Debunking the Fat Myth

Do you remember the “low-fat” diet craze from the 80s?  Marketers in the food industry made it seem as though eating something labeled as “low-fat” would actually lower your body fat.  I mean, that is what it sounds like, right?  “I want to be ‘low-fat!'”…who doesn’t?!

Then, something ironic happened.  In the switch to low-fat snacks, in the 80s, the obesity rate in the U.S. went from 14% to 25%.  

What had actually happened was a few things:

1.  The tastes of food changed.   Food manufacturers actually hire people to make their products taste “better.”  …and by “better” I mean more addictive.  It’s the delicious mix of salt, sugar, and fat that spikes our taste buds.  If a product is marketed as “low-sugar, ” then up the fat content.  If it is designed to be “low-fat,” then up the amount of sugar, etc.  Of course, then there are the artificial (chemical) flavors, but that is a whole different article.  

When people are constantly eating processed foods, it numbs their taste buds to the flavors of foods that are actually healthy:  bitter greens, plain water, or the slight sweetness of real fruit for example.  If someone eats processed foods for years, it will be very challenging to switch to a whole foods diet.  Their taste buds will go into a temporary shock at first!  If this describes you, I recommend focusing on the benefits of a healthier diet:  focus on how much energy you have after a nutritious meal, for example.  In time, you will develop a taste for healthier foods and will actually enjoy them!  

2.  The mentality of a “low-fat” food was that you could eat tons of it because it was healthy, or at the very least wouldn’t make you fat.  

FALSE:  Actually, eating food with healthy fats fill you up faster, so you end up eating fewer calories overall even though fats have twice the calories of carbohydrates.      

3.  We stopped cooking.  Picture this:  a stay-at-home mother in the 1950s vs. a woman in the 1980s in her red power-suit complete with shoulder pads.  One is slaving in the kitchen all day making 3 meals from scratch.  The other picks up fast food or TV dinners on her way home.  Now, I am also a mother and I work full-time, so I’m not trying to preach a “holier-than-thou” perspective.  But we – collectively, as a society – have become lazy about cooking real meals.  We would rather watch cooking shows than do the cooking!  

Ultimately, it is the quality of the oils and the overall quality of your diet that count and that aid weight loss, lowering cholesterol levels, and maintaining your vitality and energy into old age.  Saturated fats found in animal products and tropical oils like coconut oil have been used for the history of humankind to keep our bodies strong and healthy.  Oils and fats are essential for brain and nervous system function, help reduce signs of aging in our skin and hair, and can even work as an anti-fungal agent in our bodies.  

Misinformation abounds that saturated fats lead to heart dis-ease, but I would argue the opposite is true.  Before the 1920s, heart disease was rare.  By the 1950s, it was the leading death among Americans.  Were we eating more saturated fats?  No.  In fact, from 1910 to 1970, the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from eighteen pounds per person per year to four.  What we were eating dramatically more of was sugar.  

Fats are an essential part of our diet that helps to regulate our appetite, making us feel fuller for longer periods of time.  Fats contain vitamins D, E, A, and K and help with the absorbtion of these vitamins in our bodies.  Those who possessed enough will power to remain fat-free for any length of time developed a variety of health problems including low energy, difficulty in concentration, depression, weight gain and mineral deficiencies.

As a general rule, I recommend trying to eat at least 80% of your diet “good” and 20% can be “bad” or “cheat food.”  

Good foods:  any vegetables; whole fruit; whole grains; nuts; raw milk and yogurt; fresh, organic protein sources like eggs  chicken or beef; non-farmed fish; saturated and unsaturated oils and fats such as butter, coconut oil, safflower oil, olive oil, or sunflower seed oil.  

Bad foods:  donuts; cakes; alcohol; deep-fried anything; cookies; breads and baked goods; french fries; processed food; soda and sugar-sweetened drinks; sweets like candy or chocolates (yes, this includes your “yogurt-covered raisins”)

Basically, it’s not fat that makes people sick and overweight…it’s processed foods and sugars.  Stick with “real” foods, and your body will thank you for it!

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve heard much about benefits of coconut oil but in out country it is really difficult to find this kind of oil, just canola, flax, sunflower and olive oil. I really appreciate this interesting information.

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