For years we have been told that a low-fat diet is the best way to lose weight, manage cholesterol and prevent health problems. But would all of our weight loss problems be solved if we just eliminated fat from our diets?
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. It is the type of fat you eat and not just the amount that really matters.
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet. In fact, we can’t live without them. Fats provide essential fatty acids, keep skin healthy, deliver fat-soluble vitamins and are a great source of slow-release fuel to keep you going throughout the day. The confusing part? There are some fats that are not so good, and they can increase cholesterol and increase risk of disease.
So what are good fats, and what are healthy fats? We’ve rounded up some of the most talked about myths when it comes to fat intake in an attempt to debunk some of these harmful misconceptions once and for all.
Myth 1: All fats are equal
Not exactly. Basically, there are two groups of fats, saturated and unsaturated, and within each group are several more types of fats.
Good fats and healthy fats
You may have heard the term 'good fats' and thought to yourself, "But what are good fats?". Well, the good guys, or the good fats, are the unsaturated fats. These include polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are found in vegetable oils such as omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish), and monounsaturated fats.
Other foods high in good fats can include:
- Flax Seed
- Peanut Butter
When eaten in moderation and as a substitute for trans and saturated fat, these can be considered as healthy fats, and they can help to lower cholesterol and reduce disease risk.
So, to answer the question "Are fats good for you?" simply... Sometimes! Some fats can be good for you in moderation, as they provide your body with energy and support cell function!
Bad fats and unhealthy fats
Unhealthy fats, or the bad guys, are saturated and trans fatty acids, and these should be eaten sparingly.
These fats are linked to some pretty unhealthy effects and are believed to raise cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease. Saturated fats are found in animal products and vegetable fats that are liquid at room temperature.
Trans fats are found naturally in animal products, but the ones to be concerned about are actually the artificial trans fats, which are used extensively in packaged snacks and fried foods. It's suggested that artificial trans fats are limited as much as possible to try and avoid these effects. As we keep saying: everything in moderation, people!
Myth 2: Fat free means low calorie
Unfortunately, fat-free product labels don’t mean you can eat all you want without any consequences to your waistline.
Many fat-free foods are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates to compensate for the reduced fat, and many products are also high in calories… Not exactly a recipe for health.
There is research to suggest that low fat foods increase sugar cravings, leading to overeating and weight gain. We all need some fats to stay healthy, with dietary guidelines recommending that 35% of our daily calories come from fats.
Myth 3: All body fat is the same
The main thing is that where fat is stored matters. If you carry your extra fat around your abdomen as opposed to around your hips and thighs, there is research to suggest that it is linked to some cancers, insulin resistance and diabetes.
This means that no, not all body fat is the same, so we should be aware that our diet and food intake has a significant impact on our fat levels.
Myth 4: Fat causes obesity
Fat is often blamed for the obesity epidemic, but really, fat is only part of the problem.
Obesity is much more complicated than eating too much of a single nutrient. Instead, eating more calories from fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and alcohol than is burnt off leads to weight gain.
Factors such as genetics, sex, age, and lifestyle all also contribute to the weight-gain formula. However, dietary fat does play a role, as it is calorie dense and easy to overeat because of the abundance of fat in the foods that we all love like cakes, chocolate and cheese. (Pssst, moderation is key).
The bottom line
Fat in general is getting lots of bad press, but keep in mind the 'big fat picture’. We all need fat but keeping our levels in control by reading food labels and reducing processed food and saturated fat intake allows us to engage in an overall healthy lifestyle.
As part of healthy, balanced lifestyle, why not try incorporating The Health Protein or The Tone Capsules into your diet? When taken part of a healthy diet and a balanced exercise regime, these can really help you get on your way to hitting those fitness goals.
- Abu-Abid, S., Szold, A., & Klausner, J. (2002). Obesity and cancer. Journal of medicine, 33(1-4), 73-86. Click here.
- Cleveland Clinic (2019). Fat and Calories: The Difference & Recommended Intake. (2021). Click here.
- Yanovski, S. (2003). Sugar and fat: cravings and aversions. The Journal of nutrition, 133(3), 835S-837S. Click here.