I remember waiting for class to start back in the 90s. A pretty girl in my class was raving about her low-fat diet. My ears perked up and I listened to her every word. And I remember her saying, if a food doesn’t have fat, then you can eat as much as you want without gaining weight. Yes, she said, low-fat foods are free!
Low-fat diets became popular in the 70s.
Fat was originally vilified for its role in heart disease, but it soon became demonized for making people fat. How did this happen? Well, like most of the buzz circulating today, low-fat diets were fed to the general public by the media. High profile news publications started promoting low-fat diets to both housewives and working women who were desperate to lose weight.
By the late 80s, the buzz about fat had really started to grow. This led to a significant milestone in the low-fat era. Both the Surgeon General and the World Health Organization recommended a low-fat diet for health and weight-loss. Now there was no turning back.
As this happened, food companies started to catch on that low-fat products translated to sales. A product that I remember well was Snackwell’s cookies. These were decadent cookies for dieters. They were full of sugar, bad carbohydrates, and calories. The only thing that made them “diet” was their lack of fat, and they flew off the shelves.
Yet, there was an elephant in the room that nobody talked about.
As a population, we had greatly reduced our fat intake. Yet, despite the reduction, the obesity epidemic was growing before our eyes with no end in sight. All you could hear was “non-fat this” and “low-fat that”, but no amount of fat reduction helped the increasing problem of obesity.
Fat has since made somewhat of a comeback. A few years ago, a major publication announced that Americans could start eating fat again. Yet if you walk up and down the aisles at your local grocery store, you’ll still find specially marked non-fat and low-fat diet foods everywhere. Consumers still like to see non-fat on a label, so companies will continue to pump out non-fat “diet” products.
Despite the backlash against low-fat diets, many dieters are still avoiding fat. Here are some reasons why non-fat products can be not-so-good for your health and waistline:
*A non-fat product is often heavily processed.
For instance, non-fat yogurts still fly off the shelves at the grocery store. Yet, the processing of dairy to omit the fat can change the protein molecules and the enzymes found in milk. It can also change the nutrient composition of the food. Foods are naturally found with a combination of ingredients that work together to support health. With dairy, one of those ingredients is fat. So when you omit the fat, you omit the balance of nutrients within the food which detracts from its health benefits.
*Fat is digested slowly and helps play a part in balanced blood sugar.
Low-fat products compensate by adding extra sugar. The sugar content in low-fat products contributes to blood sugar imbalances that lead to obesity. Fat doesn’t elevate blood sugar, and it leads to feelings of fullness. Let’s go back to the example of a non-fat yogurt. You’ll likely feel much more satisfied after eating a full-fat yogurt than one where the fat has been removed. Then you might not feel as tempted by unhealthy snacking later in the day.
*Fat is essential for the body.
It isn’t an optional nutrient. It actually performs many important functions. For instance:
- Fat is needed for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Remove fat from your diet, and you will be depleted in many essential vitamins.
- Fat plays an essential role in building cell membranes. Without fat, you won’t have properly functioning cells.
- Fat composes much of you brain.
- Fat is essential for creating hormonal balance.
The bottom line is that nobody can achieve health by excluding fat.
Now there is one caveat. To get the full benefit of eating fat, you have to eat good quality options. The bad fats found in hydrogenated oils, fried foods as well as burnt vegetables oils won’t support a healthy body or waistline. Here is a scary bit of trivia. Trans-fats are structurally different than normal fats. They then build faulty cell membranes due to their structural abnormalities.
The good fats are fats like:
- omega-3s in wild caught fish
- coconut oil
- olive oil
- most nuts
- many seeds
- organic dairy from pasture-raised cows. Raw milk is most supportive, but it is difficult to find in most areas and must come from a trustworthy source.
So take note when a product says non-fat or low-fat.
That may not be such a good thing. Filling your diet with good sources of healthy fat has been shown to support weight-loss. Fats exist in many natural, healthy foods for a reason. You won’t receive the same health benefits from a food if you first remove the fat.
Good fats are also essential for a properly working body. If your body is imbalanced, you aren’t going to lose weight or be healthy. Recognize low-fat products for what they really are: a gimmick to placate consumers who still equate the phrase low-fat with healthy. As long as consumers will buy these products, food companies will manufacture them. At least now, you know better.
And one final point. Remember to take every food trend with a grain of salt. Someone will probably be writing a similar article 20 years from now about the lack of validity in today’s hottest food fad as well.