Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thinking about fat in our diets

One of my favorite magazines is Eating Well. Aside from providing me with excellent recipes and beautiful images, this magazine is designed to get you thinking in a health and intelligent way about the foods that you put into your body.

This month's issue has a very thought provoking article on fat entitled "The New Fat Revolution." With ever increasing rates of obesity and diabetes attaching our society, people try to point fingers and villanize specific foods and food groups. Fat has long been one of the "bad" foods, but this article shows how that isn't necessarily proper judgement.

When people try to eliminate something from their diet altogether, be it fat, carbs, sugar, etc., it usually leads to the problem of replacing it with something just as bad if not worse. This article makes a key point - when Americans got crazing about reducing fat in the early 1990s, they replaced it with more processed sugar and processed carbs (note - processed carbs are things like pretzels, breads, etc and not natural carbs like those found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains). Sugar and white flour raise glucose levels and are linked to weight gain.

As a society, we like to look for easy fixes - cut fat! no sugar! no carbs! But these mess with our body chemistry in the long run. Rather than looking at foods as either "good" or "bad," the best thing that we can do for our overall health is to try to eat a well balanced diet of whole foods. Eat healthy fats like avocados, hummus and nuts and fill up your system on fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. The less processed a food is, the better it is for you.

In the Eating Well article, they included the "fat matrix" that you see here. This is an easy way to see that we can place various foods on a matrix or spectrum and that some foods we should eat more of and some we should eat less of. The left side is saturated fats and the right side is unsaturated. The higher up on the page a food is, the better it is for you. For anyone who is more visual, this easily shows that avocados, fish and low-fat dairy products are good ways to get healthy fats and that we should eat butter and french fries less frequently.

Dietary fats are not the enemy. They are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help your body absorb certain nutrients and produce certain hormones. Your body needs a good mixture of fats, protein and carbohydrates to do its job and to help you thrive. Whole foods are always better than processed. Consider small changes, your body will thank you for it.

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