The big ‘fat’ debate

Last week the general perception was that we should be following a low fat diet and now suddenly this week the news is saying we should be going high fat instead?!

Where has this come from and why the sudden change of heart?

And what should we actually believe?

Let’s find out.

In case you missed it earlier this week the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration released a report stating our approaches to dieting have all been wildly misguided, as they took aim at low fat dieting and the negative connotations it has on our wellbeing. Claiming that for optimal health we should actually be following a high fat diet instead.

As you can imagine this has been met with a high level of controversy and speculation, as health experts from around the globe have all thrown in their two cents as to what we should be doing and as with anything related to this matter, opinions remain unsurprisingly divided.

If however you look at the bigger picture, advances in modern medicine and science should in theory mean we are healthier than ever before.

Yet the reality is our society is not only fatter, but also sicker than it’s ever been.

There’s no denying we are in the midst of an epidemic, with obesity and chronic disease rates at an all time high and for the first time in history we have a generation of children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Which is pretty clear evidence in itself that something simply isn’t adding up.

If you look at it closely you can see the direct correlation between the rise of these health issues and an increase in consumption of highly refined processed foods, as we continually strive for convenience over the nutrients our body requires to thrive.

People either don’t realise or choose to ignore the fact that not all calories are created equal and what we choose to eat has a huge impact on not only how we look and feel, but also how our body functions and responds.

So sure, from a purely calorific sense reducing fat intake makes sense. After all, it has over double the amount of calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates.

But viewing it in this light is narrow sighted, as it fails to consider how various foods affect us on a biological as well as physiological level.

Not only that, but our societies obsession with weight loss has led to a constant cycle of fad diets promising miracle results, which are further spurred on by the continual spread of myths and misperceptions as to what we should be eating.

This in turn has caused a huge demand for low calorie and fat free alternatives to all our favourite foods and there’s a whole host of manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon of trying to fill the demand.

The problem with this is that fats are often what give food their flavour and when they are removed what remains is often bland or tasteless.

Therefore, manufactures have had to turn to alternative options to ensure their products sell and sugar has unfortunately taken centre stage as the replacement.

In fact, these days there is an abundance of sugar in everyday products, from fruit juices to milk, cereals or even bread and studies have undeniably linked excess sugar as the direct cause of many of the health risks we are currently facing.

So with that being said, is fat not the enemy it has been portrayed to be?

For too long we have feared fat, when the reality is it is essential for optimal health and I’d even go as far as to argue that the promotion of a low fat diet is one of the biggest mistakes in modern medical history and as a result our society is now directly suffering from the consequences.

Not only are fats extremely filling, but they are also essential for everyday processes such as protecting organs, regulating hormones as well as aiding in absorption of certain vitamins and removing them from your diet can actually be counter productive when trying to lose weight.

This isn’t the first time big corporations have swayed public opinion to boost sales either, as the current issue with sugar is similar to how tobacco was once perceived and portrayed, meaning it’s going to take a significant amount of time to undo the damage that has been done.

But luckily there is an ever growing body of research supporting the claim that a moderately high-fat diet can be linked to everything from improved overall wellbeing to weight loss, so maybe now we can finally start making some progress.

With that being said though there are obviously both good and bad forms of fat and it’s the highly processed variants found in fast food and other convenience goods you need to be careful of. As they have played a huge role in causing all fats to be unfairly labelled and viewed in the same negative light as being detrimental to our health.

So bare that in mind when trying to make more informed choices, as the latest reports aren’t given you free reign to simply eat what you want. They are based around ditching low fat refined products and opting for real foods instead.

But wait, don’t saturated fats cause heart disease?!

For decades we have been told they are directly related, yet recent research has found this to be far from the case.

The reason for the change of opinion is it has been highlighted that many of the health risks linked to saturated fats are actually fairly new, yet the human race has been consuming them since the beginning of their existence and therefore the two simply cannot be related.

It seems saturated fats have been used as a scape goat to cover up the fact that the health problems we are facing began during the inception of highly processed, refined sugary foods into our diets, making them far from the villain we have been led to believe.

If anything it’s actually been found that they can help protect our hearts and moderate consumption is essential for supporting various tasks.

Nevertheless, while that means we can at least be less concerned about the risks associated with their consumption, we still don’t know exactly what the optimal daily intake amount should actually be.

So while there is no need to fear them, until further research is conducted it’s best to lean on the safe side and stick to consuming moderate amounts instead.

I’ve been a huge advocate of adapting to a moderately high fat diet for quite some time and if nothing else at least the latest news reports are finally a step in the right direction for improving the way we eat and showing others that common perceptions about food are not as black and white as they seem.

With that in mind though we still have a long way to go before we can start to get this health epidemic under control and for people start to developing healthier relationships with food.

Regardless as to whether or not you agree with me, if you take nothing else away from this at least remember that eating fat doesn’t make you fat, excess calories do and as with anything else the key to improving your health is finding the right balance that works for you.

So stop going out of your way to avoid fats from your diet and instead look to increase your intake of nutrient rich whole foods wherever you can, with healthy sources of fats including; extra virgin olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, butter, eggs as well as seeds or nuts.

So has the recent news changed your mind on the issue or are you still pessimistic, completely against the notion or simply on the fence about it all?

Post you comments or questions below.


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