‘Low-fat’ products are portrayed as a ‘healthy’ option compared to full-fat products. This stems from the belief that ‘eating fat makes you fat’. But recently, a lot of research has some to light that this is far from the truth. Diseases associated with dietary fats, such as obesity and coronary heart disease, come as a result of excessive intake of inappropriate dietary fats; so the issue isn’t the fat itself, its the type and quantity consumed.
Fat is actually one of the three essential macronutrients we NEED in our diets to survive and function optimally. The primary function of fat in our bodies is to supply continuous energy. And in addition to this, fat forms an integral part of our bodies structure and assists with thousands of body functions including: production of red and white blood cells, production of hormones, transports fat-soluble vitamins, provides insulation and warmth to internal organs, protects body organs and provision of taste (fat actually provides taste to our food!). So the only way to support these vital functions is by consuming fats through diet – of course, when I say fats, I’m referring to HEALTHY sources of fats (more on this later).
Dietary forms of fat are also the only way to get the essential fatty acids (EFAs) that our body cannot produce itself – Omega 3 and 6 – both which are vital to body’s functioning. Hence, following a low-fat diet would potentially lead to a deficiency in these EFAs within the body. Things like oily fish, nuts, seeds and oil are all good sources of EFAs.
Low-fat products themselves also pose some serious issues. When they remove the fat from foods (such as milk, yoghurts, muffins, cereals etc.), most of the flavour is lost because fat = tasty! So to make up for that, they pump the low-fat foods full of sugar. Often if you compare a full-fat and low-fat product, take a yoghurt for example, you’ll find the full-fat version will be much lower in sugar. Recent research has found sugar to be more of a contributor to chronic health conditions than fat; conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer can all be triggered by excess sugar intake because sugar is inflammatory to the body. High sugar consumption has also been linked to heightened risk of insulin resistance, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
So not only is this high sugar content of low-fat products a concern in itself, but higher sugar foods often leave you craving more not long after consumption. Why? Because fat (as well as protein) is the macronutrient responsible for satiety (that full feeling post-meal). So seen as low-fat products are missing this essential macronutrient, you won’t experience that satisfied feeling and will often be reaching for more food shortly after. As a result you’ll often consume MORE calories this way than if you just opted for the full-fat option in the first place.
Another issue with low-fat diets is that they prevent the absorption vitamins A, D, E and K, because these vitamins require fat in order to be absorbed. Thus, a low-fat diet can cause deficiencies in these essential nutrients and many health complications as a result. For example, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis because vitamin D aids in calcium absorption for strong, healthy bones.
So its clear, low-fat isn’t the healthiest option. As I always say, a healthy diet is all about balance. It should include ALL three essential macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats).
As a place to start, or if you have been consuming a low-fat diet and want to start including more healthy fats, these are some great sources of healthy fats to include in your diet daily:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fatty fish, such as salmon
Nuts (and nut butters)
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
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