Your gymming is not bearing any fruit as you are eating all the wrong food Image: Thinkstock
While walking by the aisle of a supermarket, a lot of health-conscious people pick up packets of food items that have the label ‘Fat Free’ on them. Simply because it has been advertised to us, since our childhood that fat makes you fat. So, people believe that to get rid of that extra flab on the belly, fat free food is a great choice. And that’s where Delhi-based nutitionist Mallika Shah begs to differ.
With 15 years of experience in her kitty, Shah tells T2 Online, “Fat doesn’t make you fat. That’s the first and most important lesson one needs to learn by heart if one is serious about losing weight. Rather fat is one of the nutrients human beings are eating since the dawn of civilisation. You see, early men would devour on fat simply because it kept them full and helped them heal wounds they would suffer while hunting. So fat is an extremely helpful nutrient and a must-have for our system.”
So where did this fat free fad come from? Shah rewinds us to 1959 when doctors in US started noticing a sudden peak in heart failures among citizens. And soon after US President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, it sent a ripple across the health department, which then started finding the root cause of this.
Sweet Conspiracy Theory
If you have noticed, there is not much of a difference in taste between regular food and fat free food. However if science has its way, taking out fat from food would make it bland. Here enters the main culprit — sugar, says Shah.
US based physiologist Ancel Keys conspired with the sugar industry and made a research popular across media blaming fat for heart diseases. With support from the big billion sugar industry that included beverages as well, Keys’s research inferred, a diet which included large amounts of butter, lard, eggs, and beef would lead to coronary heart disease. This resulted in the American government recommending that people adopt a low-fat diet in order to prevent heart disease. With the US starting the trend, the whole world came to believe it.
Why ‘fat free’ is bad for your health
Shah explains that there are three distinct categories of food that are marketed to lose weight. These are 'fat-free', 'low-fat', and 'light and reduced-fat'. Now Fat Free is something that has less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving, Low-fat foods can have up to three grams of fat per serving and Reduced-fat foods will have 25 per cent less fat than regular versions of those foods.
Going by logic, fat free food are ‘taste free’, too. So, food manufacturers simply add sugar, flour, thickeners and salt in products to make them taste good. “As they add sugar, the calorie count goes up. So you picked up an ice cream seeing the ‘Fat Free’ tag and now you not only gained calories but a lot of other things that would add up to your weight,” says Shah.
What does fat free food do to your body?
With food manufacturers adding sugar in fat free food, Shah says, carbohydrate-rich food increases the production of insulin in the body. This means your body gets the signal of storing calories in body rather than using them. This leads to increased hunger, over eating and excess fat storage.
Fat free food means you eat more
Yes, that’s also how the manufacturers profit. “As our taste buds encounter a food, taste receptors are activated. These receptors send signals to our brain to regulate the quantity that we are eating. With fat, the brain doesn’t want you to eat too much and you feel satisfied with less food, but it's not the case with fat free food. You end up eating more,” says Shah.
With fat free, the brain never gets to know that these foods are filling. Plus in your mind, you know that it's fat (guilt) free, so you keep gorging on them.
Fat is good
No matter how much a strict weight loss regime you are in, fats are a must have in your diet. “There is a reason why there is a prefix like 'Essential' in front of fatty acids. Fats are essential no matter how fat you are,” says Shah.
Most vitamins are soluble in fat. So if you are eating leafy vegetables and not eating fat, you will lose out on the vitamins. Fat-free foods are simpler when compared to fat. Fat is complex. There is a variety of fat including saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, so they involve a complex digestion process, which means your satiety and metabolic health remain stable.