You probably heard that a low-fat diet is the way to go. Not eating fat is the way to lose fat right? Unfortunately, that is untrue. Fat itself doesn’t make you fat. It’s overeating that makes you fat. Another reason people say that low-fat diet is good is because fats are more calorie dense than other macros. That is true, but your body actually needs fat. Your brain is mostly made up of fats. In addition, fats actually help you feel more full over time so that you don’t overeat.
There’s also a lot of risks that can come with a low-fat diet. Let’s go over them.
Unable to focus and poor function
As mentioned above, your brain is mostly made up of fats, so it needs fats in order to function and for you to focus properly. Fat is usually associated with high cholesterol and our brain requires cholesterols to function. This is why a study shows that people with high cholesterols tend to have better results on cognitive tests.
The brain basically requires a high amount of cholesterol as a source of fuel or energy, but since brain neurons themselves cannot generate significant amounts of cholesterol on their own, we must get our required cholesterol from our diets to feel our best and remain focused.
Cholesterol and other fats play a fundamental part in building cellular membranes and hormones. Certain kinds of fats, including cholesterol, also act as antioxidants and precursors to some important brain-supporting molecules and neurotransmitters. Hormones are made out of cholesterol. If you don’t eat enough cholesterol, your body can’t make hormones.
With a lack of fat in your diet, your body won’t be able to produce all of the hormones you need for optimal health. Your hormones act as chemical messengers and work closely with one another to perform nearly every function in your body. This means that when one or two hormones aren’t being produced, the communication can get confused between all hormones. Your hormones aren’t just responsible for functions such as fertility, but for regulating your metabolism, sleep and wake cycle, and your mood just to name a few.
Some studies have found that low-fat diets raise the risk of menstrual problems and difficulty getting pregnant. For example, a 2007 study conducted by the Department of Nutrition and Harvard School of Public Health found that high intake of low-fat dairy foods may increase the risk of infertility whereas intake of high-fat dairy foods may decrease this risk.
Overeating is one of the big risk when it comes to a low-fat diet. Your goal of a diet is to essentially cut back on the foods and calories, but when you overeat, you’ll gain it all back.
Because it’s slow to digest, fat is a nutrient that keeps your appetite full and satisfied for longer periods of time. Carbs, on the other hand, are the quickest nutrient to digest. Since low-fat diets are high in carbs, you’re more likely to reach for a bag of chips, cookies or even another meal only a few hours after you’ve eaten. This promotes you to consume excess calories throughout the day.
This is a common problem for people on a low-fat diet. Fats are the building blocks of healthy skin cell membranes, and they also provide internal moisture and hydration to the skin. Have you thought about why so many people take fish oil supplements when they are on a clean low-fat diet? Our bodies need Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats which help with better skin and hair.
Another thing that people come across on low-fat diets is swelling. Omega-3 helps with swelling.
Healthy fats help you control your insulin levels. Epidemiological evidence and intervention studies clearly show that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids improve insulin sensitivity through modifications in the composition of cell membranes. We also know that diets that are higher in fat tend to be lower in carbohydrates and sugar, which is beneficial for diabetes prevention.
Fat in the bloodstream can build up inside the muscle cell and create toxic fatty breakdown products and free radicals that can block the insulin signaling process. When that happens, no matter how much insulin we have in our blood, it won’t be able to open the glucose gates. That causes blood sugar levels to build up in the blood.
Studies that have examined the effects of various diets with different levels of fat are revealing in telling us that lower-fat, higher-carb diets might pose a higher risk for insulin resistance (and weight gain), although there’s still some debate as to what types of fats should be most emphasized as natural diabetes cures.
Low-fat diets make you eat more sugar
Have you tried eating a low-fat version of a food vs a full-fat version of a food? The first thing that you’ll notice is the taste difference. Low-fat foods tend to be blander because they removed all the flavors. Because of this, low-fat products tend to add sugar to make up for the taste, which means that you’ll be intaking more sugar than you should be.
