Low in Fat, High in Lies

You know the drill. You’re walking down the supermarket aisle, trying to decide what to buy for breakfast that’s easy and quick to eat so you can sleep an extra ten minutes. Toast is out (isn’t there some fad thing about gluten?), the cereal section crushes your heart (it’s too hard to guess which ones sneak sultanas in) and suddenly you see it at the end in the freezer: yoghurt! So you stroll your cart on over and try to pick something that won’t ruin your diet- oh look, one’s 99% fat free.

The problem with this is many brands will add in sugar and flavourings in order to better the taste- because once they remove the fats, it tastes gross. Whilst too much saturated fat is bad for you and your heart, the trans-fats that companies replace this with is damaging is also bad for us and our cholesterol. To make foods low in fat, companies replace saturated fats with trans-fats (through changing the oil structure within the food), as well as adding sugar, flour and salt. This is problematic because, not only does the food most likely have as many carbs as the original version, but your body is now experiencing blood sugar cravings- making you eat more of the low fat food to combat this. All of this sugar also comes with its own set of health warnings: it can lead to obesity which we know is linked to diabetes, as well as the standard heart and high cholesterol issues.

So the solution here, as recommended by many nutritionists and health associations, is to consume a healthy amount of “good fats”. These can be described as monosaturated fats (which are found in oils made from olives, canola, peanuts, safflower and sesame). Another “good fat” is polyunsaturated fats (which are found in oils made from soybeans, corn and sunflowers as well as in fish like mackerel, salmon, trout and herring). The most important part of beating this myth is to check your food labelling: if an item has “low fat” and subsequently has high sodium, sugar or trans-fats levels then it is no better for you than its regular counterpart.

I Don’t Want No Carbs

For many a year now, carbs have been public enemy #1 when it comes to losing weight and staying healthy, but the negative effects of carbs have been blown way out of proportion. Dr Harvey-Berino from the department of nutrition and food sciences from the University of Vermont blows a giant hole in the myth by stating that nothing about carbohydrates will make you fat- eating calories in excess will. This means that all those times you stopped yourself from gorging on that piece of bread or plate of spaghetti, you needn’t have.

It is poor quality carbohydrates and fats that are high in calories that make you put on that extra weight, and so what’s important in your diet is not to cut out carbs but to monitor what types of calories make up your daily intake. For example, eating food which is high in trans fat content is not a good idea, as it makes your cholesterol high and raises the chance of you suffering heart failure. Whereas saturated fats, or generally products made from animals, whilst if you eat too much can damage cholesterol levels, in moderation can reduce your risk of diabetes.

What you really want to consume a healthy amount of is moderated fats and polyunsaturated fats- found in products like walnuts, fish, tofu, almonds and extra virgin olive oil. So the truth is, carbohydrates should NOT be removed from your diet, when consumed carefully and in moderation they are essential to your overall health. Instead to drop that weight you should be looking at your overall calorie consumption.

But what is the difference between calories and carbs?

Calories comes from either fat, protein or carbohydrates, and are essential for the human body to function. So really, a calorie is a measurement of the amount of energy in food. Whereas a carbohydrate is a chemical compound often found in foods. So now that you know the truth, you no longer have to stress over your all-carb diet from Taco Bell.