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Why Dietary Fat Does Not Make You Fat

For an unfortunate amount of time, the world raged a war against fats. Incorrect claims stated that high dietary fat intake would increase body fat content and elevate chronic disease risk. For nearly 3 decades, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets dominated the diet industry, with peer-reviewed articles displaying the benefits of the diet in controlled, but still limited, experiments. Yet, one-third of the nation’s population still struggles with obesity and chronic diseases associated with it, including metabolic syndrome and Type II diabetes.

A few simple facts on fat:

  1. Fat has 9 calories per gram; carbohydrates and protein each have 4 calories per gram. Even though fat has more than twice the calories of carbohydrates, eating more carbohydrates than fat will not necessarily keep your waistline in check.

  2. Fat does not generate an insulin response, but carbohydrates and protein can.

  3. Dietary fat breaks down into fatty acids (and a bit of glucose from glycerol).

When you eat a high-carbohydrate meal, your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that causes your cells to take up blood glucose from your previous meal. Insulin essentially stops the body from burning its own fat stores and causes the cells to absorb the glucose in the blood for proper cell function and to turn excess glucose into new body fat.

When you eat a high-fat, low-carbohydrate meal, the pancreas produces less insulin because there is less serum glucose available to the cells. This means that not only is the body more inclined to burn its own stored body fat for energy, but also that insulin spikes and drops do not occur as sharply, leading to increased satiety.

The basis of eating a diet that is higher in fat and fiber than it is in simple-carbohydrates is something that has defined our species through the majority of our evolution. Also, keep in mind that dairy products are grouped in the “carb” category on portion exchange lists for diabetic patients (1 cup of dairy = 1 slice of bread).

To sum up, you can’t go wrong with non-starchy vegetables, high-fat fruits like olives, coconuts, and avocados, seeds, nuts, or lean proteins, all of which are whole, minimally-processed foods. The best way to prevent excessive glucose intake is to avoid high intake of grain, dairy, and high-carbohydrate fruit products. These ingredients are found more often in refined, processed foods. This is not a coincidence - low-fat, highly processed foods are more likely to cause unmanageable weight gain than the consumption of dietary fat from less processed sources.

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