A low-fat diet was strongly advocated in the late s as a healthier alternative to the mainstream, high-fat American diet of the s. Given the association of high fat with additional calories and the harms of increased saturated fat intake, this recommendation from both the federal government and professional organizations had some logic. Unfortunately, this dietary advice backfired dramatically. Without detailed, clear instructions about what to eat in place of fats, a low-fat diet was often dominated by unhealthy, processed carbs. When fat intake is, instead, shifted to bread, desserts, and breakfast cereal, the results can be disastrous. These new, low-fat products were marketed as healthier choices — which they were not,” said Stanford nutrition scientist Christopher Gardner, PhD. As we now know, not all fats are bad.
But while our shopping baskets are full to bursting with these guilt-free foods our waist-lines keep getting bigger. This means cutting back on full-fat dairy foods, red meat and certain processed foods. But, as we came to terms with this unpalatable fact, the food industry got to work replacing the animal fats in their products with unsaturated vegetable oils. Some of the changes they had to make included altering the structure of the vegetable oil so it could be used in the place of solid fats. To do this the food producers used a process called hydrogenation which created a solid or semi-solid fat thought to be more appropriate for their food processing needs. Unfortunately, we now know these hydrogenated fats increase levels of dangerous trans-fats which are both bad for the heart and our cholesterol. Although trans-fats can be found at low levels in some natural foods these man-made versions meant it was likely we were eating more of them. We all need some fat in our diet, not least because it makes our food more palatable and tasty. Nutritionally, fats do more than simply supply calories. Certain fats, like those in nuts, seeds and oily varieties of fish provide essential fatty acids including the omega-3 variety. These essential fats are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, making hormones and for the correct functioning of our nervous system.
Losing weight sometimes takes experimentation. If you give a diet your best shot and it doesn’t work long term, maybe it wasn’t the right one for you, your metabolism, or your situation. Genes, family, your environment — even your friends — influence how, why, what, and how much you eat, so don’t get too discouraged or beat yourself up because a diet that “worked for everybody” didn’t pay off for you. Try another, keeping in mind that almost any diet will help you shed pounds — at least for a short time. Once the main strategy for losing weight, low-fat diets are now less popular. Since fat contains nine calories per gram while carbohydrates contain four, you could theoretically eat more without taking in more calories by cutting back on fatty foods and eating more that are full of carbohydrates, especially water-rich fruits and vegetables. But if the carbs you eat in place of fat are highly processed and rapidly digested, you may be sabotaging your weight-loss plan.