During a period of my life, I had a fear of fat. When reading nutrition labels, the site of double digit fat grams or a high number of calories from fat made me cringe. So instead, I reached for non-fat calorie everything. Because it had no fat, I found it easy to rationalize eating an entire bag of gummy worms or containers of yogurt that tasted nothing like the “red velvet cake” flavor it advertised.
I felt as if fat was something to be avoided, something that was harmful to my body, something that had no reason for consumption. What I failed to realize was that though I was consuming so few fat grams, many of those non-fat products I ate were laden with sugar and unpronounceable additives. By convincing myself that fat was the enemy, I had been feeding myself a poor diet that replaced fat, a necessary nutrient for the body, with excessive sugar.
Though I consider my fear of fat to be a thing of the past, it has admittedly been a gradual process to convince myself that a tablespoon of butter or olive oil produces more satisfying sautés than non-stick cooking sprays and that eggs cannot be substituted if you want to bake a cake that has at least some taste. Now I know that while prepared whipped topping has fewer calories, it can never compare to the true taste of real, freshly whipped cream.
Despite their bad reputation, fats are not something that should be avoided. In fact, they are critical to healthy bodies for many reasons, including:
For those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the key is not to eliminate fats from one’s diet, but rather to understand the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly fats. Good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats because they are healthful for your heart and cholesterol. Foods with these healthy fats include:
When reading nutrition labels, the foods to avoid are those high in saturated fats and those containing trans fats. These fats can elevate cholesterol and increase the risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease. Animals products, such as red meat and dairy products, are often high in saturated fats, and therefore should be enjoyed in limited quantities. In any amount, trans fats, which develop from the food production’s processing of polyunsaturated fatty acids, are never healthy. One helpful way to recognize the difference in fats is that saturated and trans fats are typically solid at room temperature (butter), while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid (olive oil).
Although substituting non-fat for full-fat products or forgoing fats all together might seem like a healthy idea, you are doing more harm than good for your body. Instead of fearing fat, opt for more healthy fats to maintain a smarter, more balanced diet. Remember: one lick of genuine, full-fat ice cream will always taste better than a whole cone of a non-fat ice cream masquerader
Bethany Imondi, a senior studying Government and English at Georgetown University, cringes at the thought of non-fat mayonnaise and no-calorie butter spray. Read more…