Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Food Rules: The Big Bad Fat Monster!

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Though I was born in the 80's, I am certainly a child of the 90's. One of the biggest things that sticks out in my mind from the 90's (other than the plethora of handsome boy bands to adore) was the huge fat-free/non-fat craze.  My mother, for one, was hooked on Nabisco's SnackWells cookies. Hey, it was a good way to eat sweets within moderation...

...or so we thought. Which leads me to the next guideline from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules...


Just because the packaging uses these phrases, doesn't mean the food is healthier OR lower in calories. Allow me to explain.

Fat is what gives food it's consistency. When you remove the fat from food, it obviously has to be replaced with something. In these types of products, the fat is replaced with carbohydrates, sugars, salt and (many times) artificial additives. These ingredients are no better (and sometimes worse) than the fat that was removed to make you think you are eating something good for you. Next time you pick up a box of fat-free anything, scan the label and you'll be surprised at what's inside.

Second, without the fat, your body doesn't get the signal that it's full, causing you to overeat to the point of being stuffed. There's a reason you can eat that whole bag of fat-free chips! It takes a whole bag before you realize you are full. Additionally, studies have suggested that the sugar substitutes used in these products may overstimulate your taste buds, causing you to crave them more and more.

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Third, when you're consuming carbohydrates, it's important to allow your body some healthy fats in conjunction with the carbs. When your body breaks down the carbs, sugars are released into your blood stream very quickly. When you eat fat along with the carbs, the fat slows down the release of sugar, keeping your blood sugar from spiking and preventing the inevitable crash that results.

Last, some vitamins that your body requires are fat soluble (ie. vitamin D). Your body uses fat to absorb and store these vitamins. When you purposely cut the healthy fats out of your diet, you are limiting your body's ability to nourish itself.

Fat is a macronutrient for a reason. Macronutrients are needed to survival and basic bodily functions. You need fat for proper hormone function, for normal growth and development, to keep your cell walls strong, to cushion your vital organs, to provide you with energy and to keep you warm. Fat deficiency can cause dry skin, eczema, low energy, impaired kidneys, slow healing time, vision issues, learning problems, depression and even miscarriage. When choosing fats, it's important to pick healthy fats, such as olive or canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.

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Moral of the story? Fat-free and non-fat products do not necessarily equal healthy nor do they lead to weight loss. Michael Pollan makes it very clear...

"Since the low-fat campaign began in the late 1970s, Americans actually have been eating more than 500 additional calories per day, most of them in the form of refined carbohydrates like sugar. The result: The average male is seventeen pounds heavier and the average female nineteen pounds heavier than in the late 1970s. You're better off eating the real thing in moderation than bingeing on 'lite' food products packed with sugars and salt."

So my friends, think twice as you head down that grocery aisle. Get the good stuff.


  1. Excellent topic, I caution the use of Canola oil, however. Use of saturated and monounsaturated fats are recommended over the polyunsaturated fats found in canola and other vegetable oils. Use of tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil are recommended for cooking. Olive oil and butter are excellent choices. Polyunsaturated fats are unstable, causing increased inflammation in the body. Concerns of cholesterol levels secondary to fat intake are unfounded. The Framingham study on heart disease never proved that elevated cholesterol was a cause of heart disease. More recent studies have shown that inflammatory changes in the arterial walls were the concern for plaque formation. There is more concern for elevated triglycerides that form due to excessive carbohydrate ingestion. That coupled with low HDL levels is more predictive of coronary disease risk.

    1. Thank you for your insight! I try to stick with olive oil or ghee when I can help it! Ghee is great for those who are lactose intolerant too!

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