For many years now the ‘fat-free’ diet has been a popular way to lose weight. The weight loss industry has played on this concept and has literally made an entire new market out of it. From ‘fat-free’ cookies, yoghurts, sodas to breads and ready-made meals. The notion behind the ‘fat-free’ concept is that you will lose weight, because fat contains more calories than protein or carbohydrates. However, this is a flawed way of looking at losing weight because believe it or not, we need fat to maintain healthy bodies - it just has to be the right type and in the right amounts.
Firstly, I want to talk about the various ‘fat-free’ products you can find on the supermarket shelves and how they may actually be unhealthier than products that do contain fat. Fat is generally what makes your favourite foods such as chips, cookies and cakes taste so good. When that fat is removed, it is usually replaced with other ingredients such as sugar and artificial additives to make the food taste better and compensate for the lost flavour. If you think you are making a healthy choice by picking up that fat-free flavoured yoghurt, it may actually have more sugar and be just as bad if not worse for you than a full fat option.
When it comes to certain dairy products such as milk or plain yoghurts, fat-free doesn’t necessarily mean it's a bad thing. For example when all of the milk fat is removed from whole milk, it becomes ‘fat-free’ but it doesn’t always mean it has any added ingredients either. This is the same for many plain natural yoghurts - just make sure to check all the labels for additives or sugar thoroughly before diving in.
The best thing you can do is check labels when purchasing fat-free foods and watch out for sneaky ingredients such as sugar, salt and and artificial additives. An easy way to clarify is to compare the sugar and salt content of a standard product vs. a fat free one. Just because something is low in calories does not necessarily mean it's good for you. The best way to eat healthy is to nourish your body with foods that have been through minimal processing and are still wholesome, such as fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Less processing typically means food has a higher positive nutrient value.
As I mentioned earlier, fat as a nutrient is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy diet. However, there is a difference between the types of fat you consume and these are commonly referred to as ‘good fats vs bad fats’. I have spoken about this a few times before in earlier blog posts.
So called ‘Bad fats’ are the types of fat such as trans fat that is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn healthy oils solid to prevent them from going off or alternatively could be called a preservative process. Trans fats can be found in a range of foods from cookies, cakes and take away food. The reason trans fat are unhealthy is because they can raise the the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream.
‘Good fats’ can be found in natural foods such as nuts, seeds, vegetables and fish and are made up of both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Your body needs both of these fats to build cell membranes, maintain muscle movement and prevent inflammation. Our bodies also need a certain amount of fat to feel satisfied and maintain a health nutrient intake ratio.
This is why I love spreading avocado on my toast or snacking on other little natural options, it helps to keep me full and satisfied. I want you to remember that it is important to eat ‘good fats’ in moderation, just like anything else. Way too much or too little of one thing can still impact your diet, and just because something is labelled ‘good’ it doesn’t mean you should eat it in copious or unlimited amounts.
I believe the whole concept of fat-free needs to be revisited, as it an outdated practice and not always relevant to losing weight in a healthy way. Instead, you should focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with wholesome foods and getting regular exercise. I wrote this blog because I don’t want you to be fooled by clever packaging in unhealthy foods in the supermarket, it’s hard enough trying to make the right choices, especially when things are hidden!
Always remember to keep a balance in your life and don’t be fooled by fad diets or trends. Stick to the basics and remember not to give up! Weight loss isn’t a quick process, it’s a journey.
Kayla Itsines xx