Celebrate The Year of Fat

YearOfFatIf there’s one thing we can say for sure about diets and nutrition it’s this: everything old is new again.  Fads and trends fade away and then come back.  It’s like there’s a Nutrition Zodiac cycle, much like the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac.  The Nutrition Zodiac might look like this:

  1. The Year of Low Calorie
  2. The Year of High Fiber
  3. The Year of Low Fat
  4. The Year of Superfood
  5. The Year of Low Carb
  6. The Year of Clean
  7. The Year of Grapefruit
  8. The Year of Protein
  9. The Year of Soy
  10. The Year of Natural
  11. The Year of No Sugar
  12. The Year of Fat

Thanks to a growing body of research evidence, we’ve cycled back to The Year of Fat.  Early last year, the US Dietary Guidelines scientific panel released updated recommendations without any specific limits on fat intake.  It was a first, and the panel of health and nutrition experts was clearly persuaded by years of research showing that:

  • diets high in plant-derived fats are linked to better health
  • low fat diets high in refined carbohydrates are linked to worse health

And some people aren’t just suggesting that a higher fat intake is OK; they’re saying fat is actually healthy, and the more the merrier.  Exhibit A: the steak and chocolate-heavy diet, promoted by anti-carb crusader Dr. Robert Ludwig in his new book “Always Hungry?”  He claims eating a high fat diet, including generous doses of saturated fat, is not only healthy, but will help you lose weight.

[OK, I could digress into a rant about this premise.  Instead I’ll simply say that this is clearly the precursor to the next cycle of The Year of Low Fat, when everyone finally abandons the false promise that loading up on fat will make you thin and healthy.]

Despite the daring stance against fat phobia taken by the Dietary Guidelines committee, the nutritional orthodoxy of low fat lingers in the food supply.  We still have products like low fat ice cream (an oxymoron and also tasteless), low fat salad dressing (a worse oxymoron) and low fat cheese (insulting).  Has all this low fat helped us be thinner or healthier?  No, as the fat crusaders are eager to point out.  So onward to The Year of Fat, in reaction to the false promise of Low Fat.  As readers of the Radio Nutrition blog know, I’m not an advocate of Low Fat.  Sure it works on paper, eating all those tasteless engineered low fat products meant to look like the real thing. The real problem with a Low Fat Diet: no one can stick to it.  It’s tasteless and unsatisfying. So everyone cheats.  Plus they think because a food is ‘low fat’, they can pig out on it.  Result: excess calorie intake, leading to weight gain, health problems and diet failure.

If you’re going to celebrate The Year of Fat in a nutritionally sane manner, do it in moderation and choose healthful plant-based fats from nuts, oil seeds and avocado.  It may be the Year of Fat, but fat is still high calorie and not filling.  You can load up on a lot of high fat food before your stomach signals ‘Enough!‘.

There are plenty of ways to include healthy plant fats in your diet.  Here are 16 ideas for 2016:

  1. Add nuts to oatmeal
  2. Eat more peanut butter
  3. Sprinkle chopped nuts on tossed salad
  4. Toss chunky vegetables in olive oil and roast
  5. Add avocado chunks to a chopped salad
  6. Ditch the non-stick pans: cook with oil
  7. Use an oil-based vinaigrette on tossed salad
  8. Toss pasta in olive oil before serving
  9. Baste lean meats or fish with oil before grilling
  10. Spread avocado on your morning toast
  11. Snack on a wrap made with tahini or cashew butter and chopped vegetables
  12. Instead of frozen french fries, fry fresh potato slices in oil
  13. Pack nuts for your afternoon snack
  14. Dip bread in a flavorful olive oil
  15. Use avocado on sandwiches instead of cheese
  16. Add chopped walnuts to spaghetti sauce instead of ground beef

Take Away Message

The Year of Fat can be a good thing.  Food will taste better and be more satisfying.  Just don’t overdo it.

Here’s a link to more detailed information on dietary fat.

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