Fat fact busters: Why low fat doesn’t always mean healthy
When we embark on a healthier eating journey, the first thing people often reach for is the low-fat alternatives. Not only can the terms ‘low fat’, ‘reduced fat’, ‘50% fat’, ‘fat-free’, be a minefield in themselves, choosing those options may not always be a healthier alternative.
So, before you reach for the low-fat yoghurt, here are three things to consider:
We need fat!
Fat is an essential nutrient. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential fatty acids that must be consumed as part of our diet, as we cannot make them ourselves. Our bodies use these essential fatty acids to make other fatty acids and molecules. These products are used in many crucial processes and structures in the body. For example, every single cell in your body has a protective wall or membrane that is made from fatty acids!
Other essential nutrients we eat, such as Vitamin A and Vitamin E are fat-soluble nutrients, which means they need fat to be present to be effectively absorbed by the body.
The full effect
Eating fat-containing foods helps you to feel fuller for longer. You may notice you feel more satisfied after eating an apple with some nuts or peanut butter than just the apple alone. This is because fat tends to take longer to digest and sits in the digestive system for longer. This sends signals to the brain which helps to reduce appetite.
While fat does have more energy (calories) per gram when compared to protein and carbohydrate, having some fat in your meal will mean you aren’t constantly seeking out the snack cupboard.
Don’t single out your fats
Many of us avoid fat altogether as rumour has it, it’s bad for our heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world so it’s important to consider factors that can help reduce this risk.
However, when it comes to the science, it’s very difficult to show that specific nutrients can lead to certain diseases. Studies have shown a connection between having a high blood cholesterol level and developing heart disease, but it’s harder to say what the exact cause of it is.
Without getting too sciencey, the best thing to do is focus on your diet as a whole. Go for minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, dairy products (or alternatives) and sources of protein (e.g. meat, eggs, fish, tofu and meat alternatives).
Cooking home-made meals most of the time helps you to eat more minimally processed foods. Have a look on our Facebook page for some great recipes that the whole family will enjoy.
Remember, it’s a balancing act between healthy eating and regular exercise. For more food inspiration ‘For the love of food’
And… don’t forget, it’s fine to occasionally have foods you eat for pure enjoyment, like pizza and donuts, just don’t force yourself to have a low-fat yoghurt purely because you think it’s a healthier option.