Are Low Fat Diets Healthy or Unhealthy?

Sometimes it's hard to sort through all the information you find on the web, in books, and in the media about healthy food choices, and among the topics that can get a bit confusing is whether or not low fat diets are healthy. Some studies indicate that low-fat eating may not have all the health benefits many expect.  I have always felt that it's more important to eat the right kinds of fats and oils.  


As awareness of the obesity epidemic began to rise during the 1990's - the nation's focus turned towards dietary fat.  The advice of the time was to eat a low-fat diet in order to prevent obesity and other diseases.  It sounded good and it made sense - so most people jumped on board.  An avalanche of low-fat and fat-free processed foods hit the grocery store shelves and the low-fat craze was on.  

Years later evidence pointed to the ineffectiveness of the low-fat diet for weight loss or prevention of heart disease and several cancers.  The revelation came when the results of the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial were published in the February 8, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and surely more information has been gathered since.

After following 49,000 women for eight years, the researchers reported that eating a low-fat diet did not prevent heart disease, breast cancer, or colon cancer, and that it didn't do much for weight loss, either.  What is becoming clearer by the day is that too much saturated and trans fats increase the risk for certain diseases while more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, lower the risk.  The key is to eat more of the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the largest sources of saturated fats are dairy products and red meats.  The largest sources of trans fats are processed foods such as margarine, vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, deep-fried chips, fast foods and most baked goods.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and fish.  While these foods do have small amounts of saturated fats, they have much larger amounts of the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats by comparison and that's the key. 

The alternative is to research healthier oils, and to consider the source of all oils that you use. Your body needs healthy fats and oils.


Update 11/5/18

Image Credit: TeroVesalainen on Pixabay

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