Debunking the Low Fat Diet

by Haille Tallon

Are you sick and tired of trying to sustain eating a low fat diet? Maybe you have realized you don’t feel as healthy as you once thought you would following this type of diet. As a nation, we have been taught that a low fat diet is the best way to lose body fat but the obesity epidemic continues. New research suggests eating a higher fat diet may actually be MORE helpful in the long term at keeping weight off! It is true that diets high in saturated fat have been linked with increased risk of heart disease, however, diets high in unsaturated fats do not have the same correlation. Low fat does not mean high nutrition, which in the end is the most important factor of any diet! 1

Why is it important to eat enough dietary fat?
Fat is the most satiating macronutrient, it takes longer to break down in the stomach leaving you fuller for longer. It contains 9 calories per gram, compared to that of 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate and protein. Two essential fats that must be present in our diet are Alpha Linolenic Acid (omega-3) and Linoleic Acid (omega-6).

According to the Dietary Guidelines, eating fish two times per week will give the necessary amount of omega-3 fats in the diet to lower risk of heart disease.2  If our diet is low in total fats, we risk not getting enough of these essential fats. Monounsaturated fats also have been shown to be beneficial in improving blood cholesterol levels and may help with keeping blood sugar levels in check. 3

How eating low fat may be detrimental to our health:

  • Many low fat foods have higher carbohydrate and sugar content to make up for the lost fats in the food – like low fat yogurts, cookies and snack foods. This compensates for the flavor while keeping the fat lower. If this is a dietary pattern, the carbohydrate content in your diet each day will end up being much higher and making up for the lower calories from the fat! This can add up quickly, leading to no weight loss or even weight gain.
  • Fat is a carrier for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, so the body will not absorb these vitamins without sufficient amounts of fat.
  • Good fats actually help blood cholesterol balance. Providing healthy fats such as monounsaturated and omega-3s helps to lower artery-clogging LDL cholesterol while helping boost HDL cholesterol, which sweeps up fatty deposits and lowers risk of heart disease.

Best sources of good fats: 3,4

  • Avocados: contain 77% fat with oleic acid as predominant fat, which is associated with various health benefits. Among the best sources of potassium with 40% more than bananas. They are also high in fiber and can lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Whole eggs: loaded with vitamins and minerals, and are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
  • Fatty Fish: loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fats, high quality protein and other important nutrients. People eating fatty fish tend to be healthier, and have lower risk of depression and disease.
  • Nuts: high in healthy fats and fiber and a good source of plant based protein.
  • Olive Oil: contains vitamins E and K and loaded with antioxidants. These antioxidants can fight against inflammation and protect LDL in the blood from being oxidized.

References

  1. Bobrow MDRS. Why Low-Fat Diets Make You Fat (And Unhealthy). The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-s-bobrow-md/why-low-fat-diets-make-you-fat-and-unhealthy_b_8506608.html. Published November 18, 2015. Accessed May 7, 2017.
  2. Denny S. Triglycerides: Why do they matter? www.eatright.org. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/wellness/heart-and-cardiovascular-health/triglycerides-why-do-they-matter. Published December 14, 2015. Accessed May 16, 2017.
  3. Moores S. Want to Get Lean? Eat Fat! www.eatright.org. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/weight-loss/tips-for-weight-loss/want-to-get-lean-eat-fat. Published February 5, 2014. Accessed May 16, 2017.
  4. 10 High-Fat Foods That Are Actually Super Healthy. Authority Nutrition. https://authoritynutrition.com/10-super-healthy-high-fat-foods/. Published August 18, 2016. Accessed May 7, 2017.
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