No Lies, All Fat
For many years, conventional wisdom held that avoiding fats was the best thing you could do for your health. So it may come as a surprise to learn that in a recent report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), this “conventional” wisdom, was thrown out. In turns out, not all dietary fats are made equal and many don’t even have the negative impact on our health that we once thought they did.
Beginning in the late 1970s, it was suggested that a healthy diet should be very low in fats and include lots of carbohydrates instead. Sugar quickly replaced fat in these highly-processed foods in order to improve the taste and, today, the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar annually (in contrast to a mere 5 pounds in the early 1900s). It is believed that this change in our diets is largely responsible for our current epidemic of obesity, heart disease, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
When Did Fat Become Bad?
How did fat become the boogeyman? Well, there once was a man named Ancel Keys and in 1953 he published a study known as the “Seven Countries Study”. In it, he argued there was a direct link between the consumption of a high-fat diet and coronary heart disease, basing his conclusions on the studies of seven countries that fit his hypothesis.
Unfortunately, he was a pretty poor scientist because he chose to ignore the studies of fifteen other countries that didn’t support his theory. Had Keys included all of the relevant data, his research would have shown that there is no direct correlation between high-fat diets and coronary heart disease.
As a result of Keys’ study, the public was encouraged to eliminate butter, animal fat, eggs, full-fat dairy, and other high-fat foods such as avocados and coconut oil from their diets. As we now know, many of these foods, like avocados, are high in so-called ‘good’ fats and have been found to be extremely beneficial. It turns out that sugar-rich and highly-processed foods have been the main culprits all along, not fats.
These Trans Fats Were Found To Make A Product Last Longer On The Shelves
The One Fat You Should Always Avoid
While it’s true that not all fats are made equal, there is one fat that you should steer clear of as much as possible: trans fats.
Trans fats are not good for you and should be avoided at all costs.
The FDA has found them to no longer be “generally recognized as safe” and, as of June 2015, has established a three-year window for added trans fats to be removed from all processed foods. But what exactly are trans fats?
Created in the early 1900s, and also known as trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids, trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that is formed by an industrial process which adds hydrogen to vegetable oil (this kind of manufactured form of trans fat is known as partially hydrogenated oil) making it less likely to spoil and meaning that foods made with it will last longer.
The main danger to our health lies in the trans fats most of us encounter in things like margarine, baked goods, processed foods and fast foods. For example, think about that french fry you find under your car seat months later that still, somehow, hasn’t molded, or decayed. That’s the trans fat at work which, granted, is kind of impressive but it’s pretty gross, too, and it’s definitely unhealthy for you. In fact, as early as the 1950s, it was speculated that partially hydrogenated oil was responsible for the sharp increase coronary heart disease.
It is important to note that trans fats do occur naturally in some meat and dairy products. So, unless you’re a vegan who watches their diet very closely, odds are you’re consuming at least a little bit of trans fat.
What Does This Mean For You?
The short answer is: avoid trans fats as much as possible. Thankfully, doing so will get easier over the next few years thanks to the FDA’s regulations.
The long(er) answer is: you should avoid trans fats as much as possible and increase your intake of good fats. What are good fats? Where can you find them? How much do you need? Check in again next week where we’ll tell you all that and more!