When taking a walk down the aisle at your local grocery store you will see many fat-free, reduced-fat, and low-fat foods. You may pick up some of these foods in attempts to be healthy. The truth is, they are not as “healthy” as you assume.
The problem with “fat free” or “low-fat” products is that they differ in taste when the fat is removed, so other ingredients are added to improve flavor. Sugar, flour, thickeners or salt may all be added in attempt to create a similar flavor (1). Processed, low-fat foods are usually high in sugar, which is more unhealthy compared to the fat that is naturally present in foods (2).
We all need fats in our diet. Certain fats provide essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6. These essential fatty acids are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, making hormones and the functioning of our nervous system (3). Fats in our diet also help us absorb fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K), so following a low-fat diet may cause you to be low in these vitamins impacting your immunity and bone health.
It is best to focus on incorporating healthier fats into your diet rather than resorting to fat-free or low-fat products. Some foods containing healthy fats you can include are fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and unsaturated oils. Since fats are higher in calories per gram (9 calories/gram) compared to carbohydrates and protein, you should still consume them in moderation.
To make sure you are getting your healthy fats, here are several tips:
1. Eat fish at least twice a week. Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore tuna are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Eat more nuts and seeds. One portion is 1 oz of nuts (about one handful). Add them into your salads, smoothies or have them as a snack.
3. Remove skin from poultry and trim visible fat.
4. Use good quality unsaturated oils such as olive oil, canola oil & vegetable oils.
5. Choose to steam, bake, poach or grill instead of frying.
6. Instead of adding mayonnaise in sandwiches, add mashed avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice and pepper.