Low fat, high carb. High carb, low fat. Atkins. Southbeach. Paleo. Do any of these sound familiar? The list of so-called fad diets is ever-growing and the right advice for which diet is right for you, can get lost between all the layers of myths and misinformation out there.
Almost all fad diets will revolve around decreasing calorie intake and shifting the ratio of carbohydrates to protein to fats to optimize weight loss. And they all have one thing in common – they put specific nutrients or foods into black and white boxes. One is good and you should eat lots of it and the other is bad and needs to be limited.
There’s a lot of nutrition misinformation out there, but perhaps the biggest one of all is that eating fat makes you fat and if you eat excess fat, this will be stored on your body as fat and cause weight gain. This will also happen with carbohydrates and protein. But the truth is, excess is the problem here – not the actual nutrient. In actually and in moderation, fats play a vital role in your diet. And when eaten right, a diet high in fats can be a highly beneficial one. Here, a closer look at what fats are all about.
Functions of Fats
Energy – Gram per gram, fats provide more than double the amount of energy to our bodies need when compared to carbohydrates or proteins. This makes good quality fats an excellent energy booster.
Fat Soluble Vitamins – Fats are needed in our bodies to carry and absorb vitamins A,D,E, and K. Deficiencies in any of these vitamins will have huge consequences on our health – we need vitamin A for proper eyesight and good vitamin D status has been associated with a healthier pregnancies, stronger bones, and a reduced risk of many cancers. The relationship between vitamin E and fats gives fat containing foods skin beautifying, hair improving, and nail strengthening properties.
Prostaglandin Production – Prostaglandins are short-range hormones synthesised from dietary fats used to regulate our body’s immune response, blood pressure, and are even involved in inducing labour.
Brain Food – If you have read any health articles in the past decade, chances are you’ve heard of omega 3’s. Omega 3 is a unique fatty acid found in healthy fats that boosts brain and heart function. Stronger memory and better mood is reported with people who consume more healthy fats than those who cut out fats from their diet altogether.
Healthy vs Unhealthy Fats
Trans Fats – The evidence is clear that trans fats (AKA hydrogenated fats) are the worst types of fats for us to consume. They are mainly found in margarine and processed foods. We are looking at you doughnuts, pizza, and french fries.
Saturated Fats – 10 years ago any doctor, nutritionist, or health expert you talked to would have told you to stay away from butter and all saturated fats because they increase bad cholesterol and heart disease. Recent research however shows that saturated fats are probably not as scary as we once thought. Maybe not even scary at all. In other words, there’s no need to cut butter out from your diet completely, but it’s also probably not a smart idea to have it with every meal either.
Olive oil – This fantastic oil can be used on salad dressings, when cooking and when baking vegetables. Olive oil is great for reducing blood pressure, cancer prevention, managing diabetes, and lessening the severity of asthma and arthritis.
Nuts – Add nuts to your smoothies, salads, or have them alone as a snack for a mix of healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants. Make sure you always go for unsalted nuts though.
Avocado – Enjoy an avocado in a salad, on a sandwich, or blended into a smoothie. Not only is it packed with healthy fats, but it also contains antioxidants which strengthen the immune system and prevent heart disease.
Flaxseeds – For something so small, these seeds are packed with heart healthy properties. They are great on yoghurt, granola, in smoothies or over salads.
In conclusion, low fat diets deprive your body of essential nutrients that it needs. Focusing on the types of fats you eat is much more beneficial and worthwhile, because they are not all created equal. Eating an avocado has very, very different effects on your body than those McDonald’s fries – never forget that.