There’s this big ol’ myth out there that refuses to die, and it goes something like “eating fat makes me fat”. Does it really tip the scale upwards? Or is it just another myth that confuses the heck outta everyone?
At this point, everyone should know that calories from fat is created as equal as calories coming from protein or carbohydrate. The fat you eat doesn’t automatically get turned into fat in your body, just like the chicken breast you had earlier doesn’t magically become muscle in your body. So, to answer the question above: It’s not fat per se that makes you fat, it’s just that it’s so darn easy to overeat fat, especially in processed form – more commonly known as junk foods.
Society have confused the term junk food with fat so much so that we have blamed fat all along when we should have blamed the sugar, the refined processed carbs, and the nasty chemical that goes into the foods found in that snack aisle in your local supermarket.
But, does fat really make you overeat?
Depends on what you are eating.
We know that 1g of fat has 9kcal, whereas 1g of carbs/protein has 4kcal. So, eating low fat foods allow you to eat bigger pile of foods with less calories, which makes you fuller for longer and generally less deprived. Sounds great? Not quite.
That’s because fat is usually more filling and gives you a higher satiety, especially medium chain triglyceride (which is a fancy term of a type of fat), which suppresses your appetite, and slows stomach emptying (so it makes you fuller for longer). Also, the digestion of fat triggers your satiation mechanism. This is why low fat diets are so difficult to maintain, because our body is never quite satisfied without fat, despite the number of calories. (Montmayeur & Le Coutre, 2010) (Nahikian-Nelms, 2016)
Also, our body mechanism gets screwed up when we are consuming mostly junk food (that are high in fat, sugar, and calories). There are usually a lot of refined carbohydrates present in junk food, which leads to a sugar crash which makes you hungrier sooner, putting you in a position to crave for more processed sugary food – definitely a vicious cycle you do not want to be in. On the other hand, for naturally occurring fat, we don’t tend to overeat as it triggers our satiation mechanism right away. (Montmayeur & Le Coutre, 2010)
What is fat for?
Fat is an essential nutrient we all need to survive. It’s the foundation and building blocks for hormones, it’s vital for our immune function and for our body to function properly. It is also needed to absorb certain vitamins including the fat-soluble vitamins (Vit A,D,E and K). (Nahikian-Nelms, 2016)
There are also a lot of nutrients present in high fat foods such as: Liver, egg yolks, fresh meat, dairy products etc. So fat is by no means an “empty calorie” food!! (Nahikian-Nelms, 2016)
Fat is not the bad guy here. It’s junk food.
Think about it: A bowl of high-fat, high cholesterol egg or a bowl of low fat, low cholesterol Rice Krispies. Which one would give you more nutrient? And which one would keep you fuller for longer?
Regardless of the food’s fat content, junk food is still unhealthy and whole foods are healthy.There’s no evidence that eating fat from a “non-junk” food sources causes weight gain, or that we are better off without it. Yes, you can overeat and still gain weight, but that’s the case for any food. Just don’t forget to listen to your hunger/satiety signal, and you will do just fine.
Montmayeur, J., & Le Coutre, J. (2010). Fat detection (p. Chapter 15). Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
Nahikian-Nelms, M. (2016). Nutrition therapy and pathophysiology (3rd ed., p. Appendix L1). Boston, MA, USA: Cengage Learning.