In order to eat a wholefood diet, you need to eat the whole food
I recently bought a tub of fat-free, natural yogurt. For a nutritionist, this was more than a terrible mistake. It was an entry-level error that made me feel like an amateur.
Removing the fat from a whole food benefits no one, other than the manufacturer doing the removing. That may come as a surprise to some, but don’t believe the health hype. Here are five reasons why you should always choose the full-fat, unadulterated version over the hollowed-out shell of an alternative.
1. Low-fat foods make you fat
As chef and TV personality Julia Child once famously put it, “fat gives food flavor.” If you take something out, something that provides flavour and satiety, you have to replace it with an alternative. Sugar is the manufacturer’s go-to fat substitute. It fits the bill very neatly. It also increases the risk of obesity, all too well.
Sugar causes spikes in blood glucose, triggering the release of insulin to lower that blood glucose. Insulin does this by sending glucose off to be stored as fat in your adipose tissue. Sugar is literally transformed into fat.
“Ironically, individuals who believe they are choosing healthier versions of their favorite foods are trading fat for less healthy sugar.”
2. Low-fat foods rob you of nutrients
Without fat, your digestive system is unable to extract and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins from your food. These are vitamins A (retinol), D3, E, and K2.
Vitamin A is essential for vision and a good immune system. Vitamin D is also required for immunity (especially of the respiratory system), bone health, and mental health. Vitamin E, another immune protector, is an antioxidant that protects against harmful free radicals. Vitamin K is the one that promotes blood clotting so that you don’t bleed to death when injured. It is also important for bone and heart health.
“Low-fat, no-fat and vegan diets are woefully lacking in fat soluble vitamins.”
3. You lose important fatty acids
Fat is crucial to good health. Specifically, certain fatty acids. The full-fat version of that yogurt, or milk, or cheese, contains important fatty acids that are much reduced or absent in the fatless version.
There are quite a few of these health-enhancing fatty acids, but let’s just focus on one, butyrate. Butyrate — abundant in butter, hence the name — has a particularly shiny health halo. It provides a source of energy to the colon and is an important anti-inflammatory agent that helps fight inflammatory disorders of the gut, such as Crohn’s disease.
A short-chain fatty acid that is created when the bacteria in your gut ferment fibre, butyrate comes ready-made in natural foods, such as dairy. Ruminants in the field ferment fibre all day long, making butyrate in the process, which is why dairy products are such a rich source.
4. Full fat foods give you conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
This is the true superstar of fat, and it is a travesty that most people have never heard of it. CLA is found exclusively in dairy and red meat. It’s so good it’s won awards: CLA is the only fatty acid acknowledged by the National Academy of Sciences in the US to show consistent anti-tumour properties, even at very low levels.
That is no crazy claim: CLA has been the subject of quite a bit of scientific research, even if that research hasn’t yet attracted the attention of the fat-averse media.
This research, most of which has been carried out over the past two decades, has confirmed that CLA has anti-cancer, anti-atherogenic and anti-diabetic properties. In animal studies,it blocks the growth of numerous types of tumours, including colon cancer, mammary, and stomach tumours.
There is a caveat: intensive farming of livestock reduces the amount of CLA found in meat, and therefore consumed by meat eaters. If you want your meat to be rich in CLA, it must come from cattle that has been fed their natural diet: grass and forage.
5. Full fat foods give you more MCTs
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are saturated fats found in dairy, coconut and palm oil. People add them to their coffee and call it bullet coffee.
Aficionados of the ketogenic diet will already know that MCTs are fats that are readily converted into substances called ketones, and ketones provide fuel for the brain in the absence of glucose, that is, when you cut out carbohydrates.
For that reason, scientists believe that these MCTs may be beneficial to people who have Alzheimer’s or some form of memory impairment. If they can’t use glucose to fuel the brain and make it work properly, they can use MCTs instead. The coconut is an especially rich source of MCTs. In fact, it has been singled out as a “potential cognitive strengthener” for people with Alzheimer’s.
Facts about fat
When you get to know fat, you realise that its bad reputation is undeserved. It’s time to decriminalise this essential macronutrient, so here are some facts to help put the record straight.
- Any food that contains fat contains all three types — saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated
- The foods that contain the least amount of saturated fat are plant-based
- The foods that contain the highest amount of saturated fat are plant-based.
- The food with the most amount of saturated fat is coconut. Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat.
- Lard, like olive oil, contains more monounsaturated fat than saturated fat
- Olive oil, famous for its monounsaturated fat, is also high in saturated fat.
- Your body makes saturated fat from the carbohydrates you eat.
Aren’t saturated fats harmful?
What about all that business about saturated fats causing heart disease? To resolve this contentious issue once and for all, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published, in 2020, a thorough, “State-of-the-art” review into the relationship between saturated fat consumption and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers discovered that most analyses and trials found that not only was there no benefit in reducing saturated fat to minimise the risk of cardiovascular disease, it was actually protective against stroke. The conclusion of this review was:
“The recommendation to limit dietary saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake has persisted despite mounting evidence to the contrary.”
When a food product proudly declares its fatless status on the label, as if that were a virtue, put it back where you found it. No good will come of consuming something that has had its wholesomeness scooped out and sold off separately. Eat a wholefood diet.
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