Chances are, those eggs (cooked in butter!) and bacon on your plate — yes, full of saturated fat–are probably a lot healthier than that low-fat muffin. That’s especially true if you plan to add low-fat spread to the muffin.
It sounds counterintuitive, but let’s put it in context.
Remember the low-fat/no-fat craze of the 80s and 90s? It didn’t make us any healthier, and we continued to gain weight. Why? We cut back on all fats — the healthy ones as well as the ones considered harmful. And by indulging in low- and no-fat treats, we added substantial quantities of high-calorie, low-nutrition foods to our diet. We also dramatically increased our intake of carbs, including pasta and bread. And that may have made things much worse.
Think about it: the percentage of calories from fat in our diets has dropped over last three decades, but obesity rates have climbed sharply over the same period. Something’s amiss.
And yet, store shelves are still filled with low-fat foods that claim they’re better for you. They almost never are. In fact, the more we learn, the better fat sounds.
About fats: Good, bad and ugly
You’ve heard a lot about good and bad fats. We’re learning that the distinction may not be all that clear:
- Monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and most nuts, as well as certain safflower and sunflower oils) and polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon) are the “good” fats and appear to lower “bad cholesterol.” The research continues to support the value of consuming these fats.
- Saturated fats–found in animal products– have long been considered “bad” fats. However, newer research, including a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest its harms have been exaggerated.
- Trans fats–the artificial fats found in partially hydrogenated oils–are still bad. On this researchers agree: There is no safe level of consumption.
Replacing the fat with something worse
The food industry saw the low-fat craze as an opportunity to create a whole new range of products. Use the low-fat alternative, its purveyors chanted, and you’ll reap more health benefits. But that simply was not true. Part of the problem with low-fat and non-fat foods is what manufacturers add when they remove the fat. The label may sound healthy, but take a look at the ingredients list: The foods are often highly processed, overloaded with sugar (or worse, chemical sugar substitutes) and salt, as well as other unhealthy ingredients.
Consider all the butter substitutes still on the market. Low-fat margarine and spreads are highly processed and some still contain trace amounts of trans fats. You are better off using butter. Sure, it’s high in fats, but 1) it tastes better and 2) you’ll use less because its taste is more satisfying.
Then there’s peanut butter. Reduced-fat peanut butter contains sugar–or sugar substitutes — and processed oils. But it has no fewer calories than natural — unprocessed — peanut butter. As you can imagine, the natural stuff is much healthier, even though it’s high in fat. Look at the ingredients of the manufactured, low-fat peanut butter on the grocery shelf. Then look at the ingredients of freshly ground peanut butter. There’s a big difference, and in this case, as with butter and so many other things, you want to opt for the items with fewer ingredients.
Cookies may be the worst. Are you suffering through low-fat and fat-free cookies because you think they are healthier than regular ones? They aren’t. They’re high in sugar and generally taste worse; according to research published in Appetite, they are much less satisfying. (That means you are likely to eat more.)
In fact, studies suggest a low-fat label leads many consumers—especially those who are already overweight—to overeat. Meanwhile, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine and elsewhere found that those who follow a moderate- or high-fat diet (such as the Mediterranean) lose just as much weight, and in some studies a bit more, as those who follow low-fat diets.
If you still want to cut fat, there are plenty of foods that have no–or trace amounts–of fat, including many fruits and vegetables. There may be good reasons to reduce the fat in your diet. But don’t fall victim to an outdated fad that can be more harmful than healthful.
~ Health Scams Exposed