Is Low Fat a Myth or Real?

A study from the University of Harvard reveals a lot you didn’t know about foods.

It’s time to end the low-fat myth. That’s because the percentage of calories from fat that you eat, whether high or low, isn’t really linked with disease. What really matters is the type of fat you eat.

So we separated the fats into Good and Bad.

“Good” fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats= lower disease risk.

“Bad” fats—saturated and, especially, trans fats=increase disease risk.

How can you tell the difference?

Simple: foods that contain good fats are vegetable oils (such as olive oil), nuts, seeds, and fish.  On the other side, foods high in bad fats include red meat, butter, cheese, and ice cream, as well as processed foods made with trans fat from partially hydrogenated oil.

So how to stay healthier? All you have to do is to choose foods that have more good fats than bad fats—vegetable oils instead of butter, salmon instead of steak—and that don’t contain any trans fat.

Let’s move to the real myth now. “Low-fat,” “reduced fat,” or “fat-free” processed foods are not necessarily “healthy,” nor is it automatically healthier to follow a low-fat diet.

One problem with a generic lower-fat diet is that it prompts most people to stop eating fats that are good for the heart along with those that are bad for it.  And 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 as much as—or more than—eating too much saturated fat.

So when you cut back on foods like red meat and butter, replace them with fish, beans, nuts, and healthy oils—not with white bread, white rice, potatoes, sugary drinks, or other refined carbohydrates.

Here are 5 tips on choosing Good fats over bad ones.

  1. Use olive oil for cooking and baking. Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Try dressing up a salad or roasted vegetables with olive oil-based vinaigrette, rather than hitting it hard with mayonnaise. Be aware when reading the labels! There are refined olive oils and mixed oils also! Select only pure 100% olive oil or extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Ditch the trans fat. In the supermarket, read the label to find that are trans free. The label should say “0” (zero) on the line for trans fat; you should also scan the ingredient list to make sure it does not contain partially hydrogenated oils. Fortunately, most food manufacturers have removed trans fats from their products. In restaurants that don’t have nutrition information readily available, steer clear of fried foods, biscuits, and other baked goods, unless you know that the restaurant has eliminated trans fat—many already have.
  3.  Switch from butter to soft tub margarine. Choose a product that has zero grams of trans fat, and scan the ingredient list to make sure it does not contain partially hydrogenated oils. Even better, use a liquid plant oil whenever possible; refrigerated extra virgin olive oil makes a great spread for toast.
  4. Eat at least one good source of omega-3 fats each day. Fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna) and walnuts all provide omega-3 fatty acids, essential fats that our bodies cannot make. Omega-3 fats, especially those from fish, are very beneficial for the heart.
  5. Cut back on red meat, cheese, milk, and ice cream. Red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and dairy products are high in saturated fat. So eat less red meat (especially red processed meat, such as bacon), and choose fish, chicken, nuts, or beans instead. If you do eat red meat, choose lean cuts and keep the amounts low. Low-fat and reduced-fat cheeses are often not so low in fat—and are often higher in sodium than regular cheese. So it is best to choose the cheese you like and savor it in small amounts.  Low-fat milk may be better than whole milk, but if people drink only low to moderate amounts of milk, this will not make much difference.



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