My dear readers,
It’s that time again: debunking nutritional myths. Here are the top 9 biggest lies about dietary fat and cholesterol explained and debunked by the remarkably astute people over at Authority Nutrition, a very credible source of information for people interested in low carb eating habits. I highly recommend you read their articles as they are very timely and relevant with current nutrition trends. I posted the link to their article at the end. Enjoy!
1. A low-fat, high-carb diet is the optimal human diet
For years, doctors have recommended that we eat less fat, and indeed we have. The result? Obesity, diabetes, and overweight. But, how? Doesn’t fat make you fat? Well, not exactly… I’ve said this in other articles, and simply put: fat does not spike insulin (a hormone that shuttles carbs/fats/proteins into your muscle and fat cells). Without a release in insulin, there is less energy being put into your fat cells, which keeps them from expanding. Also, people eat more refined sugars instead of fats, and these sugars spike insulin, which shoves excess calories into your fat cells.
2. Cholesterol-rich foods (e.g., eggs) are bad for you
This revolves around the fear that fat (especially cholesterol) makes you fat. In reality, the opposite is true. Fat (especially the egg yolk) does not raise cholesterol levels (it actually decreases them), and it does not lead to obesity or overweight. Interestingly, egg yolks have been found to increase HDL (the “good” cholesterol that removes toxins out of the bloodstream and fat cells into the liver for excretion).
3. Your total and LDL cholesterol levels are good indicators of heart attack risk
Having high HDL actually raises your Total cholesterol number, which makes the total number a bit misleading. We also have different subtypes of LDL (“bad” cholesterol), which include: small, dense LDL particles (very bad) and large, fluffy LDL (good). The small particles are associated with heart disease, while the large ones are mostly benign. The total and LDL cholesterol numbers are poor indicators of risk compared to other markers, like the Triglyceride:HDL ratio. In fact, one study found that out of 231,986 patients hospitalized for heart disease, half of them actually had normal LDL levels. Ironically enough, in old individuals, the higher the cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart disease. And check this out: cholesterol levels that are too low are actually associated with increased risk of death from other causes such as cancer and suicide. Cholesterol is indeed a protective agent!
4. Processed seed and vegetable oils are healthy
These oils, which include soybean, corn and cottonseed oils, are very high in polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acids, which are harmful in excess and can contribute to inflammation of the arteries, joints, and nerves in your brain. Despite these oils being recommended to reduce heart disease, there are actually multiple studies showing that they increase the risk, which makes me scared to think how people are living today. In any case, my go-to oils are olive oil, coconut oil, and butter (I know, not an oil, but good for cooking and a healthy source of saturated fat. My favorite is Kerrygold).
5. Saturated fat raises your bad cholesterol and causes heart disease
Actually, saturated fat doesn’t really raise LDL that much. The effect is weak and inconsistent and appears to depend on the individual. Saturated fat changes the particles from small, dense (very, very bad) to the large, fluffy LDL, which is mostly benign. Saturated fat also raises HDL cholesterol, which is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. It seems that saturated fats actually improve the lipid profile! As it stands, there is no evidence that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.
6. Saturated fats and trans fats are similar
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been chemically modified to be more solid and have a longer shelf life. They are also known as partially hydrogenated fats. The manufacturing process is very disgusting – involving high pressure, high heat, a metal catalyst and hydrogen gas. These trans fats lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. They are nothing like saturated fats, which come from natural sources (meat, eggs, dairy) that are NOT processed or altered in any way.
7. Eating fat makes you fat and high fat diets are dangerous
Even though fat has more calories per gram compared to protein and carbs, foods that are naturally high in fat are very fulfilling and hard to overeat. In fact, studies on high-fat, low-carb diets show that these diets induce greater weight loss than diets that are low in fat. Low-carb, high-fat diets also lead to incredible benefits for you cardiovascular health, including: increased HDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, less abdominal fat, and improved size of LDL particles (the friendly kind that can’t enter your cells).
8. Processed margarine is better than natural butter
Most margarines contain large amounts of processed vegetable oils, often with trans fats added to the mix. It is hard to imagine how people could think that processed, factory made margarine would be healthier than butter, which is completely natural and humans have been eating for a long time. The studies also do not support the idea that margarine is healthier than butter. In the Framingham Heart Study, margarine was associated with an increased heart disease risk compared to butter. Many other studies have looked at high-fat dairy products and found no evidence that they contribute to any disease. In fact, high fat dairy is associated with a lower risk of obesity.
9. Processed low fat foods are healthy options
Given their ridiculous low-fat advice, food manufacturers removed the fat from some of their foods. But there was a major problem: natural foods taste terrible without the fat. The food manufacturers realized this and added a lot of sugar to compensate for the missing fat. For this reason, most “low fat” foods are actually loaded with sugar, which is seriously harmful. If a food has “low fat” or “diet” on the label, then you will probably find sugar, corn syrup and various artificial chemicals on the ingredients list. Can you guess what these lead to? Yep, more obesity, diabetes, and overweight conditions.
Given that this is the second article debunking nutrition myths, you all now have even more knowledge with which you can become fat-burning machines! I hope this information was helpful, and stay tuned for more nutritional golden nuggets in the future!
What other nutrition questions would you like answered? Let me know in the comments below!