Why You Should Avoid Low-Fat and Fat-Free Foods

Four Months Postpartum on a Full Fat Diet
It seems logical enough.  If you are trying to lose weight, you should choose low-fat and fat-free foods.  They are touted as healthy options.  I certainly thought so in my early twenties and so I would drink skim milk, buy low fat cheese, and anything else that would help me keep the weight down.  Now that I am much older, and a little bit wiser, I have realized that I was wrong.  Low-fat and fat-free foods can actually be detrimental to your health and will not necessarily help you lose weight.

Why We Need Fat in our Foods?
With the talk about obesity in this country, we have become afraid of fat.  However, the body needs fats.  Why?  Healthy fats actually help in the absorption of many vitamins to include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K, otherwise known as fat-soluble vitamins.  If you are not ingesting enough fat with the vitamins,  your body will actually get rid of them instead of absorbing them.  If the body is not absorbing these vitamins, then the body is losing out on some very important nutrients.

Vitamin A:  promotes a strong immune system, good vision, healthy skin, fertility.

Vitamin D: strong bones, healthy immune system

Vitamin E:  cell health, great skin, eye health

Vitamin K:  proper blood clotting, bone health

Take milk for example.  The fat soluble vitamins are found in the fat.  When you take the fat from the milk, what happens?  You take out the vitamins as well.  Manufacturers have tried to deal with this by then re-adding the vitamins to the milk.  But does your body absorb those vitamins when you drink skim milk?  Considering they are fat soluble vitamins, I think the answer is clear. (Further Reading: Six Secrets You Don't Know About Skim Milk)  Without sufficient intake of these vitamins you are putting yourself at risk for things like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and autoimmune disease to name a few.

The Hidden Ingredients in Low-Fat and Fat-Free Food
If you look at the label of a fat-free food and one of a full-fat food, many times you will see that the fat-free foods have more carbs.  That is because when manufacturers take out the fat, they usually have to replace it with something else to give it a similar texture.  Some common added ingredients include salt, starches, sugar, and various chemicals.  Let's look at a fat-free salad dressing.  Guess what you might find on the ingredient list?

Kraft Fat Free Ranch Dressing Ingredients: water, corn syrup, cultured low fat buttermilk, vinegar, sugar, onion juice, garlic juice, salt, modified food starch, contains less than 2% of soybean oil, xanthan gum, artificial color, phosphoric acid, propylene glycol alginate, with potassium sorbet and calcium disodium edta as preservatives, monosodium glutamate, natural flavor, dried parsley, fried green onions, vitamin E acetate, spice, caramel color, yellow 5, sulfiting agents.

Notice the corn syrup and sugar?  You are taking out the fat, but now adding sugar. Typically, fat-free and low-fat foods have many more ingredients than the regular version.  Not only are they adding sugar, but other chemicals.  How many of the Kraft Fat-Free Salad Dressing can you pronounce? I can write an entire blog on the negative effects of these chemicals.

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Fat Free and Losing Weight
Fat contains more calories than proteins or carbohydrates (which is the reason that many people believe that they will lose weight if they just cut the fat).  However, fats help you feel fuller and you crave less food.  If you cut out the fat, you will actually consume more of the fat-free product in order to feel satisfied and may consume more calories in the end.  That is why studies have shown that as a society we may consume more fat-free and low-fat foods and yet we are heavier and less healthy than ever before.

Getting Rid of Unhealthy Fats. 
Good Fats with Great Nutritional Value
Not all fats are created equal.  There are some fats you should get rid of, but make sure they are the unhealthy kind. These are the fats that have no nutritional value and do indeed pose a health risk to consumers.  Unhealthy fats include:

--Transfats found in many packaged foods.  These include popular kids cereals, potato chips, packaged crackers, packaged popcorn, packaged cookies, etc.
--Canola Oil and Vegetable Oils
--Margarine
--Shortening
--Fats in processed Meats such as Bacon, Deli Meats (to my husband's chagrin)
--Fats in fried foods

Good Sources of Fats  
Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Avocado, Almonds, Flaxseed Oil, Butter, Milk, Yogurt, Salmon (Still doing my research on meats but a blog will soon follow).

Instead of Fat Free Try Portion Control
Too much of anything is going to be bad for you.  Eight glasses of milk a day may not be the best choice. The key is always portion control.  If half or more of your plate is made up of fruits and vegetables, then don't sweat the fact that you put butter on your toast (hopefully on your sprouted wheat or whole wheat toast).  Eat a reasonable amount.  I don't like counting calories nor counting fat, but if it helps you keep yourself in check, aim for about 65g (give or take a few grams) for a 2000 calorie diet.

Book Recommendations:

The Maker's Diet
Maximized Living Nutrition Plans, The Solution to the Dangers of Modern Nutrition

Further Reading:

6 Risks of Eating a Low-Fat Diet


Why Skim Milk Isn't As Healthy as You May Think?

Why Fat-Free Isn't Trouble Free

The 20 Health Benefits of Real Butter


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