In the pursuit of health and weight loss, many of us choose low fat or fat free options which we deem to be healthier. Surely a low fat product is better for us than full fat product. A gram of fat is calorie rich and contains 9 calories, more than double the calories in a gram of carbs or a gram of protein. We are constantly told to reduce the fat in our foods and in particular the quantity of saturated fat.
The main issue with this is the quality of the fat in a low fat product after the food processing has taken place to lower the fat content of the food.
During food production, instead of using a full fat saturated ingredient, vegetable oils are used. To make them solid in order to be used as a viable replacement, the vegetable oils have to be hydrogenated.
The hydrogenation process turns polyunsaturated fatty acids into solids. This is done by adding hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats, eliminating double bonds. This makes them into partially or completely saturated fats which are solid or semi-solid at room temperature.
This also produces transfats which cause ill health, coronary heart disease and raised cholesterol. Many thousands of cardiac deaths each year are directly attributable to transfats. Although transfats are found in small doses naturally in food, much of the low fat products which are readily available to us contain transfats in higher doses.
Many studies have taken place over the years proving that the quantity of transfats in the diet is inextricably linked with the risk of mortality. Whereas polyunsaturated fats have the opposite effect and actually decrease the risk of dying.
Transfats increase the amount of unhealthy LDLs in the body. The level of HDL to LDL is a key factor in determining the risk of coronary issues, and it is vital to keep the ratio of healthy HDL high and the amount of bad LDLs low.
Transfats have been linked to depression and in particular suicide. Eating transfats has a risk of infertility in women. Transfats require different metabolic processes that take place in the liver and so can cause dysfunction of the liver. Aggression is another side effect and most worrying of all, transfats are linked to cancer.
Transfats are linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, however good fats such as fish oils have been found to be beneficial in preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and are recommended for improving brain function.
As transfats are not required to be listed on the label, the easiest way to avoid eating them is to choose the full fat option and have a smaller portion. Labels to avoid include “Light”, “Low fat” “Half fat”.
As well as containing transfats which are harmful to the health, low fat products contain additional high levels of refined sugars and sweeteners to increase the taste and palatability that has been reduced by removing the fat. This is not advisable for a weight loss diet. Eating good fats in small portions won’t make you fat, but eating refined sugar can. Sugar causes spikes in the blood, causing insulin to be released. This reduces insulin sensitivity over time. Over production of insulin also causes fat to remain in the cells and therefore this fat storage is unlikely to be metabolised.
Overeating the sugar can cause obesity, Type 2 diabetes as well as dental problems. Excess sugar will also be stored as fat, mainly in the liver. Transfats also cause obesity, more so than eating a similar quantity of normal fats.
Fat is essential in small amounts in our diet, the quantities depend on our body type. Fat cushions our joints, balances our hormone levels and keeps us warm. Eating good fats allow us to absorb fat soluble vitamins D, A, K, E. Sugars conversely do not contain any vitamins or minerals and are basically empty calories.
Fats containing Omega 3s are especially good for mental health and emotional health. To conclude, a small amount of full fat with a low sugar diet is far healthier than the equivalent quantity of reduced fat. Good sources of unsaturated fat include Extra Virgin Olive oil, flaxseeds, linseeds, and nuts.
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