The truth about fat

“Lite,” “Low-Fat,” “Fat-Free” and “Reduced-Fat” items can be seen all over the grocery store. Where has this no-fat craze come from and where is it going?

During the 1970’s, researchers believed there was a correlation that existed between fat intake, weight gain, and heart disease, leading to a low-fat pandemonium.

In the mid 1980’s low-fat products were starting to be produced and the fat was being replaced by carbohydrates. Fat adds flavor, so when it is removed, additives such as sugar, refined carbohydrates (which break down into sugar), refined vegetable oils, or artificial sweeteners are incorporated to replace the fat.

Even though Americans cut their fat intake, weight loss was not seen as researchers had predicted. The number of Americans being diagnosed with heart disease and diabetes, health conditions related to obesity, had continued to rise. Today, heart disease remains the nation’s leading cause of death in the U.S., a ranking it has held since 1921.

Fat, one of three macronutrients, is required by the body so it can function properly. Fat is also known as adipose tissue and functions as an insulator to preserve body heat and protect organs. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, are dependent on fat for absorption and transportation in the body. Fat is essential for every cell in our body. It coats cell membranes and plays a central role in the functioning of our nervous system, brain function, and skin integrity.

Fat plays an essential role, and research is no longer showing a correlation between fat intake and heart disease. Adding healthy fats back into your diet will have you feeling better in no time. Fat keeps an individual feeling fuller for longer and keeps blood sugar levels more stable, which is important for individuals who have diabetes.

Are some fats better than others? Absolutely. Consumers are better off turning to natural sources of fat such as: nuts, seeds, avocados, cheese, butter, heavy cream, olive oil, coconut oil, egg (yolk included), and salmon. Trans-fats on the other hand are damaging, causing an increase in inflammation which then increases triglyceride levels. Trans-fats are typically used to increase the shelf life of foods.

Fat is an important nutrient that has received a bad reputation in the past decades. Research is showing that adding the right fats in appropriate amounts can lead to optimal health. Next time you are at the salad bar, skip the fat-free dressing and top a salad with the full-fat dressing that will aid the body in absorbing important vitamins.

Amy Goblirsch is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian for Sodexo at SCSU.

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