Food Impostors



It’s not a mystery that we live in a world obsessed with body image – obsessed to the point where we have attempted to cut out all fat from our diets. We avoid red meat, deem chocolate as the devil, and scrounge the grocery store for 100-calorie packages with less than 1g of fat. This, however, will not necessarily make us “less fat.” One article in Fitness Magazine entitled “Big Fat Lie” notes that society has categorized fats into two groups: the good (unsaturated) and the evil (saturated). The writer, registered dietician Sally Kuzemchak, believes that this error of thinking has ultimately blinded us from the fact that it isn’t the saturated fat content in foods that packs on the pounds… it’s just the types of foods that we choose to consume.

For example, when was the last time you opted for a bagel rather than some bacon for breakfast?

“When you replace saturated fats with refined carbs, your triglycerides can go up and your good HDL cholesterol can go down,” reported Alice H. Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab at Tufts University. This is why people on a low-carb diet lose more weight than those on a low-fat diet (even though the latter contains more saturated fat).

Suzy Hamilton, a former USA professional mid-distance runner, says that a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder burger is a more well-balanced meal than a bagel with jam.

“Don’t eat a food, especially a high-carbohydrate food, simply because it’s low in fat,” writes Hamilton. “It may be low in nutrients as well.”

The saturated fats found in refined sugars, such as cakes and cookies, are other examples that we should try to stay away from. They are loaded with calories and provide no nutrients for our bodies – they are otherwise known as “empty calories.” If you need something sweet after a meal, try eating a piece of plain dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which can lower your risk for heart disease.

Red meat also contains a lot of saturated fat. The difference? It is also packed with iron, a nutrient that is vital for everyone, especially for athletes. Iron reduces fatigue and keeps us going, longer.

“Iron carries oxygen throughout your bloodstream, which ultimately helps muscles recover faster,” says Shelby Hayes, a Health Education and Behavior major at the University of Florida. “As an athlete, I don’t shy away from it.”

OK, so, staying away from refined carbs and empty calories is a definite no, but what else?

Keeping track of your sodium intake is also important when managing what saturated fats to consume. Eating a lot of salt and not enough fruits and vegetables can lead to a greater risk of heart disease no matter how much saturated fat you consume, wrote Kuzemchak. Pizza, the highest consumed saturated fatty food among Americans, contains 20 grams of fat and more than the total amount of sodium we should be consuming in one day. This would be an example of a saturated fatty food that we need to cut out of our diet.

Now, I’m not telling you to gorge on dark chocolate or eat a big juicy steak every night, but studies have shown that replacing other saturated fatty foods (like pizza and cake) with these, can make a big difference in your health. So, in the words of Sally Kuzemchak, “Pass the dark chocolate!”

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