Get your grocery list ready! Here is a list of “magic fat containing foods” to help ward off weight! LOW-FAT EVERYTHING! Low fat butter, oil, salad dressing, mayonnaise, chocolate, egg whites, etc! Mmmm, sounds delicious, right? I think not. Have you ever looked at a low-fat products ingredient list? What you lose in fat you gain in sugar, salt and refined graines. Therefore, it may be lower in fat but it doesn’t mean you should double your portion size because of it!
Touted as a way to lose weight and prevent or control heart disease, the mantra for a healthy diet was to “Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.” Soon, this low-fat way of eating resulted in a marketing opportunity where food companies could re-engineer their products to be lower in fat or fat free. The question is, has reduced-fat or fat-free products really helped reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease which in part is due to overweight and obesity?
The answer is No! As a nation, a low-fat diet has not helped people control weight or become healthier. In the 1960’s 45 percent of American’s calories came from fats and oils. At this time, about 13 percent of adults were obese and under 1 percent had type 2 diabetes. Today, 34 percent of adults are obese and 11 percent have diabetes but are only consuming 33 percent of calories from fats and oils.
So why hasn’t low-fat and fat-free products worked? Research has shown that the total amount of fat in the diet isn’t actually linked with weight or disease. What really matters is the TYPE of fat and the TOTAL calories in the diet. Consuming a high intake of “bad fat,” trans and saturated fat, has been shown to increase the risk for certain diseases. However, “good fats,” included monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, reduce the risk of certain diseases. Since fat has been classified as “bad” without distinguishing between the type of fat, many people have all together reduced their fat consuming, bad and good fats together.
This has resulted in a greater increase in consumption of easily digested “simple” carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, potatoes, and sugary drinks. The problem with this is that the body digests these simple carbohydrates quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike. Over time, eating lots of simple carbohydrates can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes as much or more than eating too much saturated fat. Therefore, it is important to replace food with bad fat with foods high in good fat rather than simple carbohydrates.
In a study conducted by the British Medical Journal, they have shown that saturated fat is NOT the culprit of heart disease but rather, simple carbohydrates. In a study conducted in 2009 at UCLA, it showed the three-quarters of patients admitted to the hospital with a heart attack did not have high total cholesterol but rather, a cluster of symptoms such as high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar levels, abdominal obesity, and a low “good” cholesterol, HDL, level. With this in mind, many researchers have advocated for people to adopt a Mediterranean diet which is high in fruits, vegetables, and good fat such as olive oil. More recently, research is suggesting that saturated fat in dairy foods, such as full fat yogurt and milk, may actually protect against high blood pressure, inflammation and a host of other symptoms related to heart attacks.
Due to the need of years of research data, I would not go on to recommend full fat dairy or a high consumption of saturated fat. As a Registered Dietitian, I follow the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, which is a report based on scientific research that is presented from medical professions, stating to consume low fat and fat free dairy products and making saturated fat less than 10 percent of your total calorie intake. Nevertheless, eating is like a game. A game of balance to which individuals can eat whatever they want as long as portion sizes are taken into account! Therefore, go get that full fat chocolate cake with full fat ice cream but limit your self to 1 small piece a day!
Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good. Harvard School of Public Health.
USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Nutrition Insights: Insight 5: Is Total Fat Consumption Really Decreasing? In; 1998.
Flegal K, Carroll M, Kuczmarski R, Johnson C. Overweight and obesity in the United States: prevalence and trends, 1960-1994. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1998;22:39-47.
Wright JD, Wang, C-Y. Trends in intake of energy and macronutrients in adults from 1999-2000 through 2007-2008. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics; 2010.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes fact sheet: national estimates and general information on diabetes and prediabetes in the United States, 2011. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2011. Accessed January 11, 2012.
Howard B, Manson J, Stefanick M, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and weight change over 7 years: the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA. 2006;295:39-49.
Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:859-73.