Products You Should Try to Avoid: Low Fat or Fat Free Foods

For some reason marketing companies think by slapping the words FAT FREE on a label of pure crap makes it healthy. Stealing a line from one of my favorite movies Tommy Boy:

If you want me to take a dump in a box and label it FAT FREE I can, I’ve got the time..But if you want to live healthy and enjoy what you eat than I suggest you eat a quality, tasty product from me.

OK, maybe that’s not the exact line but you get the point. Just because something says Fat Free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Many low-fat foods contain high amounts of sugar (carbs) and sodium to make up for the lack of fat. Let me tell you, carbs and sodium are much worse for a person who’s trying to lose weight or lose body fat than so-called “fatty foods”.

Yet, if you walk down any isle in a grocery store it seems like every other food is labeled “fat free” “low fat” or “cholesterol free”. Why? Well starting decades ago “nutritionist” started a theory that dietary fat causes chronic diseases — dubbed the lipid hypothesis. [2]..Well it turns out they were VERY wrong.

Here’s an excerpt from a 2001 study by nutrition scientists at Harvard School of Public Health (quoted by Michael Pollan in In Defense of Food):

During the past several decades, reduction in fat intake has been the main focus of national dietary recommendations. In the public’s mind, the words “dietary fat” have become synonymous with obesity and heart disease, whereas the words “low-fat” and “fat-free” have been synonymous with heart health.

It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences. [1]

Let me throw some science at ya..  The human brain is about 60 percent fat (every neuron is covered in a protective layer of fat). So depleting your body of the fat it needs can affect your brain function…. Michael Pollan writes in In Defense of Food: “Fats make up the structure of our cell walls, the ratios between the various kinds influencing the permeability of the cells to everything from glucose and hormones to microbes and toxins. Without adequate amounts of fat in the diet, fat soluble vitamins like A and E  can’t pass through the intestinal walls.”

Who knew Fat was good for you? Lets go a little further…

Did you know that there is no direct link between the cholesterol in eggs and heart disease? Or that the amount of saturated fat in your diet has no bearing on your risk of heart disease? The fact is our body NEEDS fat to survive and function properly.

Lets look at the differences in bad and good fats.

The Good:

  • Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs)-
    • Nuts including peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios
    • avocado
    • canola and olive oil
    • Monounsaturated Fats have been known to help in weight loss, particularly fat loss
  • Polyunsaturated Fats
    • Seafood like salmon and fish oil
    • Corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils
    • Omega 3 fatty acids
    • Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.

The Bad:

  • Trans Fats
    • Trans fats are invented as scientists began to “hydrogenated” liquid oils so that they can withstand better in food production process and provide a better shelf life. As a result of hydrogenation, trans fatty acids are formed. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods, commercially fried food such as French Fries from some fast food chains, other packaged snacks such as microwaved popcorn as well as in vegetable shortening and hard stick margarine [3]

 The Okay:

  • Saturated Fats:
    • Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood.
    • These are labeled “okay” due to recent research showing little to no link between Saturated Fats and coronary heart disease. Though “Okay” to eat, you should try to cut back on your consumption of Saturated Fats in your diet.

 

So what did we learn?

  • The right kind of fats are good for you and can actually help in weight loss.
  • The wrong kind of fats can kill you.
  • These “lower in fat” products have additives that will actually make you gain weight and are typically high in trans fats. 
  • By eating the right kinds of fats you can lower your risk of heart disease
  • Fat Free products aren’t the devil but should be eaten with restraint.

references:

[1] Types of Dietary Fat and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review;” Frank B. Hu, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 20 (2001) and In Defense of Food (Penguin, 2008) by Michael Pollan.)

[2] http://blogs.experiencelifemag.com/signs-of-life/2009/01/why-you-should-avoid-fat-free-foods.html 

[3] http://www.healthcastle.com/goodfats-badfats.shtml

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4 thoughts on “Products You Should Try to Avoid: Low Fat or Fat Free Foods

  1. Right on! I long for the day when I no longer see “fat free” labels on everything int he grocery store. Of course, the food companies are mainly just accommodating the market trends.

    The problem is, people wanted fat free stuff after the government told them fat was bad. We’ve got to turn this ship around some how.

    • Exactly. One thing I didn’t really hit on is that you can cook low fat meals without using low fat products. By using fresh ingrediants (and the right ones) you can avoid falling into the “fat free” trap.

      Im not one of those organic people, mainly cause I can’t afford it but I try and eat fresh food over processed as much as possible.

  2. Something I try to avoid, which is very tough to do is our day and age. I avoid high fructose corn syrup. This is a high calorie slurpie if you will,inserted into many our of foods, including bread etc. I try to eat healthy/organic. Which means no processed meats(just say no to deli meat!)..I bake my own turkey breast to make my daughters lunch. We do eat freshly butchered wild deer meat with no additives..That’s right..my family hunts and we eat what they kill..Other things I do..I buy thin buns with no high fructose corn syrup. I make soup,stews etc with only organc stock which is minus the high levels of sodium and additives they usually have. Basically I use fresh vegetables(washed)and fruits,I also use organic pasta with no sodium/chemical additives for my cooking. And I also use only grass fed beef. Which is more expensive at Publix. But when you read the reports of how the corn/feed( fed to cows/pigs that end up in our grocery stores)changes the DNA of these animals and is full of pesticides. It makes you more conscious and it also makes you realize why we as American have a higher rate of cancer than anywhere else. Also diet drinks are something I never touch!After finding out thru my middle daughter who is in graduate school in England,that in the US the artificial sweetner we use in diet drinks is outlawed in the UK because it’s a known cancer cause…That made up my mind for me. Ok sorry for babbling..But your story intrigued me to share mine!

    • Good points and thanks! I commend you on attempting the organic lifestyle. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never pulled the trigger. I think it’s most important more meats than veggies. I wish I could find a good veggie stand that sells locally grown produce. I do my best to buy flash frozen veggies whenever I can. Like I said in the article, I try and avoid processed food as much as possible but sometimes I have no other option.

      Great points on the cancer causing affects of the additives we put in so much of our food.

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