Why You Should Think Twice About Going on a Low-Fat Diet

For individuals aiming to lose weight, improve their heart health and maintain proper cholesterol levels, going on a low-fat diet is often thought to be the logical solution. After all, isn’t fat — that ingredient that makes practically any type of food tastier (butter on your pancakes, full-fat dairy in your baked goods, the marbling in your meat) — the very thing that’s making you fat? Quite simply, people think that eliminating this completely from their diet is the way to go.

However, becoming healthier isn’t as simple as that. If taking away fat were the correct thing to do and if the ever-increasing number of low-fat or fat-free food items in the supermarket were truly effective in helping curb weight gain, then there shouldn’t be any individuals with growing waistlines and declining health walking around today. But there are. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States more than one-third of adults are obese, and obesity-related conditions such as type-2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease are the leading causes of preventable health.

So what exactly does following a low-fat diet mean and why shouldn’t it be the kind of diet that you would follow if your goal is to safely and effectively lose weight, keep it off, and maintain improved health? Here are two key facts about low-fat foods you need to know.

1. Most people don’t understand the low-fat labels they read on countless food products available today. For instance, when a product is labeled “fat free” it means that it has less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving. “Low-fat” foods, on the other hand, have 3 grams of fat or less per serving. “Reduced-fat” items have at least 25 percent less fat than their regular versions, while “light” foods have either 50 percent less fat or 1/3 fewer calories. So without proper knowledge of these meanings, a person could still be consuming more fat than he thinks.

2. Because fat adds lots of flavor to food, it follows that low-fat foods will be less tasty, so the people or companies that prepare these foods make up for this by adding more of other ingredients like salt, sugar or thickeners. Also, you may eat more of these foods to feel satisfied, so you might still be consuming the same number of calories and fat — or even more — than you normally would.

There are good fats and bad fats so it’s best to know which ones you should eat in order to gain the benefits. It can be confusing to determine which of the countless fats available provide the best benefits for your health, so here is a short list of the good stuff that you can happily add to your diet.

Olive oil. You may have learned that it’s best to stay away from vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-6 (such as soybean, grape seed, peanut and corn oils), but olive oil is mostly rich in monounsaturated fats that are healthy for you. Keep in mind, though, that you should use it in dressings and for drizzling on cooked dishes rather than for cooking, as it easily burns and oxidizes.

Avocado (both oil and fruit). Similar to olive oil, avocado oil has a high monounsaturated fat content and is best used in dressings, while the fruit is a delicious complement for salads and chicken dishes. And of course, who can forget luscious guacamole?

Butter or ghee. You may be surprised to find butter on this list, but if it’s made from the milk of an organic grass-fed animal and the milk constituents are removed (to turn it into ghee or clarified butter), the product is a highly saturated fat full of conjugated linoleic acids (which have strong anti-cancer characteristics).

Coconut oil. About 92% of coconut oil’s content is saturated fat coming mostly from lauric acid which is said to be the easiest type of fatty acid for the human body to digest. Go ahead and add that irresistible and heady coconut taste and aroma to your food.

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