If you want to lose fat, then you should eat less fat, right? Or, if you don’t want to get fat, then you should cut down on your fat intake, right? Eating fat -> Getting fat, right? Wrong.
It’s been long held (roughly 60 years) that a low-fat diet is key to staying in shape. Especially when it comes to saturated fat, we’ve been told that less is more. The problem is, that in the last decade or so, this has been scientifically debunked.
To make a very long story short, a pathologist named Ansel Keys did a study leading to the theory about a low-fat diet being ideal, but his study wasn’t comprehensive. He studied a bunch of nations’ diets and concluded that those with lower fat intakes had lower rates of heart disease. However, he didn’t include the nations that contradict that idea like France, which is known for its affections for red meat, cheese and butter but has relatively low rates of heart disease.
Unfortunately, we, as a nation, haven’t been able to shake the concept of the low-fat diet. Even more unfortunately, a low-fat culture has morphed us into a high-carbohydrate culture. And, because our foods have less fat in them, the companies that make processed food have replaced the fat with more sugar and preservatives.
I plan to cover why too many carbs is bad for your health in another blog entry, but I’m sure you’ve heard that carbs, sugar and preservatives are not ideal components in someone’s diet who’s trying to get healthier or lose weight.
Fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Not only do you need adequate fat to maintain a healthy brain, but fat helps transport vitamins A, D, E and K, and it helps form certain hormones that make muscles grow. Eating enough fat also keeps you fuller for longer.
So what do you need to know about fat? As good as it can be for your diet, it does usually come with a hefty calorie price tag. Where protein and carbohydrates contain four calories per gram, fat contains nine calories per gram. Fun fact: alcohol contains seven calories per gram. So, the fattier the food you’re eating – while it isn’t bad for you – the more calories it will cost you. So, unfortunately, you’ll still need to limit the brownies.
The moral of the story here is that you can, and should, include fat in your diet, no matter how much weight you want to lose or gain (or maintain). Remember, though, that it’s important to try to get as much of your diet from real foods – ones that go bad if you leave them in the fridge or on the counter for too long. And, of course, surround your fatty additions with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies!
There’s a great anecdote in a Time article
about this topic that opens with a woman who gets a job as a food critic. She needed to sample all sorts of fatty foods – red meat, pate, creamy soups, etc., and she fully expected to gain weight. To her surprise, she lost 10 pounds and her cholesterol stayed level. She actually went on to author a book called The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
So, don’t believe the fat haters. Enjoy the (grass-fed) steak.