As tasty as a hamburger or sugar doughnut might be, each time we eat these types of food, we feel a sense of guilt, simply because of the awareness that we’ve just ingested something with high fat or sugar content.
To turn our guilty pleasures into guilt-free enjoyment, many food manufacturers have begun offering low-fat alternatives to their high-fat treats – the seemingly perfect answer to our problems. But does a low-fat diet really lead to less fat accumulation in our bodies?
A low-fat diet sounds pretty straightforward: simply limit the amount of fat that you consume each day. It’s popular as a weight-loss method, particularly in the short term. However, you need to consider more than just the amount of fat that goes in your meals.
Firstly, despite the popular belief that fat is bad for us, too little fat can actually be dangerous as well. You need a right amount of fat for your bodily functions, such as the dissolving of vitamins and their uptake, as well as the regulation of body temperature. Strictly limiting the amount of fat consumed could put these functions into jeopardy. Instead, it’s recommended to focus on consuming healthier fats instead.
Consuming less fat could also cause you to take in other unhealthy calories in the form of more carbohydrates and sugar, leading you to eat more than you normally would. A study found that 10% of diet foods (low-fat, reduced fat, or fat-free foods) contained the same amount of or more calories than regular food, and 40% contained more sugar. These “healthier” food options might lead you to compensate the calories lost with other calorific items.
Besides, extra carbohydrates can slow metabolism and stimulate fat-production and storage in the body. Hence, it is crucial to select your low-fat foods wisely. In fact, some might prefer to keep to a high-fat diet as fat is filling, keeps you full for longer, allowing you to consume less calories in a day as compared to a low-fat diet.
Some might also wrongly disregard the differences between healthy and unhealthy fats when going on a low-fat diet. Not all fats are bad for you – there are fats that are beneficial to the body, such as omega-3, the types of fat that we should be consuming.
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to the heart, and can be found in fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, as well as flax seed, oils, and nuts such as almonds. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids also improve blood cholesterol levels, and can decrease the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
As a general guideline, healthy adults should limit dietary fat to no more than 20 to 35% of their total daily calorie intake, choose to eat healthy fats, and steer away from saturated fat and trans-fat. It’s important to keep in mind that a balanced diet is the key to achieving a healthy lifestyle, and over-limiting just a single aspect of one’s diet comes with its own consequences and dangers.