One of the things many people do when trying to lose weight or cutting back junk or unhealthy foods is going for low-fat food. The thinking sometimes goes that consuming fat makes us get fatter, so abstaining from consuming it as much as possible helps you get thinner.
But how true is this? In other words, is a low-fat diet or lifestyle the way to go?
A low-fat diet is one where fat accounts for around 10% or less of your daily calorie intake. If your caloric intake is 2000 calories, 600 calories would come exclusively from fat. Simple.
However, despite what the fat intake recommendation was in the past, studies have consistently shown that a low-fat diet has very little effect on weight reduction in the long term and can pose health risks. Many health organizations recommend keeping the amount of fat at around 30% of your daily caloric intake.
These are some of the problems that arise when considering taking up fat-free types of diets:
- Lack of healthy foods and nutrients: Because a low-fat diet is focused on consuming a low amount of fat, healthy foods such as animal products like eggs, meat and full-fat dairy, and plant foods like extra virgin olive oil, nuts and avocados.
- Fat makes food taste good: This means a low-fat diet is not as pleasurable as a healthy diet. This can make you unsatisfied in the long run and resort to binge eating. It is simply not sustainable.
- Low-fat does not equal low calories: To make up for the tasteless flavour of fat-free products, food companies tend to add ingredients like sugar, flour, thickeners and salt, which ultimately adds up in the calorie department. Fat isn’t the only thing that contains calories, after all. You should always read the labels before purchasing something if you’re not sure.
- Depression: some studies link low fat intake to depression symptoms.
However, this does not mean that low fat-diets pose nothing but health risks, as the jury is still out on the matter and more research is necessary to understand the effects of this type of diet. In fact, evidence suggests that low fat-diets may be beneficial against conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and multiple sclerosis.
Good fat and bad fat
It is important to know that not all fats are created equal. The type of fat you eat can be more important than the amount of fat you eat.
Good fats: they can be subdivided into two groups.
Monounsaturated fats: Found in canola and olive oils. They can lower the LDL in the bloodstream.
Polyunsaturated fats: Found In fatty fish like tuna and salmon. They can also lower LDL cholesterol.
Saturated fats: It is found in animal products like beef, pork and butter. This type of fat generates mixed opinions.
Trans fats: This is the worst type of fat you can consume. Natural trans fats are found in very small amounts in certain animal products, but artificially added trans fats are formed due to a chemical reaction during the manufacturing process. As you can probably guess, it is found in various types of tasty popular foods: doughnuts, baked goods like cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, frozen pizza, crackers, cookies, and margarine to name a few. Although it is best avoided altogether, realistically, trans fat intake should be kept to a bare minimum.
Remember that if you have any questions regarding the type of diet you should follow, you should always consult a doctor first.
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