Is a Low-Fat Diet Healthier?

Olives in olive oil.

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Is a Low-Fat Diet Healthier?

The answer to this question is not a simple “yes” or “no.” It’s a rather complex issue, with many variables. In fact, “yes and no” would be a better answer! In order to look at the question fairly, it’s important to define what, exactly, is meant by “low-fat.”

Experts say that a diet is considered “low-fat” when 30 percent or less of total calories consumed come from fat. This definition does not distinguish between the types of fat; it is simply less fat all around. This means that any potential health benefits incurred from eating healthy fats might be reduced on a low-fat diet, adding a complication to the idea that low-fat is automatically healthier.

To dissect this issue fairly, let’s divide the potential health benefits of good fats, and then the potential health benefits of a reduced-fat diet.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have been shown to enhance health in some important ways.

-Digestion is said to be enhanced with the intake of healthy fats – those who suffer from constipation may find their condition relieved when they include oils like olive oil in their diet.

-Weight loss, believe it or not, may be aided by the consumption of healthy fats. According to a study -that came out early in 2008, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil actually helped study participants lose weight. This may be attributed to the feeling of fullness and satisfaction that the healthy fats provided.

-Good fats are considered by some to be brain foods. More than half of the brain, after all, is made from fats, experts note. Eating healthy fats may help maintain proper brain functioning.

-Healthy fats are also considered anti-inflammatory. This is why you will find supplements like flax and fish oils in your local health food store (or even grocery store). Natural health practitioners often suggest such supplements for people suffering from allergies or other inflammatory conditions.

So if you are on a low-fat diet that excludes monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are you going to be healthier? Maybe not. However, if you go on a low-fat diet that excludes the naughty fats (such as saturated fat), you may in fact be healthier. Here are some of the possible health benefits of a diet low in bad fats.

-Cardiovascular health may be enhanced by a diet low in saturated fat. Decreased saturated fat intake is associated with reduced cholesterol and healthy arteries.

-Obesity is often reduced when saturated fat intake is decreased. A diet low in bad fats means fast foods, margarine, lard, butter, shortening, and other solid fats is limited. Many people experience weight loss just with the elimination of these foods.

-Reducing or eliminating hydrogenated fats is highly recommended by many health experts. The “free radicals” in these artificially solidified fats have the potential to cause oxidative damage to the body.

So perhaps the best answer to the original question (is a low-fat diet healthier?)is: the evidence is strong that a diet low in bad fats is indeed healthier, and may be even more healthy if the unhealthy fats are replaced by a moderate amount of healthy ones.

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