We are continually told that fats are bad for health, and all too often people will try to eradicate fats entirely from their diet. It’s not actually that simple. The truth is that we need some fats, even for people who are trying to lose or control their weight. It all depends on the source of the fat.
Why Low-Fat Diets Are Misleading
Being on a low-fat diet might not necessarily be beneficial for your health, and especially because the very term “low-fat diet” encourages people to avoid fats altogether. However, some fats are good for your health and are needed to prevent serious illnesses including heart disease.
Unfortunately, when food manufacturers remove fats from a product, it is frequently replaced with something potentially less healthy, for example, a refined carbohydrate in the form of sugar.
Refined carbohydrates are a problem because they can cause a spike in insulin and blood sugar levels and are metabolized very quickly, so you end up feeling hungry sooner as these levels decline. Eating low-fat products could lead to overeating and potentially unwanted weight gain. Also, a very low-fat diet can be bad for dental health. If you try to cut out saturated fats entirely, you may be removing some foods that are very good for oral health and replacing them with foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugars that definitely aren’t beneficial for dental health.
Once you know the difference between bad fats and healthy fats, it is usually relatively easy to adjust your diet, ensuring you choose fats that are essential for good overall health.
If you try to cut out saturated fats entirely, you may be removing some foods that are very good for oral health and replacing them with foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugars that definitely aren’t beneficial for dental health.
Which Fats Should be Avoided?
Fats that are best avoided include trans-fats and saturated fats. These fats are typically found in processed foods such as cake mixes, cookies, French fries and margarine. The reason why these fats are so unhealthy is that they can increase LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Most of these fats are unhealthy because they have undergone a chemical process called hydrogenation which is used by manufacturers to ensure the fats in food don’t go bad. It is worth being particularly cautious about trans-fats because manufacturers can label a product as being free from trans-fats if the product contains less than 0.5g.
Thankfully, trans-fats have been eliminated from many foods, but it is still better to read the labels carefully. Saturated fats aren’t as harmful as trans-fats but can still negatively affect health and are best eaten in moderation. Foods that contain large amounts of saturated fats include cheese, butter, red meats and ice-cream. Saturated fats can also be found in some plant-based fats, for example palm oil, and coconut oil and milk.
Which are the Healthy Fats?
Healthy fats are unsaturated fats including omega-3 and linoleic and oleic acids. The body needs these fats to absorb fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E, and K. If you try to stick to a fat-free diet, your body won’t be able to get these essential vitamins. Vitamins A, D and K2 all play a role in maintaining good dental health. You’ll find good unsaturated fats in foods like avocados, and there’s another beneficial side-effect of eating healthy fats.
These foods help to increase satiety, so you feel fuller for longer because they take longer to digest. If you are trying to cut back on saturated fats like red meat, cheese and butter, replace them with foods containing healthy fats such as fish, chicken, nuts, beans and healthy oils.
Next time you shop for groceries, instead of choosing low-fat products, aim for foods that contain unsaturated fats. Avoid hydrogenated oils, saturated fats and trans-fats but don’t forget that fats aren’t always bad.
If you wish to learn more about how your dental health is affected by your diet and lifestyle, we’d love to help. Just use our convenient online form to request an appointment.