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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Is eating "fat" still considered to be bad for you?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (26834points) July 25th, 2011

I don’t watch my fat intake at all.
I don’t eat much in the way of greasy or fried foods, so that isn’t something that I have to watch. However, I eat plenty of nuts and oils and dairy products. I also eat eggs and other foods that are high in cholesterol, although my cholesterol readings are always excellent. High cholesterol beginning at a very young age runs rampant in my family, much younger than I am, but my readings have never been short of great.

I thought the whole low-fat thing was decided to be overrated and unnecessary?

How the heck are we supposed to keep up with the messages about what is healthy and what isn’t if they keep changing the story??

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37 Answers

Aethelflaed's avatar

I think fat is now fine, it’s carbs we have to worry about. Yeah, I don’t really pay much attention either – if I’m worrying, I cut out deserts, then cut down on everything but salad. But I really don’t pay much attention to the Great Health Debate.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I’m asking this question with a handful of cashews, so answer carefully if you don’t want to have nuts chucked at you. ;)
Just kidding!

tom_g's avatar

Low-fat diets can lead to weight gain.

“How the heck are we supposed to keep up with the messages about what is healthy and what isn’t if they keep changing the story?”

Good question. Sometimes the story changes because of new data. Sometimes it just takes a long time for the old information to get out. The low-fat diet myth was debunked years ago, but I still meet people who tell me that they are eating low-fat yogurt and drinking skim milk to try to lose weight.
Currently eating cashews.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@tom_g are you really??

On a personal note, an extremely low-fat diet (long term) caused my gallbladder to crap out on me.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@tom_g And sometimes different scientists come up with two different answers to the same question.

tom_g's avatar

Just closed the bag.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@tom_g we should do lunch! You clearly have great taste.

tom_g's avatar

@Aethelflaed – Right. But no scientists have argued that eating low-fat is healthy for a long time, unless I missed it.

tom_g's avatar

I’ll bring the cashews!

tedibear's avatar

My understanding is that fat “should” comprise about 30% of your calories, with no more than 10% of that being saturated fat.
Now I want cashews.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@tom_g Yes and no. The problem is, what exactly is “low” fat? It’s a subjective term, not a scientific one. And fat often accompanies the protein that we so desperately do need, so many who are trying to loose weight cut out the foods that also give them valuable nutrients. And then you have to take into account that not everyone’s nutritional needs are the same, so a lot of these vague and over-general recommendations become useless to the individual.

MacBatman31's avatar

In the words of the Great Emeril Lagasse, “Pork fat RULES!”

Mariah's avatar

This is why I have pretty much given up following what “they” say is a healthful diet; I follow my instincts, mostly. (Not to mention the fact that what is healthy for one person is not necessarily healthy for another). It’s ridiculously convoluted.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You just have to learn your fats. Generally plant fats are ok, except for the tropical ones (coconut, etc) animal fats aren’t good in large amounts, and hydrogenated fats are really bad. About 65 grams max of fat a day is the recommendation.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I thought they took coconut off of the list. I was under the impression that coconut fat is actually quite good for you.

snowberry's avatar

The medical system, what we call “modern medicine” runs in fads just like the rest of the world, but they are all “scientific analysis” so to speak. I remember years ago when discussions like the advantages of organic food, the problems with hydrogenated oils, and other such were considered nonsense, or approaching quackery. And they were “scientifically analyzed” then too.

gasman's avatar

Yes, of course, for at least 3 reasons:

(1) Unlike protein and carbs which contain 4 calories per gram, fat contains 9 cal/g (more than double) so you quickly ingest calories & develop or worsen obesity.

(2) Your gallbladder works harder & increases risk of stones & disease.

(3) Your arteries build atherosclerotic plaque—heart attack and stroke.

Completely cutting out fat from your diet, however, is probably both impossible and unhealthy. There are certain fatty acids beneficial in the diet to promote a healthy nervous system, which uses proportionately more fat. Saturated fats (the molecule’s carbon backbone is saturated with hydrogen atoms) and trans-fats are associated with cardiovascular disease by boosting LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels in the body and should both be avoided. Other types of fat are healthier.

Unfortunately the dietary info on US food packaging allows them to claim “0 trans fat” below a certain threshold, which might nonetheless be harmful to eat. Walnuts are healthier than potato chips, gram for gram of fat.

Really, you should consult with a doctor or a professional dietitian.

If you’re already overweight, time to face the music & reduce your fat intake.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

There’s a difference between good fats and bad fats. Eating nuts and oils and such are really good fats. And despite popular belief, coconut oil is really good for you, and has been shown to reduce problems with thyroid and even ADD/ADHD. Eggs are good for you. So is animal fat to a certain extent. The worst thing to indulge in (which I do frequently) is simple carbs.

Complex carbs are great, but simple carbs, like breads, pastas and rice are really unhealthy, as simple carbs convert directly into sugar in your body. Eating a piece of bread, even “whole wheat” bread is just as bad as eating a few tablespoons of sugar. Whole wheat bread is no healthier than white bread. What you want is 100% whole grain bread. My girls like the “Ezekiel Bread” in the frozen/organic section of the grocery store. I, being the junk food addict, can’t stand the Ezekiel bread, and I eat the unhealthy crap.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Essentially what I’m getting from this thread is the same thing that I get from reading things on the internet and watching the nightly news.

