Saturday, November 21, 2009

Is Low-Fat/No-Fat Good for You?

The answer to this question is yes. And no. There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what it means to eat low fat or no fat. Sure, there are lots of products out there claiming "No-Fat!" or "Low-Fat!" but these are not, generally speaking, health food. Most of these products are food like substances rather than actual food. Snackwells, for instance, are not good for you, even if they are low in fat content. So, in this respect, the answer is no. Low-Fat isn't good for you.

However, you should eat a low fat diet. Is this contradictory? No. Even more important than worrying about the fat content is thinking about if it's a real food. How can you tell if a food is real food? One of the best ways is by noting the ingredients. Ideally, there should only be one. The food itself. Thus, produce, for example, is real food. Also falling in the real food category is brown rice, beans, and whole wheat flour among other things. Sometimes, if the ingredient list is short, multiple ingredient foods can be real foods, too. Some breads fall into this category.

Added fat should be avoided. So, even though olive oil is a single ingredient food, it isn't health food. Even more so, meat isn't a health food and should be avoided. Not only does it contain fat, but it also contains cholesterol and, unavoidably, animal protein, which has been shown to have a negative effect on health.

Plus, in this day and age, we have to consider, is meat a real food? Certainly, when people eat what they've hunted, it is. This isn't to say that it doesn't have negative attributes, but it is a real food. However, the slab of meat you get at the super market...well, that's a result of food processing. The animal has been feed grains, antibiotics and growth hormone rather than it's intended diet of grass. It no longer has any redeeming health value unless you are, literally, starving, at which point, any source of calories is good.

As a population, though, we are not starving for calories, but for nutrients. We fill up on stuff like Snackwells, thinking we're making a good Low-Fat choice, but it's not real food. Besides the chemicals and general junk added in the processing, these items are loaded up with sweetener, and not sugar, as a rule, but corn syrup. Neither corn syrup nor sugar is an ideal food for humans. It's calories with nothing good. No fiber or antioxidants, which are both abundant in real food.

A lot of people these days will tell you that the whole idea of low fat eating is a bust. The health of Americans has just gotten worse from the beginning of the advice to eat low fat, so fat wasn't the issue, right? Not so. The fact is that people haven't started eating less fat. From the beginning of the low fat craze, the overall caloric intake has increased dramatically, which does mean that, percentage wise, there fat intake is slightly down, but, listen, this part is important; we, as a population, are eating more calories from fat then ever before. We're just eating so much other crap - mostly refined sugars, which are their whole own health problem - that the percentage is down a bit.

So, yes, it's still good advice to eat low fat. It will help protect you from heart disease and diabetes. Just do not, under any circumstance, look for packaged Low-Fat! foods. They are not your friends.

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