frustrated woman with green measuring tape around her mouthFear of fat is driving the obesity epidemic. Encouraged by recommendations of the American Heart Association we have lowered our fat intake to about one-third of our calories. That’s down  from about 43%  since the 1970’s. Ironically, the push to reduce fat intake has not had an impact on the obesity epidemic. In fact, as more of us substitute carbs and sugar for the fat we are trying to avoid, we are gaining even more weight. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes have not declined. They have actually increased. Let’s turn this around. Here are a few big, fat fat myths to avoid.

Myth 1: Low fat dairy products are the only way to go

Many people have made the switch to low or non-fat yogurt, milk and other dairy products to save calories – but not so fast. Researchers believe there is some benefit to full fat dairy products. For example, people who choose full fat dairy at least some of the time are less likely to be overweight or have high blood pressure. Those who, at least occasionally, choose full fat dairy products,  also live longer and are less likely to have type-2 diabetes than people who choose only low or no fat dairy products.

diet in progress warning sign illustration designMyth 2: Eating fat makes you fat

Our bodies actually need fat for better absorption of nutrients. Healthy fats also boost brain power and lead to greater satiety, so you are likely to consume fewer calories overall. Newly revised dietary guidelines advise that it is okay and even advised to include small amounts of fat with each meal. Just choose fats like olive oil, avocado, salmon and nuts  for better health and try to avoid fats like corn and palm oils and trans fats, which are not healthy.

Truth: Some fats are good for you

According to an article titled The Skinny on Fat, scientists are now concluding that there isn’t a strong link between dietary fat and heart disease. That’s in part why the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommended removing the limits on fat as a proportion of caloric intake. Previous guidelines had advised keeping total fat to 30% or less of calories. Now, they’re advising that those limits be completely lifted, while capping the consumption of saturated fats at 10% of total calories.

In fact, some researchers have found evidence that higher fat and lower carb diets are better for obesity and heart disease than low fat diets. Their advice –  Cut back on sugar and consume healthy fats. Avoid partially hydrogenated trans-fat, these are often found in packaged foods and snacks. Limit saturated fats – these are found in butter, meat and other animal products. Green light polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats – find these in avocados and olive oil (avoid overheating or the benefits will be lost).

When it comes to good nutrition the key is balance and breadth. Eat from a variety of minimally processed food sources. Reject fad diets and opt instead for moderation. Finally, include healthy fats and reduce sugar and carbs for overall health and healthy weight.