Trans-ition Toward Healthier Fats and a Slimmer You
Get ready to say goodbye to an ingredient that is present in many popular snack foods. In June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would implement a ban on so-called “trans” fats over the next three years.
Trans fats are typically listed on ingredient labels as “partially hydrogenated” oil. They are considered unhealthy because they can increase LDL cholesterol buildup and thus increase the risk of heart disease.
The good news is that trans-fat consumption has already plunged by more than 75% in the last 10 years. Food manufacturers have been voluntarily reducing trans fats in response to health concerns. In fact, the average American now consumes less than 2 grams per day – within the range considered to be low risk by the American Heart Association.
In short, the government is moving to ban trans fats at precisely the time when there’s no longer any public health justification for a ban. Bureaucrats are always behind the curve. Categorical bans on food ingredients won’t make Americans meaningfully healthier, anyway. That’s a wrongheaded approach.
It’s Not a Matter of Ingredients – It’s a Matter of Proportions
The reason why obesity and heart disease have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. is not because of transfats per se or any other particular problem ingredient. It’s because Americans consume too many low-quality calories in general.
Salty and sugary snack foods are a bigger culprit than trans fats. Yet sugar and salt are natural ingredients. They are in most of the foods we eat, including the healthy ones. Sugar and salt are essential nutrients. It would be insane to categorically prohibit them from being put in foods. Yet in large quantities and over long periods, they can be lethal.
It is therefore critically important to keep your sodium and sugar intake in check. Think moderation, not elimination. Trying to deprive yourself of tasty treats entirely isn’t an effective diet strategy. You’ll end up getting cravings that can negatively affect your mood and cause you to lose the will to manage your calorie intake.
“Environment vs Genes” Debate Dies a Quick Dietary Death When Looking at This It’s not that French fries or sodas or cookies are inherently “bad.” What’s bad is the proportions most people eat them in. If you love fast food or decadent desserts, don’t fret that you have to give them up in order to be healthy. You can still enjoy your favorite foods – just enjoy them in smaller portions. Another strategy is to always combine low-quality calories with high-quality calories.
For example, combine ice cream (low quality) with fresh berries (high quality). Or fresh celery and carrot sticks (high quality) with ranch dressing or your favorite dipping sauce (low quality). Combining two low-quality foods such as French fries and a milkshake or ice cream and cake virtually ensures that you will over-consume bad calories.
These Fats Aren’t as Bad as You’ve Been Led to Believe
In the 1980s, the FDA declared that saturated fats (the kind found in butter) represented a national dietary health hazard. Studies seemed to show that saturated
fats caused high rates of heart disease. A “low fat” craze extended into the 1990s, with food manufacturers replacing natural fats with artificial ingredients – including, ironically, trans fats.
That’s right, the government helped bring about the problem of trans fats and other artificial ingredients as substitutes for natural fats. Out with lard and in with margarine and various partially hydrogenated oils. Seemed sensible, but lard actually contains a large proportion of “good” monounsaturated fat, at 45%. It’s perfectly fine to cook with lard and consume it in
What about bacon – another food with a bad reputation? Again, the fats aren’t really the problem. Fats in bacon are about 50% monounsaturated, coming largely from oleic acid. This fatty acid is also present in olive oil, which is generally considered to be good for heart health.
The main problem with bacon isn’t the meat itself, but the curing process it goes through. Manufacturers pump in nitrates to preserve color and add large amounts of salt. Sometimes sugar, smoke, spices, or other flavorings are added. From a health standpoint, most of these additives are bad for you. Opt for low-sodium or “uncured” bacon for a healthier BLT sandwich.
A Bullet-proof Diet?
Are fats really what make people get fat? One advocate of a fat-rich diet is Dave Asprey. He promotes the “Bulletproof Diet.” Asprey advises liberal consumption of things like coffee and butter (and buttered coffee). He notes that the brain is made up largely of fats and theorizes that caffeine helps deliver fats in your diet to the brain. He suggests starting out the day with coffee and a high-fat, buttery breakfast.
Though his advice is controversial, he does make a strong case for going against decades of “official” nutrition guidelines that favored grains and carbohydrates and urged cutting fats out of everything.
Paradoxically, the more fats were demonized, the fatter we got as a population. It turns out that the high-carb, high-sugar, high-sodium diet is highly effective at inducing the body to pack on excess pounds.
Diet scares and diet fads will come and go. Sticking to a balanced diet consisting mostly of natural foods will always be an effective approach. And burning as many calories as you consume will always be a valid formula for maintaining a healthy weight.