Dietary fat that is. And, contrary to a popular misconception, all fat is not bad. Some oils, nuts, avocados, fatty fish, olives—and more, are found on the USDA’s MyPlate, which replaces the old food pyramid. The guidelines call for the equivalent of 5 to 7 teaspoons of these healthy oils daily. All fat is not bad—but all fat is not the same.
So, in addition to what’s good and bad about dietary fat, what about low-fat and no-fat products?
This gets tricky and it involves pairing, or combining the right compounds found in real food with the right real fats. Example: A recent Purdue study found that fat-free and even low-fat salad dressings actually reduced the absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids—those beneficial compounds that are in that hypothetical salad such as lutein, beta-carotene and lycopene. Pouring the bottled fat-free or low-fat dressing on your salad, rather than creating your own vinaigrette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar results in the double whammy. You lose out on the benefit of the healthy, good fat oil, and lose many of the original nutrients in the salad you just prepared. Sure, there’s a reduction in calories, but also a reduction in nutrients. The answer to this is portion size.
Studies from Cornell University have demonstrated that when participants are given the choice between a salad with low-fat dressing and a vinaigrette dressing, they choose the low-fat dressing thinking it’s better for them, and then eat twice as much (overfed and undernourished). And, there’s more . . .
When you buy a low-fat or fat-free product, compare the list of ingredients on the label to that same product in its original state. Conventional wisdom says that if you can’t pronounce it and don’t know what it is or does, you don’t want it in your food. An added caveat—those lower or non-fat products are usually higher in sodium and sugar.
Fear of fat? What about paying close attention to calorie count, portion size, dietary recommendations and requirements, and the nutritional content of real food?