Friday Fact or Fiction: A Low Fat Diet Is The Best Way To Lose Weight
VERDICT: FICTION - A low-fat or no-fat diet could actually end up adding extra pounds to your weight and inches to your waistline.
As the levels of obesity continue to increase in this nation, it seems everyone is looking for a solution to trim down. Popular fad diets come and go and yet it seems people who are losing weight are simply gaining it back after quitting. And as we continue to search for the magic answer to making our weight woes disappear, it would appear that a low-fat or no-fat diet should be a step in the right direction. Especially since it's fat we're concerned about, if we omit or limit the fat we consume, that should solve our weight problems, right?
Starting in the 1990s, when the food pyramid was developed, many were under the misconception that all fats were bad and by eating less of it, they could achieve their weight loss goals. Hence the development and marketing of millions of low-fat and non-fat options: our supermarkets are teeming with fat-free and low-fat alternatives for everything from milk to junk food. Fat itself contains 9 calories so by eating less fat, it seemed logical that we would, in turn, be less fat.
Unfortunately, this is not the case and in fact, many low-fat or non-fat options may contribute to the expanding waistline of this country. In an article for Scientific American, Harvard University nutrition professor Walter Willett counters popular early nutritionists' beliefs by stating low-fat diets may actually be adding to the obesity epidemic rather than helping it.
In an interview with Frontline, Dr. Willett states that with the availability of more fat-free and non-fat products, it is true that fat consumption went down but Americans were actually getting fatter. In many low fat diets, the key dietary element then becomes carbohydrates, which roughly translates to sugar. And as we now know, sugar is really what hikes up extra weight gain and ends up causing dangerous diseases such as diabetes.
Fats are necessary for our bodies to function and important for our dietary needs. They serve as an energy source for the body and certain fats are necessary to process important vitamins. According to The Dr. Oz Show, fats should make up at between 20-35% of the daily calories you ingest, to keep your body running properly.
Instead of cutting back or omitting fats entirely from your diet, it is more important to look at what types of fat you're eating. Not all fats are equal and many fats actually carry a slew of health benefits. Swap out dangerous fats with healthy fats such as olive oil and eat foods that naturally contain healthy fats, such as fish (salmon or tuna) which contain omega-3 fatty acids and are also beneficial for heart health.
When choosing low fat or non fat options, take a step back - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Just because a bag of chips are marketed as fat free does not mean eating the entire bag will not make you gain weight. Moderation is still important in dealing with any type of food. It is more effective to pair a healthy balanced diet with regular exercise than to over-focus on low fat and fat free diets.