Back in the 1980’s the government started telling everyone that we should be avoiding fat in our diet. The general thought was that fat is bad and is making us fat. Unfortunately, this was not the whole story. We were grossly mislead and as a result got fatter than ever! Let’s undress the fat-free product craze and see what went down. Do these fat-free products that line our grocery store shelves look good naked? Do they actually make us fatter!? Let’s find out!!
Let’s start by getting one thing clear about fat
The general statement or opinion that “eating fat makes us fat” is completely wrong. It’s not like the fat in the avocado goes straight to our butts and bellies. There are only 3 macronutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. All of them are essential for our survival. If we cut any of them out of our diet our health will suffer. People tend to gain weight because they are eating more calories (from fat, proteins, and carbohydrates combined) than they are burning in a day. In addition, the foods they are eating that make up their daily caloric total often lead to increased fat gain. For example, processed high-glycemic foods like sugar, white flour, high-fructose corn syrup, pasta, bread, etc spike our blood sugar and promote fat creation in the body.
YIKES!!! High-glycemic foods are actually more of a culprit for packing on the pounds than fat is. Later in this article you will find out why this insight is completely ironic and shocking, especially when looking at fat-free foods.
First, let’s look at some of the benefits of fats so you can see why they are friend, not foe:
- Brain: Essential for brain function.
- Cells: Fat helps cells stay moveable and flexible.
- Heart: 60% of heart’s energy comes from burning fats. Healthy fats help keep the heart beating in a regular rhythm.
- Nerves: Helps insulate and protect the nerves.
- Digestion: Fat slows down the digestion process so the body has more time to absorb nutrients. It also helps provide a constant level of energy and keeps the body satiated for longer periods of time. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are absorbed with the presence of fat.
- Organs: Cushion and protect internal organs.
- Immune System: Some fats ease inflammation, helping our metabolism and immune system stay healthy and functioning.
Fat is definitely important, I think we have confirmed that. So what is the deal with these fat-free foods. It’s starting to look like they aren’t that healthy for us!
Undressing Fat-Free Foods
Food processors absolutely love when there is a new dietary trend that they can capitalize on. This is exactly what they did when fat-free became a health trend. People thought they should be reducing fat in their diet and food processors were right there with an answer to their problem. Suddenly you could buy your favourite cookies, cheese, cooking spray, buttery spread, etc all in fat free! People started buying these products thinking they were opting for healthier options.
Unfortunately, these products are not healthier. In fact, these new fat-free products often lead to weight gain and more health problems than their original sibling.
Let’s look at why that is.
As I mentioned before, there are only 3 macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein. If you take out the fat, you need to replace it with something. The problem is that fat provides a specific type of texture and flavour to the product. So if you want the product to still taste good and have a similar consistency you need to add things like sugar, flour, thickeners, gums, emulsifiers, salt, etc.
Typically what you end up with is a product that is more heavily processed and higher in carbohydrates (the refined high-glycemic variety). These products don’t contain fat but the end result is a product that contains virtually the same number of calories (they replace the fat calories with carbohydrate calories). This increase in refined carbohydrates used to replace the fat can have a negative impact on blood sugar which can lead to fat development in the body.
WHAT!! People usually buy these products to lose weight but the product is actually causing us to pack on the pounds. We need to vote with our fork and stop buying these products. Companies won’t stop making them until we stop buying them.
Don’t be fooled by their tricky marketing tactics. If these products frustrate you too, I really need your help. Please use the social media buttons below to help spread the word about fat-free foods. Together we can educate our friends and family so they have the information they need to make an informed choice.
Thanks for reading!