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Dr. Ezinne Meribe: Fat is Not Your Enemy

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In recent times, thanks to the increased awareness for healthy eating and largely due to increased efforts to combat the ‘obesity epidemic’ and heart disease in the West, low fat foods flooded the market. You may ask what has West got to do with how we all eat? We are largely influenced by Western media and since in the world of science, we always look up to them for new frontiers in research, we swallowed the low-fat evangelism – hook, line and sinker. Note that the rise in obesity and heart disease may have had more to do with the increasing sedentary lifestyle.

The argument against fat was that fat was making us fat and we needed to replace all that fat with carbohydrates. Fat was kicked out from food production, food manufacturers had to come up with a better way to make the foods more palatable – what did we get? Processed low-fat foods high in sugar.

This led to a lot of misconceptions and sadly an increase in the same diseases that we set out to prevent. (please note that carbs are not the enemy either. Good nutrition basically entails having a sizable amount of all classes of food during meal times). Contrary to what the manufacturers say, “low fat” foods contain as much calories as the ones that contain regular fat (if not more). The low-fat label was simply a guise to sell more products.

I cringe when I see people promote low fat foods as part of a healthy diet or for weight loss. Thanks to this trend, it is common to have clients tell me on our first coaching call ‘oh I have been eating low-fat A or low-fat B’. My advice is always, ‘throw it away, you don’t need it’. You are better off eating your full fat in moderation, getting all the amazing benefits of good quality fat and ditching all that over-processed sugar (too many chemical bonds) that your body has to struggle to digest.

The fat you want to avoid are the fats that raise cholesterol levels, clog the arteries and cause overall problems to the heart and organs. These are the trans fats usually on the ingredients list as partially hydrogenated oil.

Most foods labelled low fat contain trans-fat. This fat is gotten by adding hydrogen to the natural fats to make it solid that way, it can stay longer on the shelves. Trans fat increases risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Again, low fat foods contain stunning amounts of sugar which keeps the consumer hooked on the product – think food addiction & cravings. These sugars also come from refined carbs. Our bodies digest refined carbs more quickly. As a result, this will cause a spike in the blood sugar, increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol levels.

They are also laden with salt/MSG to enhance taste. High salt content can cause high blood pressure. (Also note, not your regular table salt).

The good news is fat is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, maintaining healthy blood vessels and the correct functioning of the nervous system. It helps the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and minerals. It is also a great source of energy.

Did you know your hormones are made from fat? Eliminating good quality fat from our meals will result in deficiency of these vitamins and that can impact your immunity and limit the body’s ability to heal itself.

Here are some foods that contain the healthy fats your body will be grateful for.

Seeds and nuts – walnuts, flax seeds, chia etc.

Fish – Salmon, mackerel, sardines, cord, are great sources of healthy fat. They are rich in Omega 3 which is essential to maintain optimum health.

Avocado – Full of healthy fats, they’re also abundant in vitamin K, B vitamins, potassium and much more. If you cannot stand eating it alone, there are so many ways to incorporate it into your meal daily – using it as a spread on your toast, adding it to your smoothie blend (powers up your smoothie and keeps you fuller for longer), adding it to a salad or having it as a side dish.

Eggs: Rich in protein and healthy fats. Be sure to always include the yolk as well as the egg whites, to get the best of both worlds. In the past we were made to believe the yolk was full of cholesterol and not good for the body. Just in case you haven’t read the latest news/research, egg yolks are good for you. I mean what is an egg without the yolk?

Don’t forget your oils too. Oils like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil.

And if you love a warm glass of milk like me (except you are lactose intolerant), please say goodbye to skimmed milk, that is the height of punishment.

In summary, there is a lot of evidence to show that healthy sources of fat improve heart health. There is no long-term benefit of low-fat diets with regards to weight loss and disease reduction.

Eating your fats from whole food options is your best bet, but if you must get it in packed foods, ditch the low-fat labels in front and inspect the food label at the back closely. Reading your food label is a great way to ensure that the food actually contains the promises on the packet. Most importantly, get active. Make it a habit to take ‘walking breaks’ while at work. Find an activity you love and get in your feeling with it.

The problem is not that we are eating fat, the real problem is – we are not using it for fuel.

References

  1. Margarine intake and subsequent coronary heart disease in men: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9229205
  2. Serial measures of circulating biomarkers of dairy fat and total and cause-specific mortality in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/advance-article/doi/10.1093/ajcn/nqy117/5052139?guestAccessKey=c18b1acf-2778-42b9-8d72-878c0e86cdbf

Dr. Ezinne Meribe is the host of Beyond A Dress Size podcast; a podcast series that creates stimulating conversations to pull down misconceptions on nutrition, weight loss, health and body diversity while empowering women to live life beyond the numbers on the dress label, scale or tape.She leverages her professional qualifications and personal experience to teach women how to OWN & LOVE their bodies and LIVE in it fabulously; having successfully won the struggle with being overweight and loving her body. A UK certified Wellness Professional, she is a trained Body Positive facilitator who is also certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). She strongly believes that for many women, the struggle with weight loss is deeper than the presence or absence of food on our plate.She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) with a postgraduate training in Public Health from Kumamoto University, Japan. As a Medical Doctor and Public Health Specialist, she continues to promote preventive medicine as the number one way to combat the severe health system constraints in developing countries. She is a contributing author for BellaNaija and Women of Rubies and her work has also been featured on Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, MetrowomanNg, MumpreneurNg and TheWCommunity.You can connect with her onInstagram @beyondadresssizeFacebook @beyondadresssize Read more on Medium @ezinnemeribeOr send an email to [email protected]

9 Comments

  1. Moyo O.

    July 23, 2018 at 7:49 am

    Thank you for this!. I have always questioned the idea of x-free or y-free diets like those things dont have their use in our bodies. So glad to hear this from a professional.

    • Ezinne Meribe

      July 23, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Thank you for reading Moyo

  2. chu-chu

    July 23, 2018 at 9:50 am

    This article made me so happy!!! now I can enjoy my full cream milk without feeling any guilt.

    • Ezinne Meribe

      July 23, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      ??? full cream milk, an active lifestyle (walking & dancing) and a joyful heart

  3. chu-chu

    July 23, 2018 at 10:11 am

    This article made me so happy!!! Now I can enjoy my full cream milk, guilt free…

  4. Aderonke

    July 23, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Thank God for this article. I am on the slim side but I worry for alot of my friends on the plus size who are desperate to be slim and I just know this can’t be totally right.

    So glad I read this. I will share the link with them too

    Thank you

    • Ezinne Meribe

      July 23, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      Thank you for sharing?

  5. Fizzy

    July 23, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks Dr. I like my milk but I have been punishing myself in the last two years with semi skimmed milk. Coffee doesn’t taste the same anymore.

  6. ejayz

    July 23, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    I appreciate this article and the knowledge passed.However,the underlying statement which was clearly stated is,read your LABELS!!!
    As much as I agree with some of the message here, May I add that because this is coming from a professional, doesn’t mean its a one size fits all.
    Educate YOURSELF on whats best for your INDIVIDUAL health.

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