Low-fat diets, though their supposed benefits have been touted for decades now, have done nothing to lower rates of cardiovascular disease. In fact, it seems that low-fat diets can lead to eating habits that are more closely linked to serious health problems and higher rates of mortality.
Is Fat Really That Bad for You?
The general consensus currently says that total fat intake should make up less than 30% of your daily caloric consumption. But, as it turns out, exceeding that number is not associated with higher rates of cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease. Nor has it been linked to deaths caused by cancer, respiratory diseases, or infectious diseases.
Researchers have found that getting around 35% of one’s caloric consumption from fat is actually associated with lower overall mortality rates when compared to low-fat diets. This is typically the amount of fat you’ll find in the Mediterranean diet, which has been widely recognized for its numerous health benefits over the last several years.
Low-Fat Diets and the Overconsumption of Carbohydrates
It seems that one of the main reasons why a low-fat diet may actually be harmful to your health is because it very often leads to an overconsumption of carbohydrates. Removing fat from food often necessitates some way to replace the lost calories and flavour, which is usually done by adding refined carbohydrates. Grocery store shelves are packed with products that are low-fat or fat-free but, if you compare the labels, you’ll find that they contain more carbohydrates and sugar than full-fat alternatives.
Now that the focus has shifted from fat, diets high in carbohydrates are being looked at as contributing to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, as well as to death not caused by cardiovascular disease. Getting more than 60% of one’s total caloric intake from carbohydrates seems to be particularly problematic.
The New Diet Paradigm
It’s high time for the popularity of low-fat diets to fade. While you should continue to steer clear of trans fats, research has shown that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – the kinds that come from fish, nuts, and plant-based vegetable oils – are actually important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.
However, just because fat is being vindicated, it doesn’t mean that carbohydrates now need to be demonized. Carbohydrates can still make up a significant portion of a healthy diet. The key to ensuring that you are not consuming too much of either is simply moderation and portion control. Researchers and dieticians are encouraging people to focus on the specific types of foods they are eating rather than on the specific nutrients they are consuming.
It can be easy to get lost in the slew of health advice available today, so don’t worry too much about getting it perfect. Just strive to eat a well-balanced diet without too much or too little of any one source of calories, and you can take confidence in your eating habits.