At the end of the day, carbs are sugar. Low-fat diets require you to have more carb intake which gets converted into sugar when digested. Because of this, you might be consuming more carbs than your body wants and it’ll be converted to fat if you don’t work it out.
Low-fat prevents vitamin absorption
A lot of vitamins can be only be absorbed well with fats. Vitamins A, D, E, and K cannot dissolve in water like most vitamins. Instead, they need fat in order to be absorbed. Therefore, a low-fat diet can cause deficiencies in these essential nutrients, which can cause permanent damage to your health. For example, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis because it aids in calcium absorption for strong, healthy bones.
How to add more fats to your diet?
Fats aren’t created equal, but it shouldn’t be hard to add more fats to your diet. You want to aim for healthy fats. This comes with making mindful and wise decisions when choosing your foods.
1. Swap out lean meat for fatty meats
Most people like to shop for foods such as chicken breast and lean beef etc., but instead of going for those, you can try going for salmon or fatty fish. The calorie difference isn’t a whole lot, but a salmon once in a while will give you a good amount of nutrients and the fats that your body needs.
2. Eat more nuts
Nuts have a good amount of healthy fats that our body needs. Try going for almonds, it’s one of my most favorite type of nuts.
¼ cup of almonds nutrition provides about:
- 207 calories
- 5 grams of protein
- 5 grams fiber
- 7 grams of carbohydrates
- 5 grams of sugar
- 16 milligrams vitamin E (61 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams riboflavin (44 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligrams manganese (44 percent DV)
- 97 milligrams magnesium (36 percent DV)
- 172 milligrams phosphorus (29 percent DV)
- 96 milligrams calcium (9.5 percent DV)
- 33 milligrams iron (4 percent DV)
My grandma use to call walnuts “brain food” because of how the healthy fats help with the brain.
3. Ditch the egg whites and eat the eggs with the yolk
A lot of people cut out egg yolk because of the fat, but the truth is that an egg yolk has a lot of nutrients and healthy fats that our body can benefit from. Egg yolks provide valuable vitamins (A, D, E and K), omega-3 fats and antioxidants, much of which is not found in egg whites. The cholesterol in egg yolks is not associated with high blood cholesterol levels or heart disease
4. Add some avocado as a side dish
Seriously, avocado is one of my most favorite foods. It’s packed with nutrients and is filled with all the healthy fats you need for your body to function.
Here are some of the most abundant nutrients, in a single 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving:
- Vitamin K: 26% of the RDA.
- Folate: 20% of the RDA.
- Vitamin C: 17% of the RDA.
- Potassium: 14% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B5: 14% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B6: 13% of the RDA.
- Vitamin E: 10% of the RDA.
- Then it contains small amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin).
This is coming with 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. Although it contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of those are fiber so there are only 2 “net” carbs, making this a low-carb friendly plant food. It also does not contain any sodium which is a huge plus especially with all the sodium we intake from our diets.
5. Add some olive oil
Olive oil is mainly made up of mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, the most important of which is called oleic acid. Oleic acid is known to be extremely heart-healthy and capable of fighting free radical damage (or oxidative stress), which has numerous health implications. This is especially true when compared to compounds found in more refined vegetable oils, trans fats or hydrogenated fats.
Diets high in extra virgin olive oil, including the famous Mediterranean diet, are associated with “a lower incidence of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer,” according to many large reviews of clinical studies.
So sprinkle some olive oil on your salad or cook your chicken with them. It’s a great addition and a great way to add some fats.
6. Add some seeds
A lot of seeds contain healthy fats. This is easy to add as an addition to your salad or vegetables. Pumpkim seeds taste awesome and they can fit into any plate. Seeds also come with a decent amount of calcium as well.
So now we know the risk associated with low-fat diets. A diet should be well balanced, but if you’re comfortable with eating low-fat foods, just ensure that you add healthy fats to the diet using the tips above. Take use of supplements such as fish oil to maximize your benefits.
Are you looking for customized meal plans where you could take the guesswork out of dieting? We work with all types of diets from FODMAP to Paleo to PlantBased Diets. Give us a try! – NutritionHacks Meal Planning