The fat-free craze began in the ‘80s, when reports were released showing that America needed to lighten up on a particular kind of fat: Saturated fat. Saturated fat, found in meats and full-fat dairy, can elevate the levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) in your blood, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. So when the first set of dietary guidelines were released to Americans, the thinking was to keep it simple and cut down on fat wherever possible.
Healthcare practitioners and nutritionists assumed that if they just told people to cut the fat in general, their patients would quickly slim down. Yet the truth was that the amount of fat you ate had no correlation to heart disease—the type of fat did.
Sadly, this misinterpretation ushered in an era of America gaining more weight than ever. Why?
Here are five reasons fat-free truly isn’t healthy:
- Fat Gets Replaced with Sugar: As people sought to decrease fat in their diets, they simultaneously loaded up on sugars, carbohydrates, and high-glycemic foods. Companies touted pretzels over nuts just because they were lower in fat. And fat-free yogurts got a high dose of sugar additives in order to replace the quality of taste lost when fat was reduced. Ironically, these sugars and the byproducts of high-glycemic foods can be stored in the body as fat if they are not expended calorically.
- Carbohydrates are Metabolized Faster than Fats: Because the body burns through carbohydrates faster than fats, people on a low-fat or fat-free diet get hungry faster, often in-between meals. That can lead to increased snacking and, often, weight gain. The slow burn of healthy fats will sustain you for longer.
- Carbohydrates Cause Blood Sugar Swings: Not only are carbohydrates less satisfying than fats, they may also cause unhealthy blood sugar swings. Fluctuations in your blood sugar may cause extreme highs and lows in energy, productivity, and focus. Moreover, high glucose levels can lead to heart complications.
- The Body & Brain Need (the Right) Fats to Function: Dietary fats help your body sustain its energy, grow, and heal tissues and organs. Some fats also help your body uptake nutrients. Its all a matter of which fats you consume.
- There are Good and Bad Fats: Saturated fats can be dangerous in excess, but good fats like mono- and polyunsaturated fats are key components of a healthy diet. Likewise, the type of carbohydrates you eat is more important than the quantity. Highly processed carbohydrates (in the form of flours, sugars, breads, pastas, etc.) can be detrimental, while unrefined carbohydrates like whole grains and fruit sugars are typically healthy.
So the next time you reach for a fat-free food, remember this list and consider the rest of what’s on your menu for the day. A handful of nuts, loaded with healthy fats, is a far better choice than that sugary fat-free yogurt!