The low fat myth: Does a low-fat diet make a low-fat you?

By Rena Rubin-Hines, CNP

Years ago, I was a big believer in the low fat diet. It made so much sense: eat less fat, be less fat. If it said “low fat” on the label, I would eat it. Low fat cheese, low fat cookies, low fat ice cream. I bought them all. And fat free? Better still! But did I ever get thinner by avoiding all that fat? Of course not. And I certainly wasn’t getting any healthier.


I’ve come a long way since those days. Now that I’m a Holistic Nutritionist, naturally my diet is a LOT healthier than it was then. But in our society, the low fat myth persists. Scan your local grocery store and you’ll still see fat-free yogurt, low-fat ice cream and a wide selection of reduced fat products lining the shelves. In fact, if you want to find yogurt that’s NOT low fat or fat free, you really have to search.


People are still buying these products because they can’t help believing that eating fat makes you fat, and, therefore, that eating low-fat will make you thin. It sounds logical enough, so what's the problem?


Why doesn't it work?


First of all, when they take the fat out of these products, what do you think they put in to make up for the loss of taste? More often than not, the answer is sugar. It’s even where you might not suspect it, like in low fat salad dressing. And guess what your body does when you eat more sugar than you need? It turns it into fat.


One of the reasons we actually need fat in our diets is that it’s satisfying. When you’re satisfied, you stop eating. So what happens when there’s no satisfying fat in your food? You eat more. And remember, what you’re eating more of is sugar.


What about the good fats?


But aside from encouraging us to eat too many low-fat cookies, the problem with the low-fat crusade is that all fats were lumped together as evil destroyers of our hard-earned flat stomachs. But the truth is, the only fats we really should avoid altogether are trans fats, rancid vegetable oils (like those used in processed foods, fried foods and baked goods) and we want to seriously limit the saturated fat we get from meats.


But there are fats that are good for us and actually help maintain a healthy body weight – polyunsaturated fats like flax oil, monounsaturated fats like olive oil, and the good saturated fats like coconut oil. Even full-fat dairy contains not only saturated fat but also monounsaturates and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which may actually help you lose weight.


I’m not suggesting you sit down and eat a wheel of brie, but a little full-fat cheese now and then (preferably organic) is actually a healthier choice than the low fat variety, and tastes a whole lot better. The key, as always, is portion control and moderation.


When it comes to cookies and baked goods, you’re better off avoiding the low fat ones AND the regular ones, which are loaded with refined carbohydrates, rancid fats and toxic preservatives. Your best bet is to make your own healthy cookies with nutritious ingredients you can control. Try these delicious double chocolate chunk cookies – they’re loaded with fibre and protein and they taste great.


When in doubt, it’s always easy to make the right choices when you choose to eat and cook with whole foods.


Rena Rubin-Hines is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner specializing in women’s health issues. Rena’s philosophy is if we eat better, we feel better and we look better. With a no-nonsense approach to health and nutrition, Rena offers straight answers, practical advice and effective solutions to a wide range of women’s health issues including weight loss, anti-aging, digestive health, as well as prevention and treatment of a variety of health conditions. Rena is dedicated to helping women live healthier lives, naturally.

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