Keeping fat in your diet a good thing?

Tyler Frickson, Staff Reporter

Today many Americans have begun to villainize all types of fat within an everyday diet.  This is because of an oversimplification of dietary recommendations that began to spring up in the 1970s.  During this period, there was accumulating evidence from both animal and human studies that showed that a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol put the subject as a high risk factor for cardiovascular disease; therefore, various dietary guidelines began to encourage people to eat less fat.  The trick that people today must realize, is that we must distinguish the bad fat from the good.  

Although health advice had revolved around saturated fats from high-fat animal foods, many people generalized this advice to be attributed to all fats, choosing to replace them with various reduced-fat or fat-free foods high in carbohydrates such as crackers or sweetened yogurts.  However, due to this increased consumption of these types of carbohydrates, refined starches and sugars are on the rise that have helped to attribute to an increase in obesity as well as Type 2 diabetes.  

Many experts now say that their past efforts to correct dietary issues that caused heart disease or strokes have caused the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction.  

Dr. Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology said, “The mistake made in earlier dietary guidelines was an emphasis on low-fat without emphasizing the quality of carbohydrates, creating the impression that all fats are bad and all carbs are good.”

He explained how saturated fats, such as meat and dairy products, can raise blood levels of cholesterol which is not healthy, but monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, does not raise cholesterol or fat-clogging deposits despite it having as many calories as meat or dairy products.  

Mitchell Schrampfer, a junior at UW-La Crosse said, “I never really took the time to think about fats or carbohydrates, I just thought that if there was fat in it, it was considered unhealthy.”  

This only helps to contribute to the issues of unclear dietary guidelines involving carbohydrates and fats, and must be explained in a more clear fashion, such as the case with sugars.  

Sugars are simple carbohydrates while starches are complex carbohydrates; ultimately, they are both broken down into glucose which the body then circulates into the blood.  Sugars can be digested relatively quickly allowing for a faster rise in blood glucose, but a starch can take much longer to break down and digest.  

It is important to note that there are exceptions, such as refined carbohydrates, like white bread and white rice.  Starchy foods that are highly processed grains have been stripped of dietary fibers and then act more like sugar in the body.  They become rapidly digested and absorbed, raising blood levels of glucose and prompting more production of insulin in the process.  When these types of foods are eaten in excess of the body’s need for immediate and stored energy, these refined cards and sugars can cause insulin resistance and cause fatty liver disease.  

Ultimately, it comes down to the old phrase: you are what you eat.  Be mindful of both beneficial and harmful fats to know what is ok in moderation.  The only sure way to monitor a diet is to be properly informed.