1980s and 1990s:
Stick to a low fat. Low fat diets, especially those low in saturated fats, prevent heart disease.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Thus, as I began reading about nutrition and calories in the 1980s, I began my targeting the most obvious culprit: FAT! I embarked on a “low fat” and “low saturated fat” craze. Out went full cream milk, full fat cheese, regular stir-fried vegetables, meat, chicken and fish. “Too much oil, too much saturated fat, too many calories!” I thought. In came 0.1% low fat milk, low-fat cottage cheese, raw or steamed vegetables (healthy but devoid of flavor), boiled or steamed meat, chicken and fish without added oil or salt. What happened when I ate out? Much to the annoyance of my family, I would ask for bowls of hot water to “rinse off” as much of the oil or sauces.
Guess what? I wasn’t exactly healthy despite these changes. I fell sick often and my skin, especially on my legs, was dry and scaly. And my skin didn’t have a healthy glow either. It looked eerily grey-green-white! (Years later, a friend of mine would coin the term “corpse grey” for me.)
So what had happened? I had created a nutritional imbalance in my diet. I didn’t realize that many essential vitamins, such as Vitamin A, E, D and K, were fat soluble. By removing as much “fat” as I could from my every day eating, I was also not getting the full range of nutrients I needed.
Fast forward to the 2000s:
Go ahead, add fat back into your diet!
What a u-turn! When I first read the articles and the research recommending this, I was in complete shock. Apprehensively, I went ahead and added a lot more fat back into my diet and stopped worrying about its caloric content.
Where did I start? I began with the oil which was widely believed to have the best benefits: olive oil. Olive oil is a monosaturated oil, which means it lowers your Low Density Lippoproteins (LDLs) a.ka. "bad cholesterol", while it raises your High Density Lippoproteins (HDLs) a.k.a "good cholesterol"!
At least 2-3 times a week, I add 1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil at breakfast with my eggs and salad. I also use it quite liberally in stir fries, roasted meats and vegetables. It adds great flavor and the added fat, keeps me full for longer as it takes more time to digest than carbohydrates.
I was worried that I would gain weight on my “higher fat” diet, but I didn’t. I was worried that my blood cholesterol levels would change for the worse. They didn’t. My good to bad cholesterol ratios improved. I even tried cutting back on exercise too to see if I would gain weight. I didn’t.
Oh and my skin looks better now! Would I ever deliberately want go back to eating the “low fat” way? Absolutely not! Adding good fat back into my every day eating is just one of my eating essentials. Good fat is good for you.
Contemplating how best to add more fat into your diet? Besides olive oil, what fat should you consider? Which are good? Stay tuned for my next blog.