Debunking Fat Myths: Facts about Fats
It is very common to see people associate foods that are high in fat with bad health. For the longest time, people have avoided foods containing fat and cholesterol for different reasons. While some of these reasons might be true, a number of them have been debunked as myths.
Whatever the case, it is important to know one thing – fat is an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet. Fat provides the body with fatty acids, an essential source of energy which the body cannot produce by itself. Fat also helps in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D and E.
There is a lot of information on dietary fat and how it affects our health, so it is important to separate the truth from the myths, and lay some of these myths to rest.
Myth 1: All types of fat are bad
This is probably the most common myth about dietary fats. There are two major types of fat – saturated and unsaturated fat.
Unsaturated fats (fats that are liquid at room temperature) are mostly derived from plant sources and are considered “good” fats. They are further classified into monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which contrary to popular belief, can help to improve the overall health.
Saturated fats on the other hand have been labelled “unhealthy fats” for decades. This is because they raise the cholesterol levels in the body, and have been linked to heart disease and other health problems such as stroke. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are mostly found in red meat products, dairy, palm oil etc
However, recent studies have revealed that saturated fat may not be as harmful as it was once thought, and that only a high intake over a long period of time may increase health risks.
There is a third type of fat known as trans fat. It is found in low quantities in some foods, but it is mostly a product of a process called hydrogenation. Trans fat can raise your cholesterol levels, and as such is generally regarded as unhealthy. It is commonly found in processed foods and snacks.
Myth 2: Low-fat diet equals weight loss
Given the misconception surrounding dietary fats, it is not uncommon to see many people who believe that eating high-fat foods causes you to gain weight, and that a low or no-fat diet is the key to weight loss.
Contrary to popular belief, dietary fat does not automatically convert to body fat, and it is not the only source of calories. Excess intake of carbohydrates and protein can also be converted to fat.
Also, eating certain fatty meals such as eggs, nuts and avocados may facilitate weight loss, as they help to keep you feeling full for longer, reducing the number of times you have to eat.
Fat is a healthy and essential part of a balanced diet, and ditching fat from your diet in the name of weight loss may cause more harm than good. Instead, cut down on processed foods such as fast food and fries as they contain high levels of saturated and trans fat, and may increase your risk of weight gain.
Myth 3: Fatty foods are not good for pregnant women
Many pregnant women are often told to avoid fatty foods during pregnancy. This probably comes from a misconception that they may have overweight babies. However, contrary to this, fats are essential in pregnancy for both the mother and child in pregnancy.
The human brain is predominantly made of fat, and as such fat is essential for the baby’s brain to develop properly. Full fat dairy products also provide Vitamin K2 and Calcium, both of which are essential to the formation of strong bones in the baby.
Also, in pregnancy, the woman’s body needs more fat-soluble nutrients such as Vitamin A, which can only be absorbed in the presence of fats.
Eating the right type of fatty foods can be highly beneficial to both maternal and fetal health, providing nutrients that are essential to promote a healthy pregnancy.
Myth 4: Fat-free food is all you need
Another major myth surrounding fatty foods is that once a food is labeled “fat-free”, it is the healthiest thing on the store shelf. This, asides being a myth, is a major marketing hack used to promote “low calorie” foods.
These “fat-free” foods are not necessarily the best for your health. They usually contain ingredients such as sugar and refined carbohydrates, which affects your body weight and metabolism.
They are also typically high in added sugar, the consumption of which has been linked to health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Instead of choosing highly processed fat-free foods, opt for the natural options such as fruits and vegetables.
Fats have been on the receiving end of criticism for the longest time. However, having debunked some of these myths, it is good to note that “good” fats play a great role in our bodies.
Fats provide the body with energy and help it carry out a range of functions. And while it is true that certain fatty foods, such as fast foods and fried foods, are harmful to our health and should be restricted, healthy fats should form a part of our diet to help improve our overall health.