The Big Fat Truth
When it comes to nutrition and diet, fat gets a bad rap. You’ve probably heard that fat is bad for you. So does it mean that all of our health and weight loss problems would be solved if we eliminated fat from our diets? The answer is No!
The usual guidelines recommend that adults get 20-35% of their calories from fat. The problem is that the typical Nepali diet is high in fat because we use excessive oil in most of our foods. The food we eat is usually swimming in oil. It’s because fatty foods taste really good as it enhances the flavour, adds texture and gives our taste buds that amazing feel that is enjoyable and satisfying.
So let’s take a look at the Facts about Fat:
1. Fat won’t make you fat
You may think any fat you consume will go straight to your stomach and hips but that’s not entirely true. Any nutrient whether it’s fat, carbohydrate or protein will be converted into body fat if you eat too much of it. The main cause of weight gain is eating excessive calories from a combination of fat, carbohydrates, protein and alcohol. Yes alcohol too! Fat is calorie dense at 9 calories per gram while carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram each. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram. The problem with fat is the fact that it’s calorically dense and it’s pleasing to the taste buds. As a result it’s easy to over-eat fats because it’s in most foods we love such as junk foods, processed foods, cakes, cookies, chocolates and cheese. Choosing the “good fats” might be better for your health but when it comes to weight gain; all fats have the same amount of calories and hence should be treated the same.
2. Your body needs it
The human body cannot survive without fat. In addition to acting as an energy source, it also provides a protective cushion for your bones and organs and keeps your hair and skin healthy. Moreover, fat helps your body absorb certain vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. These nutrients do everything from fortify your bones to protect you against heart disease.
3. Not all fats are created equal
Still, don’t use your body’s fat needs as an excuse to inhale every cake, cookie or slice of bacon that crosses your path. There are different types of fats and some are better for you than others.
The “bad” fats are mainly trans-fat. They’re found in fried foods, baked goods (cakes, cookies, biscuits, and pastries) and packaged snack foods (bhujiya, chips). That means most of the foods we love are bad for us (crying internally). Even small amounts can increase the risk for heart disease.
Saturated fat is primarily animal-based and is found in meats and dairy products. If eaten in moderation, there are several benefits including boosting immune system, improving cholesterol levels and help maintaining bone density. However the problem lies in excessive saturated fat consumption which has shown to increase cholesterol levels and increase the chance of diseases.
The “good” fats are the unsaturated fats i.e. monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Research has shown that eating foods that contain these “good fats” can improve your blood cholesterol level and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. These foods include nuts and avocado. The best kind of fats are called omega-3 fatty acids which has been shown to be beneficial for your heart, help decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, and help lower blood pressure levels. Fish such as salmon, sardines and trout contain omega-3 fatty acids. You can also just substitute it with omega 3 capsules and fish oils that are widely available in the market.
4. Problem with low-fat foods
Food manufacturers market and sell fat-free and low-fat products. There’s an unintended effect that occurs when people eat food that is labelled “low-fat” i.e. they eat more of it. People assume low-fat means fewer calories which is totally false. While the fat content might be lower, it’s usually packed with carbohydrates and has almost the same amount of calories as its regular fat counterpart. Overweight individuals are especially susceptible to such labelling assured by the words “low-fat,”
Make better choices
- Choose a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- Limit your consumption of fried foods, processed foods, baked goods and packaged products
- Avoid trans-fat as much as possible
- Change your cooking style. Limit the use of oil as much as possible. Cook most of your food in non-stick pans which require significantly less oil than the other pans
- Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Eating excess calories than your body needs makes you fat!
- Eating fat in moderation is the key. Over eating even the “good fats” is harmful for your health and will result in weight gain