PSA: You Should Never Order or Buy Anything Non-Fat Again
5 reasons you should go full fat.
From egg-white omelets to low-fat fro-yo, “skinny” lattes, and non-fat cappuccinos, it’s not exactly a secret that we’re constantly bombarded with reduced-fat or fat-free alternatives to our daily staples, reinforcing our society’s misguided and dated perception of full-fat foods as an evil to be avoided at all costs. How many times have we been told that Cameron Diaz’s washboard abs and Gwyneth Paltrow’s ass are only a fat-free diet, green juice, and trip to Soul Cycle away? It wasn’t until I came across low-fat butter (the ultimate irony) at my local grocery store last weekend that I started to wonder what really goes into these products, marketed as the key to dropping “those stubborn last five pounds” and finally ridding ourselves of our innermost insecurities. My suspicions were confirmed when I found myself unable to pronounce half the ingredients listed on the back in miniature font… Sodium benzoate, anyone?
So are fats really so bad? Science says no:
The truth is, eating the right fatty foods (mind you, not all fats are created equal) can offer a slew of benefits, from reduced risk of heart disease to increased energy and brain function, to glowing skin and shiny hair. According to registered dietician Robyn Coale of The Real Life RD, “Fats keep us full and satiated and help with hormonal balance, and they’re more calorically dense, so when we eat more fats, it’s easier to make sure we’re eating enough to fuel our metabolism.” Got that? Long story short, ditch the tasteless egg-white scramble and chow down on the drippy egg sandwich we all know you’ve been craving.
Why aren’t fat-free products healthier?
It’s definitely no secret that fat tastes pretty damn good. So when companies remove the fat from their products, they often add back a fair amount of sugar and artificial ingredients to compensate for the changes in taste and texture. Not only are many of these products just as high in calories as their full-fat counterparts, but they’re more likely to cause swings in blood sugar and increased food cravings...and before you know it, the office cookie tray seems about as irresistible as a basket of puppies. Consuming lots of refined carbs also raises cholesterol and increases your likelihood of heart disease. Less than ideal. So instead of reaching for that fat-free but sugar-filled yogurt drink, go for a full-fat Greek or Icelandic yogurt for a genuinely satisfying, high-protein snack, just without all the bad stuff.
Which fats are most beneficial?
While all the trans fats present in most processed foods are definitely worth dodging (if you’re trying to avoid heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, that is), consuming the right unsaturated fats will actually lower the not-so-great LDL cholesterol that is at the root of most heart problems while raising the good HDL cholesterol. Olive oil, avocados, and nuts are all great sources of healthy monounsaturated fats. So by loading up on guac and dressing your salad with a generous drizzle of walnut or olive oil, you can actually lower your risk of heart disease while enjoying delicious food and improving your feelings of post-meal satiety. Look to the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, walnuts, flax, and chia seeds to further boost heart health and improve brain function by replenishing the essential fats that keep your neurons firing away. Best excuse for a lox bagel I ever heard. While omega-3s have incredible anti-inflammatory properties, the omega-6s found in vegetable oils like palm and safflower can cause inflammation, so try to keep these to a minimum.
How do I squeeze more of these magic fats into my diet?
Fitting more healthy fats into your diet might sound like a chore, but it’s surprisingly easy...not to mention the yum factor. Sprinkle omega-3–rich chia seeds on your avo toast for a little extra crunch, or throw them into your morning oatmeal, where they’ll expand for added thickness. Try a dollop of almond butter on your oven-roasted sweet potato for a satisfying dinner, or throw some into your AM smoothie to fight off the mid-morning munchies. Alexis Joseph, superfood guru, registered dietician, and mastermind behind The Hummusapien, suggests baking with almond flour, as the fats in the ground nuts are not only nutritious but will also add moisture to your favorite treats.
The bottom line:
Really, what it all comes down to (like most things in life) is balance. Give your body the fuel it needs by providing it with wholesome, high-energy foods, but remember that even good things aren’t so great in excess. Try to boost your diet with healthy fats, but don’t sweat those late-night fries that helped get you home safe on Friday evening after one too many margaritas. Remember: everything in moderation...including moderation.