I’m starting a new series of blog posts covering popular dieting, health, or food related myths. I think I’ll call it MythBusters, assuming that name isn’t already taken ;)
The first diet myth I’ve decided to tackle is eating fat makes you fat.
Now, since all of you are just the smartest–also worth mentioning: the most beautiful–I have a sense that you’re hip to this information. Still, I talk to people all the time who fear dietary fat, and I bet you do, too.
And it’s not impossible to understand why a myth like this got started. It even seems a little intuitive. You are what you eat, right? But this is probably the single most destructive health myth of the last several decades.
In the beginning, people turned to low-fat diets in an effort to lose weight and improve their health. But for most, the exact opposite occurred. Food companies made low-fat versions of their products and replaced the fat content with mostly sugar, which we now know is worse for weight loss. It’s likely that the “low-fat craze” significantly contributed to the obesity epidemic in America.
From the Harvard School of Public Health: “Low-fat diets are often higher in refined carbohydrates and starches from foods like white rice, white bread, potatoes, and sugary drinks. Similarly, when food manufacturers take out fat, they often replace it with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or starch. Our bodies digest these refined carbohydrates and starches very quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike and then dip, which in turn leads to hunger, overeating, and weight gain. Over time, eating lots of ‘fast carbs’ can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes…”
When I was losing weight and especially when I was trying to maintain my weight loss–and for a time while I was in the throes of an eating disorder, I was constantly eating low-fat foods. I cared exclusively about calories, and since low-fat foods tend to have fewer calories, I filled my diet with them. I assumed lower calorie meant healthier, better. But when eating entirely low-fat foods, I noticed I was always hungry, impatiently waiting for another snack, constantly thinking about food, and I was miserable.
Over the past few years, I’ve completely changed my philosophy on fat. My satisfaction has tripled. I’ve been happier, less hungry, and have found a lot more freedom in what I eat.
The truth is: Dietary fat is an essential nutrient and a crucial part of a healthy diet.
A healthy diet, even during weight loss, should have plenty of monounsaturated (found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts) and polyunsaturated fats (found in fish, flaxseed, and many cooking oils), some saturated fat (coconut oil, meat, milk) and no trans fat (hydrogenated oils).