your low fat yogurt (with sugar as the second ingredient) will not benefit your mood or satiety.
3. Fats are essential for your brain, hormones, and nervous system. Your brain is fat and cholesterol, so it would make sense that we need both to "feed" the brain. Without fat, it's no wonder someone might experience more brain fog and less mental acuity. Fat also facilitates hormone production and nerve signals for the entire body.
The Not-So-Skinny on Low Fat Products When someone is trying to follow a low fat diet, chances are they are eating more carbs and sugar. The USDA (A=agriculture) recommends that we limit fat intake and increase intake of harmful, inflammatory foods like wheat and vegetable oils. You might be thinking to yourself, "I eat low fat products, but that doesn't mean I eat more sugar and carbs - it's not like I eat candy bars or loaves of bread." The truth is, low fat products are loaded with sugar. And when we need something to keep us full and aren't using fat, we have to turn to carbohydrates as an energy source.
When manufacturers take out fat from food, they need to put stuff back in to make it taste good. And what is it that they put in? Sugar (in various forms), hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fat and hidden source of GMO), and sources of MSG like soy protein concentrate. Let's take a look Jif's Low-Fat Peanut butter for an example.
Peanut butter should be just that: peanuts. Jif takes it a step further though and adds corn syrup solids as the second ingredient, followed by more sugar. Soy protein and hydrogenated vegetable oils are both sources of MSGs and GMOs. We will stop there, but I will mention that ferric orthophosphate is used as a molluscicide to kill slugs.
What other low-fat products are deemed as "healthy"? Yogurt, granola, cereal, sour cream, cookies, chips, deli meat? Next time you pick these up, read the ingredient list (at the very bottom) and not just the label. Figure out what's really in your food and don't trust the health claims.
Not All Fats are Created Equal: So What's our Lesson? Eat food in their whole, natural form, the way nature intended. Eat healthy fat from coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and do not consume inflammatory industrialized vegetable oils. Don't think about limiting your fat intake - make it apart of every meal and snack. Read ingredient lists, and stay away from hydrogenated vegetable oils, industrialized man-made seed oils (canola, vegetable, cottonseed, soybean, corn, etc.)
Some of my favorite sources of fat include:
-Coconut (extra virgin, milk) -Avocados -Grass-fed butter -Ghee -Extra virgin olive oil (cold use only) -Nuts (in moderation)
Don't take my word for it though - try it out yourself. Do not fear fat. Start having an avocado a day, sautéing your vegetables in ghee, stirring coconut oil or milk into your coffee, and feel the difference.