by Leah Hinnefeld
The 90’s brought us Supermodels, Saved By the Bell, Scrunchies, Stirrups Pants, Acid Wash Jeans, and Fanny Packs. If that wasn’t bad enough, they also brought us Spandex, Ephedra, AND fear of fat! Low fat, no fat, and fat free were as sought after as the unrealistically skinny bodies of the supermodels that promoted that way of life. I personally blame the low fat-high carb mantra of the 90’s as one contributor to rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes in our country.
Following are several potential problems that surround a diet that promotes and encourages eating low fat or fat-free foods:
1. Our bodies NEED fat to function properly. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins. Fat soluble means that vitamin needs to be in the presence of fat to be absorbed and utilized by the body. These vitamins are stored in the liver and fat tissue and are needed for growth, immunity, cell repair and blood clotting. If you fear the fat, these vitamins will not be released into the body and you will suffer from vitamin deficiencies.
2. Fats, particularly omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are natural mood regulators. Studies have linked depression, ADHD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and eating disorders to diets low in these essential fatty acids.
3. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids have been found to assist in preventing cancer and slowing the growth of existing cancerous tumors. Low fat diets can then increase these risks.
4. Higher fat diets contribute to higher HDL (the good one!). HDL is responsible for collecting “bad cholesterol” so it can be removed from the body through the liver.
5. When you lower fat from your diet, chances are you will replace it with another type of food. The most common replacement? Foods rich in carbohydrates or sugar. A diet too high in dense or starchy carbohydrates will thwart the best weight loss efforts, increase the chance of developing type 2 diabetes and may contribute to high blood pressure.
6. When you artificially remove fat from a food, you have to replace it with something. One of the most memorable ‘somethings’ is Olestra. This fake fat has been linked to weight gain, diarrhea, cramps and leaky bowel syndrome. Olestra directly interferes with the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat free and low fat foods are also often very high in sugar.
Now that I hopefully have you convinced that not all fat is bad, here are 3 suggestions on real foods sources of good fat:
1. Coconut Oil is a fat made up of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). These medium length fatty acids are metabolized differently from long chain fatty acids. MCTs go straight from the liver to the digestive tract and are then readily available for energy. MCTs are also turned into ketone-bodies which have recently been connected to having a therapeutic value for such brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. Coconut oil has also been connected to lowering abdominal fat, which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease.
2. Wild Caught Salmon is very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, making it a tasty real food choice to elevate your intake of good healthy fats to bring you all of the benefits listed above. Due to the concerns over high mercury levels in farm-raised fish, wild caught salmon is preferred. Purchasing wild caught Alaskan salmon even greater reduces potential exposure to mercury and other contaminants.
3. Avocado is actually a fruit that is chock full of the healthy fat oleic acid. This healthy fat also reduces the risk of heart disease and aides the digestive tract in creating molecules that help the absorption of those fat soluble vitamins. Added bonus? Avocados contain all 18 essential amino acids, making them a complete protein!
While the addition of real food healthy fats is essential to creating a foundation of real fitness and overall health, they still need to be a part of an overall calorie intake that suits your activity level. While you don’t need to fear the fat, you do need to keep in mind that 1 gram of fat= 9 calories.
Would you like to learn about additional healthy real food choices to increase your intake of good fats? Then please enjoy this companion blog entitled A Few Good Fats by Jason Wagner.