There is a popular misconception in America that “if you eat fat, you’ll get fat”. This fallacy has resulted in Americans eating a low-fat or no-fat (LFNF) diet. Ironically, the LFNF products that are being marketed to Americans as “healthy” are the very products that are responsible for the chronic weight gain and chronic disease in this country. These products, as well as the lifestyle that derives from the use of these products, result in the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar, which is the root cause of the obesity and chronic disease epidemic in America.
People on a LFNF diet on average tend to eat more refined carbohydrates than they should, which leaves the feeling of being physically full but still hungry. For example, have you ever eaten so much pasta that you feel like you’re going to burst, but then turn right around and eat dessert? We’ve all been there, but there is a reason why this happens. Refined carbohydrates (i.e. pasta, bread, etc.) are empty calories void of nutrients, so your body gets filled up with food but does not get the appropriate nutrients in order to be satisfied. This causes unhealthy cravings and raises the likelihood of snacking between meals. This pattern that accompanies the standard American diet (SAD) creates unhealthy habits and a harmful cycle that ultimately leads to obesity and disease. Replacing the refined carbohydrates on the plate with healthy sources of fat paired with unrefined complex carbohydrates and protein will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to keep you satiated for long periods of time without the unhealthy cravings and snacking.
Fat makes food taste good.
When fat is removed from the food to create these seemingly “healthy” low-fat products that are on the market today, something else needs to take its place in order to make it taste good again. In most cases, that something is sugar. This leads to the over-consumption of sugar, which ultimately leads to obesity and disease. If only we would eat whole foods that are in, or very near, their natural state (i.e. butter rather than margarine), we would consume much less sugar and much more health promoting fat that provides a slower burning, rich source of energy while avoiding those pesky blood sugar spikes and dips.
Let’s explore this further.
When carbohydrates (& sugar, which is a carb) are consumed, they are broken down into glucose (a form of sugar) in the bloodstream. This glucose in the blood is then transported into the cells for energy production. This fuels many bodily functions including the brain. Once energy production in the cells are met, any excess glucose in the blood is transported to the liver and muscles for storage in the form of glycogen. Glycogen storage can only hold so much, so if there is still excess glucose in the blood once the liver and muscles are saturated, then this glucose is converted to triglycerides and stored in adipose tissue as fat. Since the standard American over-consumes carbohydrates and sugar, this means that glucose levels are chronically high, and there will almost always be excess glucose leftover in the blood to be turned into triglycerides and stored as fat. This pattern over time leads to the build up of fat tissue, which results in obesity and disease.
The harmful patterns mentioned above put extra strain on the body’s main blood sugar regulating organs: the liver, pancreas and adrenal glands. When you have perpetually high glucose in the blood, the pancreas has to work extra hard to continually produce enough insulin in order to lower the glucose levels back to normal. Not only will this eventually wear out the pancreas, but also it will create consistently high insulin levels, which can lead to a host of diseases including obesity and diabetes. The liver and adrenal glands are constantly working to maintain normal glucose levels, so they are strained when glucose levels are perpetually high. The adrenal glands produce cortisol in order to stimulate certain metabolic processes that work to maintain homeostasis of blood glucose. When you have perpetually high glucose in the blood, the adrenals have to work extra hard to continually produce enough cortisol in order to maintain homeostasis. This will eventually send the adrenals into a stage of fatigue, or even worse exhaustion, which can lead to the a host of problems including the development of a greater percentage of body fat compared to muscle mass, especially around the waist. Also, this makes it more difficult for the liver to perform gluconeogenesis, which is the synthesis of glucose out of lipids (& other non-carbohydrate molecules like amino acids) for energy. This means that the body never has a chance to burn fat for energy and overtime obesity and disease can ensue.
Fat is essential to health.
Everything mentioned above is a result of the popular misconception in America of “if you eat fat, you’ll get fat”. However, science and research make it clear that the presence of healthy fats in the diet is essential in order to be healthy. More detailed information on fats to come in the near future, but for now please know that fat is not making you fat. Sugar is the culprit.