If you browsed supermarkets in the 1990s, chances are you remember the popularity of low-fat diet foods (think fat-free frozen yogurt, reduced fat pastries, and egg-whites-only omelettes). Fearing diet-related ailments like heart disease and weight gain, many health-conscious consumers spent years eschewing full-fat versions of their favorite pantry staples and indulgent treats.
The problem? Sacrificing fat often meant also stealing away important nutrients—and adding in unhealthy amounts of added sugars, chemicals, and preservatives. Today, we take a look at 3 reasons why today’s foodies welcome the re-emergence of fat as a flavorful and satisfying aspect of a well-rounded diet.
- We recognize that there are such a thing as “Good Fats.” Fats—and the way our bodies respond to them—vary dramatically, even though food labels put them together in a lump-sum total for decades. These days, foodies are learning to seek out “good fats,” often from plant sources like nuts, seeds, and oils. And the existence of good fats doesn’t mean there aren’t still bad fats out there. Partially hydrogenated oils and the trans-fats they contain have gotten serious criticism over the last few years, and with good reason: artificial trans-fats can ruin your cholesterol, cause heart disease or stroke, and put you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. (Interestingly, fully hydrogenated oils do not contain trans-fats and therefore don’t pose these specific risks). The rise of olive and coconut oils as well as naturally higher-fat plant products like avocados and legumes demonstrates a nuanced appreciation for fats that, along with other nutrients, actually promote cardiovascular health. Look for many labels proudly displaying Omega-3 fats found naturally in fish and purported to support your brain function, balanced triglyceride levels, and even fetal development.
- We would rather feel full and sated by eating less. Once you strip the fat out of a product, you lose out on satiety as well as flavor. Lackluster food often makes our brains crave larger quantities, perhaps in an unconscious effort to make up for the lack of essential fat with sheer volume.
Cue the carbohydrate overload (and inevitable blood sugar crash that follows), and you’ve got a very unpleasant eating experience on your hands. Why not have a small portion of something that’s got the craving-crushing fat and protein your body desires? Another bonus of eating more fat is that certain fats may actually help stabilize your blood sugar, protecting you against the perils of feeling starved or getting downright “hangry.”
- We get that there’s more to foods than just their fat content. Many people have long believed that eating cholesterol leads to developing high cholesterol, but the truth may not be so simple. What’s more, consider what you’re missing out on when restricting or eliminating certain fat sources from your diet. For example, if you cut out the part of an egg that contains cholesterol—namely, the yolk—you’ll miss out on the abundance of vitamins A, B-12, and D, as well as the vital nutrient choline (which supports healthy brain and nerve function), that are contained only in the yolk! Another misunderstood source of fat—the avocado—contains a wide array of other nutrients besides their healthy monounsaturated fat, including fiber, potassium, and folate, plus they’re naturally sugar-free and gluten-free.
However you decide to enjoy great food this weekend, we hope it’s satisfying, delicious, and healthy. Happy Foodie Friday!
And, of course, for something a little weird…
If you’re a die-hard, chew-the-gristle, lipid-loving eater, you may want to consider an unusual way to enjoy fat: in a cocktail! Check out this article from SeriousEats about the science of fat-washing spirits. Duck-fat infused Sazeracs all around!
Bonus reading: See this fascinating article from NPR’s The Salt for a brief history of Americans’ historic fat phobia.
NOTE: As always, the opinions expressed in this blog are not meant to be taken as undisputed fact or medical advice. Please consult with your physician or healthcare provider before making significant dietary changes.