1. Food

Is Fat Back?

Ever-Changing Dietary Advice

By

Ground Beef

Ground Beef

Getty Images Assorted Cheeses

Assorted Cheeses

Getty Images Eggs

Eggs

Fiona Haynes

What Should I Eat?

In the world of nutrition, confusion reigns. This is nothing new. Conventional wisdom swings from one thing to another, and we’re left with more questions than answers: Is fat good for you or bad for you? Should we eat eggs? Should we avoid white bread and potatoes? Should we toss out the salt shaker? Should we shop for the yogurt that has fiber in it and the multigrain pasta with omega 3s? What should we eat, and what should we avoid?

Which Approach Works?

I can’t argue in favor of a one-size-fits-all dietary approach, even though I write about low fat cooking. Your needs are different than mine. Perhaps you want to lose weight. Will a low fat diet help? Sure. Any diet that involves some kind of calorie restriction will help. But eating low fat and compensating with other high calorie or empty calorie foods will not help at all.

 

You might have heart disease or high cholesterol. Will a low fat diet help with that? Many doctors still think so, although some large studies conclude that there's insufficient evidence to prove that saturated fat intake is linked to heart disease.

The Redemption of Fat

Conventional wisdom will continue to change. We’ve certainly moved on from the all fat is bad paradigm. But is it now a question of good fats versus bad fats, or the unqualified redemption of saturated fat? For now, everyone seems to agree that artificial trans fats are bad. Two  recent meta-analysis suggests that saturated fat is not a statistically significant factor in increasing the risk of heart disease. There is, though, some evidence that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat can reduce heart disease risk. Another meta-analysis suggests that the heart risk associated with red meat comes not from burgers and steaks but from processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs (either because of high sodium or nitrites). Earlier studies have linked red meat consumption with colorectal cancer, however.

 

Salt, Sugar, or Something Else?

Perhaps sodium is the real problem in our diets, or is it sugar? You see the problem? The science of nutrition is complicated, perhaps unnecessarily so. We miss the wood for the trees, or rather, the food for the nutrients. Right now, it makes sense to limit refined carbohydrates (you know, the white stuff), but does this mean you should splurge on high-fat foods instead? Some people have no apparent physiological problems after doing exactly that; for others, the results may be very different (genetics obviously play their part).

 

What Works For You?

The question you need to ask yourself is what seems to work for you? What are your specific needs? If you choose to eat low fat for your health, is it yielding the results you need (lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, weight control, etc)? If your goal is to lose weight, does eating low fat help you reach your target weight? If not, try a different approach. But if it works well for you, then don't be swayed by this week's or next week's headlines.
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