Several fad diets have poured into the media over the past few years. It seems that when one new fad diet fades out, another one is coming in right behind it. One of the more recent popular diets was the low fat/no fat diet. A common belief is if you consume fat then you will gain weight and get fat. This is far from the truth. If you are still on this type of diet, then you could be doing irreparable damage to your body, as several health risks have been associated with low fat/no fat diets. Take a closer look at why fat is important, and you will soon see that you need to choose a different diet!
Health Risks Involved with a Low Fat/No Fat Diet
While most people are aware that too much of the “wrong” fat in your diet can lead to a whole slew of problems, the same is true for those that don’t get enough fat. Later, we will take a closer look at why fat is important, but first take a look at the health risks concerning a low fat/no fat diet.
Studies have shown that people that don’t have enough essential fatty acids in their diet are at a higher risk of developing breast, colon and prostate cancers.
When you don’t get enough fat in your diet, your “good” cholesterol levels will decrease. HDL levels need to remain high in order to decrease the risk of heart disease.
Your mood and behavior can also be affected by your low fat/no fat diet. Healthy fats help to promote balanced mental health. Not getting enough fat can lead to a deficiency of omega-3s, which can aggravate ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders and schizophrenia.
People that cut fat out of their diet are usually making up for it with other nutrients. A low fat/no fat diet can lead to an imbalance of essential nutrients.
Most foods that claim to be low-fat or fat-free tend to have added sugars to ensure that they are still tasty. Studies have shown that people who eat low-fat and fat-free foods are likely to eat much more than those that eat a diet full of healthy fats.
As you can see, low fat/no fat diets are a lot risker than people realize. Now, let’s take a look at the reasons that fat is so important.
Why Fat is Important
Fat is very important for the human body. According the American Dietary Guidelines, at least 20 to 35 percent of the calories in your daily diet should come from fat. We see clinically that this is the minimum amount that you should have in your diet.
Fat is the source of essential fatty acids, or EFAs. According to Wahida Karmally PhD, RD, a professor of nutrition at Columbia University, “your body is incapable of producing the EFAs, known as linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, so it must derive them from food.”
EFAs are important for a variety of different reasons, but they are most important when it comes to brain function. According to CY Chang from the Department of Neurology at Chi-Mei Medical Center in Taiwan, “The human brain is nearly 60 percent fat. We’ve learned in recent years that fatty acids are among the most crucial molecules that determine your brain’s integrity and ability to perform.”
Fat also helps aid in the absorption of vitamins, especially vitamins A, D, E and K (which are known as the fat-soluble vitamins). These are very important vitamins, as they help to aid in bodily functions including growth and development, immunity, repairing of cells, and blood clotting. If you don’t get enough fat in your body, you could put yourself at risk for a vitamin deficiency.
Fat is important for other reasons as well. Karmally states that “fat is also necessary for maintaining healthy skin, and it plays a central role in promoting proper eyesight and brain development in babies and children.”
This goes to show that fat is not only essential for adults, but also for babies and children.
Another reason that fat is so important is because it is the preferred fuel for the body. A common misconception is that carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for the body, when in fact fat actually powers the body better.
Healthy Fats vs. Unhealthy Fats
You have probably gone your entire life hearing about how bad fat is for your body, but that could not be further from the truth. The key is to recognize the healthy fats. Sure, certain kinds of fats should be avoided, but on the same token some are absolutely essential.
Man-made saturated fats should be avoided (partially hydrogenated oils or trans fatty acids) since they are toxic and harmful to the body. They can prove to be harmful to your diet. Trans- fats occur naturally in some types of food, but more often than not they are synthetic fats. This type of fat has been proven to raise cholesterol and put you at a higher risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
One type of fat that should be consumed in limited quality, depending on the source, is saturated fat. Saturated fats are fats that come from animal sources, some plants and seeds and man-made. Beneficial sources of saturated fat include cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil, grass fed beef and butter from grass fed cows.
Now, let’s take a look at other types of fats. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are your omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. These fats are found in plant-based foods and certain types of oil. Great sources of omega 9 fats are olive oil, macadamia nut oil and chicken and turkey fat. Healthy omega 6 oils include black currant oil, borage oil and primrose oil. Then there are omega 3’s, which most of us have heard of. These fats are found in cold water fish, egg yolks and grass fed meat. These fats should be included in most people’s everyday diets for a variety of reasons.
Benefits of a High Fat Diet
When you fill your diet full of healthy fats, the benefits to your body will be many. Making sure you get enough essential fatty acids will ensure that you always keep your body up to speed. By consuming enough fatty acids, you will help ensure maximum absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, which are crucial to sustaining many of your body’s functions.
If you are still adhering to a strict low fat/no fat diet, then you should consider making some changes to your dietary habits. The right fats in your diet will give you more energy, help you lose weight and improve your cholesterol profile. Make sure that you are getting enough fat in your diet to ensure your overall nutritional health. After all, the low fat/no fat diets are a thing of the past.
If you would like to have more information and a better understanding of fats and the importance in your diet check out Dr. Steph’s Skinny on Fats DVD and manual in the product section of this site.
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