If you search “clean eating” on Google, millions of pages pop up claiming to be the expert on diets and losing weight. But how do you know what’s really true?
When I was searching for ways to better my diet and lifestyle, one of the main messages I kept seeing was that “eating fat makes you fat,” pointing me to a low-fat diet, which seemed easy enough. Walk through any grocery store and there are tons of boxes that have “low-fat” written in big, bold letters to appeal to the clean-eating crowd.
However, as I continued in my clean-eating journey and did more research, I learned this saying has no basis in truth whatsoever.
It’s a myth. Here’s why.
Fat Doesn’t Make You Eat More
A lot of the evidence used to back the “fat makes you fat” rule is that eating foods that are high in fat makes it easier to overeat, which makes sense when you look at the numbers. Fat has nine calories per gram. Carbs and protein have four calories per gram. So it makes sense that eating a low-fat diet would essentially cut the calories you’re eating while still allowing you to have big portions.
However, our bodies, being the incredible organisms they are, have built-in calorie counters that tell us when to stop eating. This internal counter knows how to adjust for foods with higher calorie counts per gram, so it will tell us to stop eating sooner when we’re eating fats than if we were eating carbs or proteins. Therefore, eating low-fat foods really doesn’t do anything for us except allow our bodies to eat a little bit more before we feel full.
One of the exceptions to this rule is junk food, which we all know is made to be addictive. In cases of high-fat junk food, our bodies won’t tell us when to stop eating — or if they do, we’ll ignore it. However, the problem here isn’t with the fat in the junk food — it’s just with junk food in general.
Food Isn’t Unhealthy Just Because It Contains Fat
Here’s something that’s true: Fat is necessary for us to live. It’s what we consider an essential nutrient, and if you don’t have any fat intake, your body will not respond well.
There is such a thing as healthy fats, believe it or not. For example, monounsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol levels while raising good cholesterol levels. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that come from butter help brain function and skin health. Other types of fats help with digestion, heart health and the immune system.
Also, a lot of these healthy fats are not produced naturally by our body, so the only way to reap the benefits is by getting them through our food intake. So, it’s easy to see that fats aren’t all bad.
It is true that fat does not contain any vitamins or minerals, but guess what? Neither do carbs or proteins! The vitamins and minerals come from the other ingredients in our foods, so claiming that fat is empty calories may be true technically, but it’s a fact that is taken very out of context.
Now, since we have to look at the foods we eat as a whole and not as fat or no fat, it makes sense to say that some foods that contain fat will be unhealthy and some foods that contain fat will be healthy, as is the case with basically everything else. For instance, pizza and bacon have fat and they aren’t the healthiest of foods, but they aren’t unhealthy just because they contain fat. Egg yolks, dairy products and certain meats also contain high levels of fat, but they are very nutritious!
The argument here shouldn’t be against foods that contain fat. It should be against simply unhealthy foods that happen to have fat in them.
Food companies and dieting “experts” will always try to make low-fat look good. It sells for a higher price, after all. But the truth is low-fat doesn’t really mean anything. A bag of low-fat Cheetos is much worse for you than a plate of high-fat egg yolks.
Fat is necessary for our survival, and it’s important to look at the entire make-up of a certain food rather than just the fact that there’s fat in it. Instead of staying away from foods because they contain fat, try staying away from foods because they’re processed and are considered junk food. Clean eating should mean eating whole foods that are natural and don’t have any chemicals or processed ingredients. And fat is natural. Eating clean does not mean avoiding fat, and eating fat does not make you fat.