The low-fat craze that became a national trend in the early 1990's may have done all of us a great disservice. When the food industry started marketing low-fat as a weight loss must-have, they ended up having to replace fat with sugar. As studies have now proven, sugar is actually more of a deterrent to weight loss--and our overall health--than fat.
Aside from weight loss, lowering your sugar intake from your diet can also help support heart health, prevent or manage diabetes and lift your energy levels. But does cutting out sugar mean that it’s safe to embrace foods with high-fat content again?
Good Fat vs. Bad Fat
Contrary to popular belief, all fats were not created equal. There are, in fact, good fats and bad fats. In the struggle of good fat vs. bad fat, this is what you need to keep in mind when making food choices:
Good fat is usually found in vegetables, seeds, nuts and fish.
Good fat is known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Studies have shown that polyunsaturated fats can actually reduce the risk of heart disease.
Bad fat is known as saturated fat, the worst type being trans fat.
Trans fat is found in margarine, fast food (namely french fries) and commercial cookie and pastry products.
Trans fat not only increases the amount of LDL (bad cholesterol) in your blood, but also increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
The bottom line? In the battle between good fat vs. bad fat, bad fat is really bad and you should always opt for the mono- and polyunsaturated fats if given the option. Don’t despair--you can still find great recipes for foods that are low in sugar and bad fats but big on taste.
The Benefits of A (Good) High-Fat Diet
If you’re wondering how to lose weight, it might be worth it to switch over to a diet that is high in good fats. A recent study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology Journal found that a diet high in good fats does not lead to weight gain, especially in comparison to a low-fat diet.
All of the 7,000 participants in this study had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, or had 3 (or more) cardiovascular risk factors. And more than 90 percent of participants in this study were overweight or obese. The results--which might not determine how to lose weight, but rather, how to not keep gaining weight--went against decades of nutritional advice that a diet high in fat is bad for you.
“More than 40 years of nutritional policy has advocated for a low-fat diet but we’re seeing little impact on rising levels of obesity,” said lead author of the study, Dr Ramon Estruch. “The Mediterranean diet has well-known health benefits and includes healthy fats such as vegetable oils, fish and nuts. Our findings certainly do not imply that unrestricted diets with high levels of unhealthy fats such as butter, processed meat, sweetened beverages, deserts or fast-foods are beneficial.”
The Mediterranean Diet
In addition to helping prevent obesity, the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to reduce the risk of strokes and help to prevent dementia. Even better, the Mediterranean Diet consists of a variety of delicious foods. Here’s how you can incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into your mealtime routine:
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You can start by replacing your morning bowl of cereal with a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with sliced strawberries, bananas and almonds. And for lunch, try a hearty Greek salad with feta cheese and toasted whole wheat pita bread.
Replace margarine and canola oil with healthier options. Cooking with olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil might seem counterintuitive after years of being told their high-fat content is bad for you, but these oils are rich in healthy fats and can have major health benefits for you.
Swap out your salt shaker for other herbs and spices. If you’re concerned about adding flavor to your meal, stop reaching for the salt and start getting creative with your herbs and spices. Everything from oregano, basil, thyme, cumin and even garlic powder can liven up a dish just as much as salt, only without the health risks.
Have a glass of red wine with dinner. Yes, that’s right--wine! It’s been scientifically proven that red wine has heart healthy polyphenols and, within moderation, can actually help you remain healthy as you age.
Cut down on red meat and add in more fish. The Mediterranean Diet allows for red meat, but only about once a week. The bulk of the protein in the diet comes from fish, which also has brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.
Exercise. This doesn’t mean you have to start training for a marathon, but taking time to get up and get out of the house to take a walk, ride a bike, or even taking a senior-friendly yoga class can start to have a big impact on your waistline and your health.
Take Better Care Of Yourself
It’s not easy to change your line of thinking after decades of being told that certain things are bad for you, but it isn’t impossible either.
Eating right and exercising are two components of aging well--a third is a medical alert device, which can provide you with help in a hurry should you need it.