November 3, 2012 by healthwisehome
Yes, you read that right. This week’s Did You Know? is about why low-fat and nonfat food products are not necessarily the healthiest choice for you and your family. Did you know that switching to real food products instead of their low-fat and nonfat versions is a step in the right direction when building your Health Wise Home? I know that this information may be shocking to many of you. I was still buying low-fat dairy products for my family up until last year. Like so many others, I believed that I was making a healthier food choice for my family by avoiding the regular full-fat versions of food products time and time again. After all, for the past several decades it has been drilled into our minds by government agencies, nutrition scientists, public health officials, our health care providers, and the food industry that consuming dietary fat leads to weight gain, heart disease, and a long list of other chronic diseases. Food scientist and manufactures worked together to fill our shelves with every low-fat and fat-free item you could image. From low-fat and fat-free yogurt, milk, sour cream, and coffee creamers to cakes, cookies, and more, there is a “healthy” low-fat or fat-free option for almost every food item out there. Why then have obesity and heart disease rates increased over the past thirty years? Is it possible that what the government has been telling us for the past three decades about the links between dietary fat and heart disease, cancer, weight gain, and a long list of other negative health consequences is not true?
Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, changed my entire outlook on dietary fats. After reading this book, I understood why and how real full-fat food products fit into a healthy diet and lifestyle and why low-fat and fat-free products are the real health “villans” to avoid. Some food products are just not naturally “low-fat” or “nonfat”, and for good reason. Take milk, for example. Whole milk from healthy, pasture-raised animlas is naturally filled with beneficial compounds, nutrients and enzymes which is found mostly in the milk’s fat. It has complete proteins, B vitamins and saturated and unsaturated fats. Its A and D vitamins help digest protein, assimilate calcium, and absorb other fat-soluble vitamins. Low-fat or skim milk, on the other hand, is “milk that’s fortified with synthetic vitamins to replace those lost in fat-removal, and milk solids to replace protein and calcium lost in processing”. Years of creating low-fat and non-fat dairy products has resulted in “a skim milk product that requires synthetic and processed additives to make it nutritionally equivalent to what it once was—whole milk” (foxnews.com).
While there has never been an admission of error by the government of any other public health agency, recent scientific studies and literature are beginning to back away from the previously accepted theories on dietary fat and heart disease. In 2001, a group of prominent nutrition scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health published an article called “Types of Dietary Fat and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review”. According to Pollan, the authors remove almost every supporting theory that dietary fat causes heart disease beginning with “a brief summary of the lipophobic (lipo=fat) era that is noteworthy mostly for casting the episode in the historical past”.
During the past several decades, reduction in fat intake has been the main focus of national dietary recommendations. In the public’s mind, the words “dietary fat” have become synonymous with obesity and heart disease, whereas the words “low-fat” and “fat-free” have been synonymous with heart health.
The review then goes on to say that:
It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences.
Ironically, the review did find one strong association between a type of dietary fat and heart disease and it happens to be the type of fat that “low-fat campaigners have spent most of the last thirty year encouraging us to consume more of: trans fats” (Pollan). Trans fats, also know as partially hydrogenated oils, are created through an industrial process and are used by companies because they are inexpensive to produce, last a long time, and add a desirable taste and texture to food. Did you ever stop and wonder how food companies were able to make low-fat and fat-free versions of some of your favorite foods (cookies, crackers, cakes, butter, yogurt) still taste so good? Quite frankly, they faked you out. They removed the fat from those items and replaced it with more highly processed ingredients including sugar, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), and salt. By adding these “fake”, unnatural ingredients, they were able to cash in on the new “healthy” appeal of low-fat and fat-free foods and please our taste buds as well.
Based on this information and other research that I have come across since reading Pollan’s book, I eliminated low-fat and fat-free food products from our family’s diet about a year ago and I have been happy with the change. We focus on consuming appropriate portions of real food and enjoy the full-fat, natural versions in moderation. I limit the amount of saturated fats that we consume (cheese, butter, etc.) and I buy the real, organic versions of whole milk, yogurt, sour cream, cheese and butter. We also regularly consume real foods that are naturally high in healthy fats like raw nuts, avocados, healthy oils, eggs, and fish. After all, there are many positive health benefits to consuming the right types of fat. More on that later!
I challenge you to make the switch. Get rid of your faked-out, articifal low-fat and nonfat dairy and food products and replace them with appropriate portions of their real, full-fat versions.
** Side Note: I know that many of you may be worried that switching to the full-fat versions of milk, dairy, cheese, etc. will lead to weight gain. I can honestly say that my husband and I have not gained a pound due to the switch that we made over a year ago. Your body needs some fat to preform properly and as long as you consume these products using appropiate portion sizes and moderation I would expect that your outcome will be similiar to ours.