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.

Fat Burning

Is it possible that there are a variety of foods just waiting in your local supermarket aisle that will burn off fat for you? Well, as we learned this week at Foodbusters, the answer is: sadly not. The popular myth is that eating foods like grapefruit, nuts, celery, green tea and chilli will make you burn weight, which frankly just seems too good to be true. And that’s because it is.

The myth states that these foods burn fat by increasing your metabolism, as well as taking up energy in the subsequent digestion of these foods. However, whilst it does increase your metabolism, this is a short-term effect, and will not be nearly as effective as actual exercise. Despite the falseness of the myth, many of the foods that have been suggested to ‘burn fat’ are in fact good for you, and should be included in part of your balanced diet.

One of these foods is lean meat, which contains protein. Protein might be a controversial choice, considering its role in its own myth (that too much protein is bad for you). As high protein levels have been blamed for kidney failure, many people have decided to lower the amount of protein they eat to combat this. However, studies have proven that a healthy protein amount, which is dependent on your body type, is beneficial to your body as it helps with calcium and bone density.

Green tea is another ‘fat burner’, but is really healthy for you because it improves brain functions and helps ward against cancer. Two other pluses are that green tea has been shown to lower chances of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, as well as improving dental health (which means it reduces bad breath!). Lentils are another food that is good to include in your diet, particularly if you’re iron deficient as it is instrumental in raising your iron levels. Lentils also help with your blood cholesterol levels and overall heart health.

So, at the end of the day it’s time to admit that you can’t burn fan by eating- but you can reduce weight gain by eating the right foods. Try some of the foods we mentioned above in order to boost your metabolism, as well as raise protein, iron and calcium levels in your body. Couple these healthy foods with some regular exercise, and you might just burn some fat after all.