By: Lucy Nelson, Guest Blogger
Since the 1980’s fat has been villainized as the cause of weight gain and heart disease. Products parade low-fat labels in order to persuade consumers that they are healthier. But the replacements for natural fat are as bad, if not worse, and fats are a necessary part of a balanced diet.
In order to maintain flavor in low-fat products, the fats are replaced with sugar and altered vegetable oils, some of which contain trans-fat. The result is a product higher in sugar and carbohydrates that your body burns faster. The quickly digested low-fat products lead to blood sugar swings and cravings, making it even harder to control your eating habits.
Fats are important in helping our body absorb vitamins. By providing our bodies fatty acids, such as omega-3 which are essential fats that we must acquire through food, we can maintain nerve function and produce hormones that promote healthy heart and blood vessel activity. Low-fat diets can lead to a deficit in vitamins A, D, E, and K which in turn can lower immunity and the body’s ability to heal.
Healthy fats and How to Include Them
Foods high in healthy fats include avocados, fish, nuts (especially walnuts), olive oil, flaxseed, and leafy vegetables. Full fat milk, yogurt, and peanut butter also contain helpful fats and vitamins.
- Try making your own trail mix with different nuts and dried fruits to substitute snacking on chips.
- Avocado is a great topper for toast in the morning (or any other time!).
- Replace mayonnaise with plain yogurt, just add a bit of lemon juice and a few choice herbs such as chives or rosemary. (This is a great dip as well!)
- Top salads with flaxseed, or add a spoonful to smoothies.
Sugar-free products also contain replacements and additives counterproductive to health. Sugar substitutes are much harder for our bodies to digest and can sometimes cause digestive issues. Some studies have even shown that artificial sweeteners are addictive. Many countries have banned alternative sweeteners on account of health concerns.
The best way to watch sugar intake is to make better choices instead of trying to trick our bodies with chemicals. If you think of how we used to eat, before civilization and grocery stores, sugar was hard to come by. The sweetest things, fruit and honey, were either paired with lots of fiber or protected by stinging sentries. So while a chocolate bar or a soda every once and awhile won’t kill you, it’s best to try to eat sugar in its natural forms.
Natural Sugar and Where to Find It
- Fruits! Make a yummy smoothie instead of buying a carton of ice cream.
- Honey is great sweetener and has added effects of immune support.
- Maple syrup (the real stuff) contains minerals and antioxidants, but it is still sugar so use sparingly. It’s great for fall flavors in treats.
- While fruit juice is natural sugar, keep in mind that a glass of orange juice probably amounts to four or five oranges. You wouldn’t eat that many oranges in one sitting, and it is possible to overdo natural sugars.
- Buy plain yogurt and add your own sweetness with fruit, honey, or maple syrup. That way you know just how much is in each serving.
About the Author: Lucy was born in Western North Carolina. She is a current student at UNC Chapel Hill. While engaged in a yoga teacher training program, Lucy became concerned with mental, emotional, and physical health. She hopes to discover a career that involves these concerns.