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The Skinny on Fats

We’ve heard for years that fats are bad. Eat less of them, we’ll lose weight.

Eat too many, our arteries will clog up and we’ll end up with heart disease, stroke, and be so obese we won’t be able to walk. The list of threats to our health goes on and on.

But is this really right?

I can tell you from my own experience that there’s a problem with this “cut out the fat” frenzy.

Back in the 1990s, there was a popular diet called “Eat Less, Weigh More.” That sounded like my kind of diet.

So I tried it. Within less than two weeks, I was five pounds heavier.

What went wrong?

Well, let’s think about it. All these fads are usually based in some amount of truth. Low fat is no different.

Fats have nine calories per gram, carbs and protein each have four per gram. (Alcohol has seven, in case you want to know.)

So the thinking behind low fat diets is that by cutting out fats, you reduce your total calories a lot, and you reduce the total mass you eat less than if you cut out carbs or protein.

Sounds good in theory.

But just looking at calories doesn’t take into account how carbs, proteins and fats are handled by the body, and the impact they have on our hormones.

When we cut out fats, our bodies think we are starving, in danger of not getting enough nutrition. So our metabolism goes into fat storage mode.

Carbs are used for energy. If we eat too many of them and don’t burn them all off, our bodies will store the excess as fat. Especially if we aren’t getting enough fat to start with.

The other factor to consider is the type of fats.

We’ve all heard of trans-fats, the kind that really do clog up our arteries.

Then there are saturated and unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats are generally from animal sources such as meat and dairy. Another source is coconut oil.

Unsaturated fats are generally from plants sources, such as olives, avocados or nuts, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils. Some new research is suggesting that polyunsaturated fats may actually increase your risk of heart disease.

While you want most of your fats to come in the form of unsaturated fats, studies are now showing that some saturated fats in the diet is important for your health.

As far as unsaturated fats go, stick with the monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fish oils, or what is found naturally in avocados or nuts. And stay away from the highly processed polyunsaturated fats like corn or vegetable oil.

The conclusion is you don’t feel you have to get rid of all saturated fat in your diet. And why should you? Fat makes food taste better. The other benefit is that fat makes you feel full longer, so you won’t be tempted to start snacking.

So enjoy a little fat in your diet, and you’ll find it doesn’t sabotage your weight loss goals.