For years, high-fat foods were demonized as the reason for the obesity crisis. Mainstream media aided in pushing this narrative, and helped popularize fat-free diets and fat-free alternatives to foods. HOWEVER, fat and fatty foods are NOT the reason there is an obesity crisis. Human beings gain body fat when calories ingested exceed calories expended. This equation is the key to body composition.
Let’s establish a couple true statements before we jump into some myths. It is true that fats are the most most calorie dense macronutrient, at 9 calories per gram. The nature of fats makes them easy to eat in large quantities, thus making it easy to exceed your optimal caloric intake for the day. However, this does not mean that fats are evil and most be avoided. On the contrary, many fats are essential to human processes such as hormone production, energy expenditure, brain health, etc.
Now, Lets debunk two high-fat myths, as per the CDC and Center for Science in the Public Interest:
- Myth: All fats are the same.
Fact: Fats fall predominately into two categories: saturated and unsaturated. These are determined by molecular make-up. Healthy fats are generally considered to be unsaturated, and are comprised of foods such as: virgin olive oil, fish, wild nuts, and avocados.
2. Myth: Cholesterol is bad for you, and usually accompanies fats. Therefore, I should avoid as much cholesterol, and thus fats, as possible
Fact: As with fats, cholesterol is NOT inherently bad for you. Some dietary cholesterol is ESSENTIAL in creating hormones and other bodily processes, and without it the body would function sub-optimally. Prioritize eating unsaturated fats and eliminate trans-fats, and you could see your cholesterol levels improve drastically.
While we have sufficiently proven that fats are not responsible for the obesity epidemic and are not inherently dangerous, that does not mean you can eat endless fats and not gain weight. Weight gain and loss will be determined by the “calories in and calories out”. If you overindulge fats, it is VERY easy to make this equation unbalanced. So, enjoy the healthy fats out there, like fish, nuts, oils, eggs, etc. BUT, as with everything in nutrition, moderation is absolutely the key to long-term and sustained success.