The biggest dietary misconception of all time may be that fat makes you fat. This is a result of the US Department of Agriculture’s first dietary guidelines, which were published in 1980. The guidelines linked the rise in chronic disease to the overconsumption of fat and called for its sharp reduction in the American diet. Although the USDA’s intentions were sound, they fueled a widespread misunderstanding of fat that is still prevalent today.[related]
Today, grocery store shelves are littered with low-fat products, from yogurt to peanut butter and baked goods. To achieve a low-fat food, the animal fat typically found in these products is replaced with hydrogenated vegetable oils. These fats are high in harmful trans fats and increase LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol. The food industry also increases the amount of sugar in these products. While this improves the taste and texture that is lost from removing the fat, it also renders these products high in simple carbohydrates, which are typically high in sugar and low in fiber. This leads to blood sugar swings and cravings that make it more difficult to control our overall calorie intake. Excess carbohydrates also raise the level of triglycerides, a type of fat, in our blood, which is a major cardiovascular risk factor.
In addition to encouraging the consumption of high-carb, sugary foods, a low-fat diet discourages consumption of healthy foods. Eggs, dairy products, avocados, and coconut have all been vilified over recent decades as high-fat foods. However, they are rich in healthy fats that help keep you full and energized throughout the day. If you’re concerned about your fat intake, you’re better off purchasing the full-fat version and consuming less of it. Also, remember that healthy fats carry a wide array of health benefits and can actually aid in weight-loss and the maintenance of your ideal weight.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by Daily Meal special contributor Emily Jacobs.