We have no idea.

@gasman, I wasn’t really looking for health advice. I’m just attempting to sort out the barrage of information about what’s healthy and what isn’t. I’m generally pretty content with my diet, overall. Especially from a nutritional standpoint. But thanks for the advice, anyhow.

ucme's avatar

This guy seems to enjoy a light snack & he’s as thin as a rake!

Aethelflaed's avatar

Just looking at a lot of the posts, it seems like perhaps it is possible to know what’s good and what’s bad – but, you’ll need a degree in nutrition or medicine (or at least an amateur’s obsession) in order to muddle through it all.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I wasn’t up on the coconut being moved from the bad list to the good list. My bad.

Scooby's avatar

Read this article, it’s a bit of an eye opener & strangely enough it’s more or less the eating regime I have for myself :-/
I guess that’s why I’m so fit & healthy ;-) but I do exercise a lot too…....

gasman's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf “How the heck are we supposed to keep up with the messages about what is healthy and what isn’t if they keep changing the story??”

A never-ending problem with medical science. Following the evidence will sometimes take you in circles! To their credit, top-tier scientists who issue public recommendations are acting in good faith based on an ever-changing picture. When NIH or a major university makes a pronouncement, you can accept it. Other purveyors of dietary information not so much. (With information, as with fat, it seems that what kind is more important than how much.) Phony claims are as old as humanity – don’t trust anybody promoting a product or a service! Online this translates into .gov or .edu websites for reliable info.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@gasman .gov websites have a pesky habit of having their content decided by politicians, not scientists.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@gasman oh, I agree. I didn’t mean to imply that there was malicious intent. Though, I am aware of intent driven by profits. The information just seems to be ever-changing, and this was really my attempt to catch the latest news.
Seems the latest news on this particular topic is still all over the place.

gasman's avatar

@Aethelflaed Yes, and .edu is sometimes in bed with .com as well! But NIH, CDC, and a few other agencies are usually trustworthy, don’t you think? Are you cynical or am I naive? Fortunately diet and nutrition are not politically hot as other health-related issues such as abortion or gun control.

@ANef_is_Enuf You mentioned eggs and that’s one food in particular that’s undergone reversals over the decades. “Bad for you”...“Well, maybe not so bad”...“Yes, bad after all”...Etc…” Now I avoid egg yolks if I have a choice, but not entirely sure.

My family history and lifestyle collided last year when I needed a coronary angioplasty, so I have some new-found interest in dietary fat.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@gasman I’m rather cynical, I’ll admit that. But it’s more that not only do you have to monitor the agencies constantly because of elections to find out if perhaps there’s a controversial appointment (which is usually more obscure political news than the average American will know about), but that these are sort of “lesser” agencies in a myriad of conflicting agencies. For example, if you want to know if spinach is currently good for you, who do you turn to? The FDA? The USDA? The NIH? On the whole, I like the NIH and the CDC – but I think doctors are far more likely to be the ones looking to them than the average citizen, who relies more on evening news and news outlet blogs to find out info. And I don’t think many doctors are going to go “Oh, well, the CDC says so” without also going ”and these several peer-reviewed articles, upon which the CDC based their recommendation”. And with various diets and restrictions, from veganism to glutton-free to ova-lacto-vegitarianism to “cutting out processed wheats and sugars from your child’s diet will solve all their problems”, coupled with obesity and the ensuing drama, I think food is actually extremely political in an underground sort of way.

snowberry's avatar

Good point, @Aethelflaed

This is not about fat, but it is a window into the inner working of the FDA. This article is about how Nutrasweet became legalized through the FDA.

I’m thinking the CDC, the USDA, and all the rest have similar history.

gasman's avatar

The FDA obviously accommodated the food industry with labeling loopholes like one I mentioned earlier allowing them to (falsely) round down certain ingredient levels to zero. Still, the FDA represents the strongest nutritional labeling requirements anywhere in the world. Consumerism is a persistent force. well, maybe not in China…

snowberry's avatar

Sorry, I intended to put in this article.

incendiary_dan's avatar

It’s the type of fat that matters. Fat from unhealthy, factory farmed animals is bad. Fat from soy and corn is pretty bad for you. Fat from olive oil, wild and pastured meat and fish, nuts, etc. are good.

Generally, if you look at the sorts of fats that are readily available to us naturally in abundance, you’ll see that they tend to be the ones that are good for us. Because, you know, it’s what we adapted eating.

Blueroses's avatar

I liked Fathead, a documentary exploring the mythology, science and politics of vilifying fats in our diet.

The film is available on Netflix streaming and it’s quite entertaining as well as informative. It makes an interesting counterpart to Supersize Me.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Many, many essential nutrients are fat soluble. Forgot to mention that.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, not at all. Especially healthy fats. They are not bad, they are beneficial. Even required.

“Fat-free” or “Low fat” written in large letters on packaged food loaded with sugar or refined concentrated carbohydrates are a scam. You will soon be hungry again, while a good dose of healthy fat in a meal also rich in proteins, complex carbs and fibers will keep your digestive system busy for a long time without signaling your brain, hey, time for the next low-fat snack.

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