Low fat diet plans have been all the rage for a couple of decades now. In the ’80’s we even started seeing things like low fat cakes and cookies appear on supermarket shelves. Amazingly enough, the more low fat products that materialized on our grocery store shelves, the fatter Americans became. Coincidence?
Well, you can draw your own conclusions, but the fact is this, Americans have a carb fetish; one that low fat diets do nothing to wean them away from. Actually, low fat diets can be healthy, but far too many people confuse “low fat” with healthy when they are definitely not the same thing.
There a three main reasons for this:
1 – Your body needs a certain amount of fat to actually be healthy. It’s true. Fat is an essential nutrient that your body needs to not only survive, but to operate at optimum health levels.
2 – You need to consume fat to burn fat at peak efficiency. If you are not consuming the fat your body needs, it will be loathe to burn off its precious stored fat supplies. Rather, it will hold on to your stored fat as insurance for the future, when it will need that fat to function.
3 – Many low fat diets are loaded with the wrong kind of carbohydrates, such as the kind you get in breads, pasta, and white rice. These will make you fat faster than just about any other kind of food you can eat. In many cases they also contribute to an insatiable hunger. That’s right, eating these kinds of carbs can actually make you want to eat more!
It all has to do with a little thing called glycemic index. Glycemic index is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate causes your blood glucose levels to rise. High glycemic index foods make your blood sugar levels go up fast, low glycemic index foods make it rise slowly. Why does this affect how much fat you have stashed around your belly?
Simplified version – When your blood sugar levels rise quickly, your body must release comparatively large quantities of insulin in order to allow the sugars to be transported into your cells, where it can be used. It also signals your body to store unused carbs as fat, and since said calories are hitting your body rather rapidly, much of it normally stays unused, and is saved for later. How is it saved? As fat, of course.
Oh, and it gets worse…Fat can only be stored in fat cells when your insulin level is high. High insulin levels trigger high activity among the enzymes tasked with breaking down fat in your bloodstream. These enzymes are called lipoprotein lipases, and their job is to turn blood-borne fats into fatty acids so they can be transported through cell walls. Nice work, if you can get it. When insulin levels are high the fat cells are also called upon to turn the fatty acids back into fat and store them for later use.
You’d think that staying away from low fat diets means that you should eat a low cab, high fat diet. High fat, low carb diets have seen tremendous popularity over the years. The best example of this is the Adkins diet. However, there are also two main problems with eating high fat diets:
1 – The wrong kind of fat can kill you. It won’t happen overnight, but in time your ole’ ticker will seize up, just like an overworked engine that has never had it’s oil changed. It’s sad in this day of information at your fingertips, but people just do not know how to eat.
Many times, the low carb diet is kind of the low fat diet phenomenon in reverse. The problem is that most people eat the wrong kinds of fat, and these fats can do all sorts of nasty things to you, like clogging your arteries. The wrong kinds of fats are saturated fats and trans-fats. Trans fats have been in the news for the last few years, and the medical community has determined that there is no safe level for them. That is why so many foods now advertise that they contain zero trans fats. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with all foods.
Saturated fats and trans fats are the kind of fat you find in butter, meat and cheeses. They also include hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (read the label). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a rabbit food eating wimp. I love to eat burgers and steak, but those should be reserved for rare occasions. Most of the time, I stick to eating healthier stuff. That’s great, because there is a secret to eating better.
There are certain healthier alternatives for most of the foods like burgers. For example, you can eat lean turkey or buffalo burgers instead of 20% beef hamburgers. It is important to distinguish between lean and regular turkey burgers. Look at the label before you plunk down your hard earned cash at the check stand.
You are better off to eat only certain kinds of fat. These “good” fats include mono unsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats. You want to be sure to get an adequate quantity of Omega-3 fatty acids as well.
Here are some great sources of “good” fats:
flax seeds and flax seed meal
Basically, you want to maximize good fat intake, and minimize bad fat intake within your fat consumption range. So, if your diet is 40% fat, you want to be sure that that is comprised primarily of the good fats.
The other problem with a high fat diet – One caveat about eating plenty of fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram, while carbs and protein have only 4. Even I figured out that high fat foods are more calorically dense than low fat ones. That doesn’t mean however, that high fat foods are bad for you though. It just means that high fat foods can be deceptively high in calories, so watch how much you eat.
Why Low Fat Diets Are Not the Best Way to Lose Weight
So, what is the reason that low fat diets are not the best way to lose weight? Well, I mentioned one of them already. Your body needs fat to function, so if it is not getting what it needs in your diet, it will fight to hold on to what it has.
The second reason has to do with carbohydrates, and their effects on blood glucose levels, and subsequent effects on fat storage that I discussed earlier. A nice side effect of fats is that they help moderate the carbohydrates so that they are absorbed more slowly than if eaten alone.
So, remember you don’t have to eat a low fat diet to lose weight, and in fact, you shouldn’t. What works even better is to cut way back on the kind of carbs that most North Americans and western Europeans eat so much of, such as breads, cereals, white flour, and white rice.
If you can only do one thing, completely eliminate refined sugar from your diet. That alone makes more of a difference in their weight for most people than anything else, and low and behold, refined sugar has absolutely zero fat!
Next, make sure you get plenty of carbs from sources such as green vegetables. Grab a glycemic index chart to clue you in on which foods have low glycemic index carbohydrates. Check out my post on low glycemic index carbs to see some delicious examples. Next, you want to get enough dietary fat, but please make sure the fats you eat are of the healthy variety.
That should help you lose the weight you’ve been trying to peel away for the last 5 years. It sure did with my 5 year build up.
To discover more about why carbs are so much like crack, check out my post on why simple carbs make you hungry and fat.
For delicious foods that you can eat more of than you though possible, and even lose weight, see my Top 15 Healthy Foods List. Okay, so you can’t as much of them as you want, but you’d be surprised at how much of them you really can eat.