What’s the Skinny on Fat?

Back in the early 90s, I remember gorging on Snackwell fat free chocolate cookies, biting into the not at all moist center, wishing, with each chew, that the taste of chalk would subside. It’s not as though I craved these domes of fluffed up chemicals, rather, I ate them because they tasted good enough for cookies that were healthy. In those moments of weakness I basically got high on sugar (the ingredient they used to replace fat), crashed, then would reach for the box and realize I had already finished the entire thing. I know I was not the only one.

The fat free movement may have started innocently enough - hydrogenated fats found in processed foods do cause cardiovascular disease. But the food industry capitalized on this by telling us we shouldn’t have any fat, and that we should only eat “fat free.” They created an untold number of new products that we had to purchase or else we would get fat. Or sick. Or die. Fat free crackers, yogurts, cheeses, milk. Heart healthy margarines and egg replacers.

“Fat” was a four letter word.

Until we learned, fat free was just another fad. The diet police were wrong, fat free foods don’t prevent weight gain. The health police discredited the movement as well; The British Medical journal confirmed in October 2013 that indeed, saturated fat was NOT bad for the heart. Time magazine told us to Eat Butter in 2014.

Yet, low and non fat foods continue to fly off the shelves. So why the disconnect?

Perhaps the food giants don’t want us consumers to understand the nuances between healthy fats and unhealthy fats, saturated or unsaturated, trans fats or hydrogenated fats. But know this, all fats are not created equal.

Good fats are essential. Good fats serve as the building blocks of our cell membranes and our hormones. We need good fat so that every organ in our body can function efficiently and effectively. Fat helps us burn energy slowly and it prevents us from craving carbohydrates. Fat is satiating so we are nourished without overeating. Fat does not compromise our cardiovascular system, promote weight gain or suck all of our energy. It is hydrogenated fats and trans fats and processed vegetable oils that are the real problem.

Good fats are fats that come from whole food sources, animals fats or cold pressed olive, flax and avocado oils (among others). Indulge in fatty fish, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, eggs. And try to break those old habits- drink whole milk, not skim. Eat full fat, not non fat yogurt.

And if you really want to eat a cookie, eat one cookie. One real cookie, made preferably from grass-fed butter, cream and organic, pastured eggs - not one of those nasty Snackwells.