For years we have been told repeatedly about the harmful effects of consuming fat:

–          “Fat is bad for your health”

–          “Eating fat will make you fat”

–          “Eating fat will increase your risk of heart disease and raise your cholesterol”

–          “Eating fat will increase your risk of a heart attack”

Grocery stores are filled with low fat or no fat food options that are marketed as healthy alternatives to their full fat counterparts and we are encouraged to consume them regularly as part of a healthy diet.  But what if all this time this information hasn’t been completely accurate?  What most people don’t know is that while many food options are marketed as healthy because they contain minimal fat, more often than not, this fat is replaced with large quantities of sugar to maintain a great taste.  Everyone knows that too much sugar is bad for your health and many people try to avoid consuming ‘junk foods’ such as sweets, cakes and soft drinks on a regular basis.  But many people are unaware of the sugar hidden in processed foods and low fat ‘healthy’ alternatives.

When we consume carbohydrates and sugars they are broken down in our bodies to the monosaccharides glucose, fructose and galactose.  These monosaccharides are used as the energy source for our cells with glucose and fructose being the most common in the average American diet.  In response to increased levels of glucose in the body, our pancreas secretes the hormone insulin which moves glucose from our bloodstream into our cells.  Once our cells have all the energy they need, excess glucose gets stored in adipose cells which are the cells that make up the fat that accumulates on our stomach, thighs, arms etc.  Consuming large amounts of sugary processed foods and carbohydrates also results in bursts of energy or a ‘sugar high’ which is quickly followed by a low that can leave you feeling fatigued and lacking in energy, motivation and the ability to concentrate.  Our bodies use glucose as its preferred energy source but our bodies are also able to run on fat.  Including healthy fats in your diet help to avoid the energy highs and lows of eating high carbohydrate or high sugar meals or snacks.  Unsaturated fats from wholefoods such as avocadoes, olive oil, nuts and seeds can actually improve your overall health.  These natural sources also contain fiber which helps clear out your gut.  These naturally occurring healthy fats can help lower your cholesterol, protect against heart disease, help you lose weight as they promote fat burning, helps keep you fuller for longer and improves concentration and brain function.  The inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids from sources such as oily fish also have wide ranging benefits including anti-inflammatory effects.

Despite the numerous benefits of fat, it is very important to note that not all fat is the same.  The consumption of trans-fats and unhealthy saturated fats commonly found in highly processed foods such as fried foods, cakes and pastries contribute to ‘bad’ cholesterol in your blood and increase the risk of heart disease.  Therefore, it is apparent that the single most important factor to consider in relation to fat in our diets is the source that it comes from.  Healthy, naturally occurring fats help to improve the quality of our diet, of our health and of our overall well-being.  So why not swap the high sugar or high carbohydrate option for a healthy high fat alternative?  Your body (and waistline) will thank you for it.

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