For many years, when people talked about healthy eating, any low-fat diet was a staple. The USDA food pyramid and its equivalents produced by government authorities responsible for making sure we eat well have been vilifying fat for decades. American Heart Association still recommends limiting foods containing saturated fat, such as butter or red meat – and to go for leanest cuts whenever you do eat red meat. They still recommend “replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with healthier options can lower blood cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles”. In their own words:
“You should replace foods high in saturated fat with foods high in monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fat. This means eating foods made with liquid vegetable oil but not tropical oils”.
Canadian Heart and Stroke foundation recommends something along the same lines: they recommend mono- and poly-unsaturated fat over saturated fat (ironically, the “Healthy Recipes” project on their website is funded by by CanolaInfo.org – a website supported by Canada’s canola growers, crop input suppliers, exporters, processors and food manufacturers – does anyone see any conflict of interest?).
At the same time, these authorities have no problem recommending low-fat products, whole grains and loads of sweet fruits.
Food processing industry caught on pretty early with all this low-fat craze and flooded the market with a wide variety of food-like items that were branded as “heart-healthy”. Ironically, this has not stopped the obesity epidemic – as we saw in a recent article, obesity rates in North America have quadrupled over the last 30 years – the same 30 years that the war on fat has been raging with full force.
The reason why this didn’t work is simple – dietary fat rarely makes you fat. But a lot of other ingredients used in processed foods do — as the fat went out of food, in went the sugars, artificial flavors, and other fillers that add bulk and empty calories, but reduce food quality and nutritional value.
What’s more, fat (granted it is the right kind of fat — and no, it’s typically not the kind of fat that is being glorified by those same nutrition authorities) doesn’t make you sick either (as previously discussed, all these fears around cholesterol that lead to the creation of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry are generally unfunded).
So what do you need to know about fat? What fats are good and what fats are bad? Does the amount or type of fat you eat make any difference? Which foods have the good fats to support your health? Which foods should you absolutely avoid?
Keep reading to find out!