There are three groups of nutrients which are protein, carbohydrates and fat. Unfortunately the last of the three has the same name as an unflattering name for someone who is overweight or fat. It should come as no surprise that we would associate the nutrient fat, with being overweight but is that association justified?
Whether or not fat should be avoided has been up for debate over many years with proponents on each sided armed with research that supports their stance. The most recent study is a meta-analysis from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. This study looked at the affect of total fat and saturated fat intake on the prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) . They found that there was no correlation between fat intake and CHD and therefore could not support the dietary recommendation of the 70’s and 80’s. This study looked at CHD and not other health issues like diabetes, obesity etc…
There have been a number of recent studies that have found fat to be much less scary than we had once thought. This has led to huge swings in dietary advice, from the no-fat diet to the Atkin’s type diets.
Prior to the recent research on fat we tried to eliminate all fat from our diet and the fat-free whipping-boy was created, the Snackwell. Dieters felt that they could eat everything they wanted as long as it was fat free. We know this didn’t work and actually caused more harm that good. Because we were not eating fats we were not producing a very important hormone in our body that signals to fullness to our brain. The fat-free diet left people constantly hungry and looking for more Snackwells.
So, if eating fat-free didn’t work than it only makes sense that we do a complete 180 and eat only fat. Those who had lived on fat-free Snackwells rejoiced and replaced their snacks with butter, bacon and beef. For many people there was an initial weight loss and improvement in overall feelings of wellbeing. But with most things, it was too extreme and many people found it difficult to maintain this restrictive diet and found themselves eating carbs in addition to their high-fat diet, which was obviously destined for failure. Since Atkin’s there has been other iterations that have mimic’s their predecessor with slight modifications like the Paleo and Keto Diet.
In the middle of these two extremes we have the folks that suggest moderation or the Mediterranean Diet. Of course this is not sexy but appears to have the most health benefits ranging from heart disease to obesity. This diet recommends healthy fats from fish, nuts and healthy oils along with complex carbohydrates.
Although it is often not in our best interest, we love extremes but when it comes to dieting it doesn’t appear to be our best strategy. When I get asked about a particular diet, my response is always the same, “can you eat that way for the rest of your life?” Instead of looking at diets as a temporary thing we need to view our diets as something that we will be doing for the rest of our lives. We know that diets don’t work and we know that lifestyle modifications do work but they take time and the instant gratification is not there.
So, which “Diet” is the best for you? As I mentioned, it is the diet that you could do for the rest of your life that provides healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and clean protein. I know that sounds like an over simplification, but it is that simple on paper, but not always in practice.