(Photo courtesy Elements of Style)
Did you hear the one about the grandma who ate butter all her life and was healthier than all of her children and grandchildren who removed it from their “healthy” diets? Turns out it’s no joke and the joke’s on all of us who are only now learning the real truth about fats in our diets.
Researchers have, over the past several years, been studying the possibility that fats in our diets may not be as bad as previously thought. Now before you stop reading and think I’m crazy, calm down. We’re not talking a diet of Big Macs and rib eyes every night; we’re talking a high-fat, low-carb diet. Kind of like the one my mom has eaten all her life.
My mom. The thinnest one in our family and the one with the prettiest skin. She’s also a very healthy 84-years-old. And this, in a family of all girls. She eats real butter (margarine…never), uses real cream (no hazelnut creamer for her), still grates real cheddar cheese rather than buying the bagged ones, and loves her eggs in the morning. For years, we have been warned and scared that these foods, along with meats, are bad for us because they are high in saturated fats, which we’ve also been told often lead to heart disease. Funny that these foods were menu staples for years, years when our country wasn’t plagued with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Hmmmm….
Decades of low-fat, high-carbs diets being shoved down our throats have not lead to a healthier society and some experts report that children have actually suffered nutritional deficiencies eating only low-fat foods. Come to find out that without fat, our bodies can’t and won’t digest vitamins A and D and that all the dangerous LDL cholesterol we’ve been told to avoid is actually created when we eat too many refined carbs, not the carbs found in meats and butter. This is what many new studies are showing after research conducted around the world. In fact, evidence is pointing to the alarming outcome that saturated fats are not as bad as we thought and cannot be linked to heart disease at all. The science and medical communities aren’t exactly saying “pass the bacon” but they’re also not saying “pass up all fats.”
Eating all this “low-fat” stuff seemed to work for a while but it wasn’t necessarily healthy. Fat-free milk won’t help you lose weight and low-fat yogurt won’t make you more fit. For sure fat-free cookies or low-fat chips won’t! In fact, we Americans are not healthier at all. After more than 20 years of cleansing and counting, more than two-thirds of American adults are obese and one-tenth have type 2 diabetes, a disease that was virtually unheard of in “the good ole days.” (Only 15 percent were considered obese in 1980 and between 1980 and 2011 the number of adults with diabetes increased 278 percent!) In addition, heart disease, which limiting our cholesterol and “bad fats” was supposed to prevent, is still the number one killer in America.
I’m definitely a protein girl and I’m thrilled to learn that higher-protein diets can help increase resting metabolic rates. These involve calories while sitting, but I was also thrilled when my trainer told me to eat more proteins, especially after working out. The key it seems is not saving all your proteins for dinner like so many of us do. Spreading them out throughout your day is much better and much smarter.
Where to start? How about with eggs…nature’s little gem packed with six grams of high-quality protein and choline, which promotes normal cell activity and improves liver function. Eggs also don’t contain any carbs or sugars and are gluten free!
Gluten. The new dreaded six letter word. Avoiding it is a health issue for some, but for others it’s just another trend along the lines of Paleo and vegan diets. So was the Atkins diet at one point but was then frowned upon. Now we’re learning Dr. Atkins was on to something. There’s no arguing that fruits, veggies, and whole grains are healthy and should play major roles in our eating habits, but eating like cavemen doesn’t have to be the end all.
I don’t know about you, but hours of preparing a veggie and non-protein laden meal can be exhausting and eating a meal consisting of a salad with no dressing and a dry, skinless piece of chicken just isn’t going to cut it for me. Yes, I’m overweight but I’ve always said it’s not because I’ve eaten too much salad dressing in my life. As Investigative Journalist Nina Telcholz wrote in the New York Times bestseller, The Big Fat Surprise, “It slowly dawned on me that cooking meat was a more efficient way to get a meal on the table,” she writes. “Making a vegetarian feast, with all the slicing, dicing, and roasting, could easily consume the better part of a day. Grilling a steak, by contrast, takes minutes and with a simple green side salad, it’s a complete meal.” Amen sister! Although I’d probably add a side veggie too. Maybe more families would eat at home under this scenario rather than grabbing fast food. No one wants to go home after a long day and prepare a meal for an hour or so but everyone is hungry. Choose lean meats, lettuce that doesn’t have the name “iceberg” in it, and lots of green veggies and you are good to go.
That kind of meal is more filling as well, meaning I’m not going to graze afterwards or save room for dessert. It makes sense to those who have studied the issue, reporting that people often eat extra calories of carbs like pasta or chips but that it’s almost impossible to do so with meat.
There’s also the diabetes link. We’ve been living with the belief that carbs turn into sugar, but what really happens is that when we eat too many carbs, the pancreas releases high levels of insulin, which causes the body to store fat. Our brains then kick in, sensing too few calories to burn and choosing to eventually slow down our metabolism. By studying all of this, researchers have concluded that the carbs in foods like pasta, starchy vegetables, sugars, and grains can cause your body to release insulin. This is not only unhealthy, it also encourages your body to store fat, not burn it. In the studies, it’s noted that by replacing fats with high-carbs, grains, and sugars, we have created a society that’s not only obese but diabetic as well.
Sounds simple, right? Well the U.S. government is agreeing with all of this to some extent. In new dietary guidelines released just last week, an advisory committee reversed previous recommendations on limiting dietary cholesterol stating it is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption. Yes, this could be because we’re eating less of it, but it also supports new evidence that shows there is no appreciable relationship between heart disease and cholesterol. And although it says Americans still eat too much salt, it’s focusing more on reducing the amount of sugars we consume.
So, how can you make sense of all the puzzling information out there about food? Well, avoid all those yucky trans-fats, but eat your eggs, eat your cheese, eat your lean meats, eat your nuts, and eat your avocadoes. Add lots of fruits and veggies and eliminate processed foods. Steer clear of refined carbs like those found in white bread and opt for whole grains. And exercise, exercise, exercise. We all know what it takes to lose weight and to eat healthy. Just do it.