frozen yogurt

Today it seems like every grocery item has a low-fat and nonfat counterpart, from dairy products and frozen foods to sweets and even junk food. With nine calories per gram, fat has become the evil scourge of dieters everywhere who are gobbling down low-fat foods, convinced that they are treating their bodies right.

Many Americans, especially those concerned with their weight, subsist on a diet that is nearly 90% carbohydrates, with corn, soy and wheat products making up most of that. But those stuck on a low-fat diet might want to rethink their consumption of fat-reduced everything, because fat serves an extremely important purpose in the human body. Our brains are made of fatty tissue, and fatty acids are essential for optimum health.

1. Fats help you to digest carbohydrates properly.

While complex carbohydrates are also crucial for the human body, they digest very quickly once in the system and flood the bloodstream, causing a sugar high and the inevitable crash. For those with blood sugar disorders, whole grain bread (if eaten alone) can be almost as bad as soda. Ingesting fat along with carbohydrates slows their digestion down, reducing the rush and subsequent drop of sugar in the blood. Some doctors advise that you should never eat carbohydrates alone for this reason; that a baked potato with butter is always better for your body than a plain spud. As blood sugar disorders mount in our country and around the world, those prone to imbalances will want to take a closer look at their love of nonfat foods.

2. Low fat foods replace the fat with sugar, salt and artificial ingredients.

When fat is removed from a food item such as cheese, something has to be put back in its place or else no one would eat the product. Fats are lipids, which means not only do they taste good, but they also slide over your tongue and down your throat in a slippery, slick, oh-so-delicious way. Think: chocolate ice cream.

What takes the place of fat in low-fat foods to provide the flavor and that special texture? The most likely culprits are high-fructose corn syrup, salt and artificial sweeteners – three things your body definitely does not need. Read the ingredients on a low-fat tub of strawberry yogurt, and you will see that this “health” food is actually a minefield of sugar and artificial ingredients (for truly healthy yogurt, buy the whole fat plain variety and sweeten it yourself with fruits, honey or maple syrup).

3. Low fat foods trick you into overeating.

Besides the proven physical drawbacks of a low-fat diet, these foods can also “trick” you into overeating. Low-fat cookies? Might as well have a whole handful! As low-fat and nonfat foods are often less satisfying that their full-fat cousins, you don’t get quite the enjoyment from each mouthful. So you take another one, and another – and wind up flooding your body with carbohydrates and calories and throwing your blood sugar out of whack.

4. What’s a calorie-conscious consumer to do?

Wouldn’t you rather eat one serving of your favorite dessert in the world than three servings of a mediocre treat from the vending machine? Of course you would. Although the American ideal of “more is more” and “bigger is better” has permeated many facets of our culture, cuisine included, don’t jump on the monkey train. One spoonful of full fat sour cream on your potato is far more satisfying than three scoops of non-fat sour “cream.” It is better for your body, and better for your mind as it gives you no sense of deprivation.

If you have been terrorized about fats by the modern diet industry to the point where seeing a pat of butter gives you an anxious reaction, focus on introducing the so-called “healthy” fats into your diet such as those found in walnuts, almonds, avocado and olives. Your body and brain will thank you, and you will probably find that you are feeling healthier and more energetic as well.

Convince yourself that with food, quality is more important than quantity and resolve to indulge in conscious eating. A very low-fat diet may save you a few calories today, but in the long run it could be setting you up for blood sugar imbalances and even future weight gain.

image: brunosan