For decades the diet industry has conned consumers into thinking good diet products are low in fat. This led to a boon in creation of low-fat, high-carbohydrate, and often high-sugar “diet” products that promote fat storage, prevent fat burning, increase cravings, and raise inflammation. Not only can diet foods make you fatter, they can also make you sicker.
Low-fat diets have long been hailed as the key to a healthy weight and good health. But the evidence just isn’t there: Over the past 30 years in the U.S., the percentage of calories from fat in people’s diets has gone down, but obesity rates have skyrocketed.
The ‘low-fat’ trap
Studies show that we eat more when something is described as ‘low-fat’. In one study people ate as many as 28 percent more low-fat sugar-coated chocolates than normal ones. It also found that people underestimate the number of calories they consume when eating low-fat food.
Know that guilty feeling when you’ve eaten a lot of high-calorie, high-sugar and/or high-fat? But when you eat too much of a food labelled ‘low-fat’, studies show you feel less guilty, especially if you’re overweight already. Labelling snacks as ‘low-fat’ seems to mean people increase the serving size regardless of whether the snack is healthy or unhealthy.
A food labelled ‘low-fat’, in which the fat has been replaced with sugar, may not be as low in calorie density as you’d expect. A diet high in ‘good’ fat is likely to be better for you than a low-fat diet that is high in sugar.
Should you consume sweeteners?
Whether it’s diet soda, saccharin instead of sugar in tea, a sugar-free dessert or sweet, or even a ready-meal, artificial sweeteners have been fully adopted into modern diets.
But what if the very things thought to help us eat less sugar and stay slimmer are actually making us fatter? Studies suggest that if you consume something sweet your appetite increases, whether the food or drink is artificially sweetened or not. This is because sweeteners activate the brain’s sugar reward’ pathways, giving you a ‘sweet tooth’ that can cause you to snack more. When you consume something naturally sweet you have an initial metabolic response to the sugar, but studies show that the initial neuro-physiological response to artificial sweeteners is not the same.
Some artificial sweeteners also trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain.
The key to a healthy diet
Focusing too heavily on the sugar, salt, fat and calories in food can be counterproductive when it comes to healthiness. Tips for a healthy diet include:
- Cook it yourself: cooking your own meals and snacks means that you can control how much salt, sugar and fat you put in.
- Don’t focus on a single nutrient: some snacks may be high in fat, but don’t rule them out. A handful of almonds, for example, contains around 7g fat, but you will also benefit from their high protein and fiber content.
- Avoid empty calories: while some foods have a high nutritional value, others are essentially ’empty calories’, which means your body gets very little from them nutritionally. These include sugary soft drinks.
Remember, food is the best medicine! Whole foods are naturally packaged with a vast array of nutrients that work synergistically to optimize your health. They ripple throughout our entire physiology, reducing inflammation, boosting detoxification, balancing hormones, and providing powerful antioxidant protection — all things that repair the underlying causes of disease.
For more specific advice on nutrition, schedule a 15 minute complimentary phone consultation with Prudhvi Karumanchi, M.D. at https:/calendly.com/drkhealthcare or call (813) 337-7535 for more information.
Dr. Prudhvi Karumanchi is Board Certified in Sleep Medicine, Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Functional Medicine. He is a Certified Energy Mastery® Practitioner and a practicing, Emergency Medicine Board Certified Physician who takes a complete approach to your healthcare.