Myth Busting – Why Eating Fat Won’t Make You Fatter
The Great Carbs versus Fat Debate
Many of us have been taught that eating fat will make you fat, and it’s as simple as that. Fats can indeed be turned into fat inside your body, but it is important to recognize that not all fats are inherently evil and waiting to pounce on your stomach, backside and thighs and cling to them as if they are hanging on for their very lives.
Nearly anything a person consumes can make them fat. Carbohydrates, for example, can actually make you gain weight faster than fats. If you eat a plate of pasta swathed in butter, the pasta will actually cause you to gain weight faster than the butter.
Wow! But that doesn’t let butter off the hook. Fat contains 9 calories per gram and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. You might say, “Aha! Fats are more fattening then carbs!” But there is scientific reasoning to show this just isn’t true in spite of the basic numbers.
The Skinny on Insulin
Our bodies require insulin to process carbohydrates and regulate blood sugar. Without insulin, sugar (carbs convert to sugar in the bloodstream) stays in the blood and cannot be used as energy. The more carbs we consume, the more insulin our body dumps into our bloodstream.
What many people are unaware of is that insulin also regulates fat metabolism. The more insulin our body produces, the more fat our bodies will store. So, it’s a dirty little secret that consuming carbohydrates ultimately leads to increased fat storage.
Metabolizing fat on its own requires little to no insulin. Fat causes a very slow, if any, increase in blood sugar and it gives a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. So, for your 9 calories per gram of fat you’ll get full sooner, meaning you’ll eat less. With carbs, on the other hand, at 4 calories per gram, you’ll eat more before you feel full and drive up insulin levels, which will in turn lead to increased fat storage.
It is impossible to condemn any one source of calories as good or bad. Like so many things in life, there is good and bad to be found in anything, and carbohydrates and fats are no exception. You have to get beyond thinking that something is bad for you just because it’s a carb or a fat. The key to a healthy diet is eliminating the bad carbs and fats and focusing on the good ones.
Carbohydrates consist of two basic type; simple and complex. Simple carbs are basic sugars with little real nutritional value, such as sugar, candy, white breads, white rice, and cake. Your body quickly processes these carbohydrates into sugar, driving up your blood sugar levels. In response, your body begins dumping insulin to regulate blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, whole grain breads and pastas, and dairy take longer for the body digest and do not result in a sudden spike in blood sugar which, in turn, necessitates the body to dump large amounts of insulin into your blood stream. Remember, the spike in insulin levels also interferes with fat metabolism, causing your body to store higher levels of fat – another critical reason to keep simple carbs to a minimum.
Understanding the difference in fats may seem to be slightly more complex, as good and bad fats bear many long and ominous sounding names. In reality, it’s not difficult. Trans fats and saturated fats are bad fats. These are the ones that lead to weight gain and clogged arteries. Bad fats include whole milk, cream, butter, lard, margarine, palm and coconut oil, and high fat meats.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are considered good fats. They help regulate your mood, keep you mentally focused, help with energy levels, and even help control your weight. Good fats include olive oil, canola oil, avocados, sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds, and fatty fish. When shopping, check nutrition labels for the breakdown of fats.
Don’t focus on total fats, but rather how total fats are derived. Pay attention to the amount good and bad fats and choose products with higher levels of good fats. Ice cream is an example or a product with a high level of bad fats. Peanut butter is an example of a product with a high level of good fats.
An overall good rule of thumb to remember about fats is that fats that remain liquid at room temperature, such as olive or canola oil, are less likely to lead to weight gain and clogged arteries than fats that are solid at room temperature, such as butter and margarine.
Striving for a balance of good carbs and fats in your diet is key to maintaining good nutrition and overall health. Don’t fear carbs and fats; simply be selective about which ones you include in your diet.
Learn to Love Fats
Lastly, it must be noted that fat plays a key role in a number of bodily functions. Fats are a source of energy, are essential for growth development and cell functions that cannot otherwise be made by our body’s processes, are required for proper function of nerves and the brain, are used to transport fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K through the bloodstream, and help us maintain healthy skin and other tissues.