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The "Low Fat" Message - Marketing propaganda or a healthy lifestyle choice?

In a country struggling to control its weight, large multinational food producers and marketing companies have a captive audience. Turn on the television, open a glossy magazine or newspaper and the message is the same - eat low fat!

Food producers across the Western world have spent billions of dollars promoting the "low-fat" message to boost the sales of their "low-fat", "light" and "fat-free" products. Hearing the message loud and clear, consumers are trending more and more towards these products in the hope that eating low-fat will help to shed their excess kilo's.

In fact the Women's Health Initiative - a 100 million dollar U.S. study on women's health - enrolled 50,000 women in a trial, putting half of them on a diet that provided only 20 per cent of their calories from fat. After three years they had lost, on average, just one kilogram! - So much for the long term success of low fat diets.

Whilst much of the population has been told that all fat is bad for you (hence the popularity of the low-fat diet), fat is actually an essential part of any diet. In addition to supplying energy, fats act as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D E and K. Removing fat from the diet also removes these important vitamins. By aiding the absorption of vitamin D, fats help to make calcium available to the body's tissues, bones and teeth.

If we look at the digestive process, we quickly see another important role of fat in the diet. Because fats take longer than protein and carbohydrate to digest, they provide a longer-lasting sensation of fullness after a meal - meaning we are less tempted to snack.

Many experts now agree that fatty acid deficiency is a problem in Australia. They believe that fat itself is not the problem we have been told it was, but rather, it's the kind of fat we eat and what we eat with the fat that is the real issue.

Saturated Fats generally come from animal sources, and are found in fatty cuts of meat, offal, sausages, dairy products etc. These fats tend to stay solid at room temperature (like the fat on a pork chop).

Where possible, saturated fats should be minimized because they:

* Tend to raise bad (LDL - Low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels.

* Lead to atherosclerosis (the hardening of artery walls that eventually causes coronary heart disease.)

* Unsaturated fats generally come from plant sources (like canola, or olive oil). Unlike saturated fats, they tend to be liquid at room temperature.

Where possible, monounsaturated fats should be included in the diet in moderate amounts because they:

* Tend to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and raise good (HDL - High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol levels.

* Slow your digestion, making you feel satisfied for longer (less likely to crave sweet high carbohydrate junk food.)

Types of unsaturated fats that should be included in everyones diet include:

Almonds

Linseeds

Sunflower seeds

Extra virgin olive oil

Avocado

Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines, which are full of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Whilst we advocate eating less saturated fat where possible, we do not think people should cut fat out of their diet at the expense of eating higher levels of processed carbohydrates like sugars, white flour, pasta etc.

Unfortunately, in a rush to sell their products, food manufacturers have put out so many high carbohydrate / low fat products that many people are now eating exactly the wrong types of food.

Have you unwittingly cut all of the good fats out of your diet?