Today I am very happy to have Guest Blogger, Sadie, who is the daughter of Every Day Cook # 12, Julia.
If you remember, among many other talents Julia is or has been a registered nurse, has owned her own catering company and restaurant, was an art teacher, and a soccer coach.
The acorn does not fall far from the tree. Sadie Barr is currently pursuing her Masters of Public Health (MPH) and Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. She is a published food and nutrition researcher and before starting school developed and implemented nutrition education curriculum in inner-city schools in Washington, DC.
I write about nutrition here at More Thyme all the time. I base my beliefs on reading as much as I possibly can. I am not formally educated nor do I have any degrees on these topics.
So it is fantastic when More Thyme has a nutrition educated professional with the studies and proof to back up her claims, who can give us the skinny, the whole and real skinny, and nothing but the skinny on nutrition and health.
Today she talks about fat. To sum up her post she basically says:
Eat Fat or Be Fat.
I hope that Sadie will be a regular around here and share more of her wisdom and knowledge with us.
Why Low Fat Diets Don’t Work
Before we get into the metabolic and physiologic details of why low-fat diets usually don’t work, lets look at it from the point of view of the dieting consumer. If a person is going on a “diet,” this means that they are going to pursue a way of eating that differs from their norm, and brings them into unfamiliar food territory. In this circumstance, many of us will seek out foods that appear to fit our diet regime, but considering nearly 70% of Americans’ diets are comprise of processed foods – many of us are going to rely on food manufacturers to tell us what to eat or what not to eat. Big mistake.
When it comes to specifically low-fat or reduced-Calorie diets, which I equate as being fairly equal in most cases, dieters will choose products that tell them they are pre-approved for their new way of eating. The fat-free, low-fat, reduced-fat, light, and skinny claims line the shelves in every grocery store. They are there because we buy these products under the assumption that they are better for us than full-fat items and will help us lose weight. This is wrong. The percentage of calories we get from fat has actually decreased during recent decades, while our obesity rate has soared to encompass over a third of American adults.
If It Says Low Fat = Avoid It
When we see something that is telling us it is low in fat, we should not think health, we should think avoid. When companies remove the fat, they are usually adding sugar or other refined carbohydrates to take its place. In addition, since fat is so important for texture and taste in foods, many companies will add in a barrage of artificial ingredients in order to maintain the product’s quality. Artificial is not good for us, no matter how you look at it. The same goes for many reduced-Calorie products. Fat has 9 calories per gram compared to carbohydrate’s 4 calories per gram, meaning that reduced-Calorie equals less fat, more carbs (usually sugar) or less fat, more artificial-ingredients. Our percentage of calories from carbs has increased during recent decades, much of which is due to increased consumption of refined grains and sugars. These trends go hand in hand with the increasing popularity of low-fat diets. Remember lean-cuisines and snack-wells? How’d that work out for us?
Low-fat/No-fat has become synonymous with healthy in many people’s minds. This misleading notion needs to be dispelled if this country is ever going to get back to fighting weight. As argued previously, following a low-fat way of life leads people towards a high-carb/high-sugar/high-artificial ingredient way of life – something that has led to the weight issues we are seeing in America today, as well as worldwide to wherever the Western diet is spreading. But there is something else, there is no proven scientific evidence to support the concept that eating fat makes us fat, or that even eating fat makes us unhealthy. To the contrary, there is evidence showing that diets high in carbohydrates – specifically refined carbohydrates – do make us fat.
Think about the beef industry. What do we feed our cows in the last months of their life to quickly produce the marbling effect we all desire? Grain. Not fatty foods. Grain (AKA carbohydrates). When we eat carbs, specifically those that are refined (white sugars, white flours, potato chips), our blood-glucose levels increase, and in response our body up regulates insulin, and insulin directs our fat cells to store this glucose as fat. We would all prefer that our bodies divert our food-energy to more important tasks, such as cellular repair or muscle-growth – NOT insulation. Yes this is an over-simplified description but in essence it is true. When we eat these low-fat/no-fat processed-foods, we are accomplishing exactly what we are trying to avoid. So we should stop this cycle of misinformation and 1) stop following fad-diets in the first place, they aren’t sustainable; and 2) just eat food, regardless of its fat content. If it’s real, and if we don’t go crazy with it (mod-er-a-tion), things will be okay. Promise.
There are two arguments against the recommendations I’m putting forth here. The first is that eating higher-fat foods will increase our Calorie intake and thus induce weight gain; and the second is that high-fat diets are linked to heart disease. These are both valid concerns but not necessarily supported by science. To address the latter, the notion that high-fat diets (in particular diets high in saturated fat) lead to heart disease is proving to be untrue. In fact, recent research points to sugar consumption as a greater indicator of heart disease than total fat.
To address the most commonly heard refute, I’m going to make a statement that may shock you: your net calorie consumption (calories in minus calories out) is not the most important thing to focus on when it comes to weight gain. It is not unimportant, but it also shouldn’t trump more significant factors, such as the inherent quality of the food you are eating. First, the calorie counts we read on the box do not always translate to the calories that our body absorbs. The amount of calories we extract from foods depend upon how much energy is required to digest the food– which can vary greatly depending on the level of processing. Second, as illustrated by the insulin to fat conversion described above, the theory that eating excess calories leads to weight gain does not always hold true.
More Important Is WHERE Calories Come From
Whether calories from a food are stored as fat or burned as fuel is more dependent on where the calories comes from than how many calories the food contains. A person is more likely to gain weight from eating 800 calories of pastries in one sitting than eating 800 calories of guacamole and vegetables. This notion suggests that certain foods (many of which are high-fat whole foods) confer a metabolic advantage. This is being tested with the support of the Nutrition Science Initiative, an organization recently founded with the goal of promoting good science to truly find out what causes weight gain. Currently, all signs point to the fact that it is not simply a thermodynamic issue (energy in versus energy out), and is more strongly related to a hormone imbalance problem, which is amplified by Western-style diets.
So, what should we eat? I’ve now squashed all traditional nutritional knowledge that many of us have used to guide our eating habits for decades. Well, it turns out that in practice, my suggestions make everything much simpler. Just eat food. Avoid things that tell you how they fit in your diet – high in protein, added vitamin C!, now with 30% less fat – and stick to products that can’t speak for themselves. And please stop avoiding fat. Now, you probably shouldn’t go around eating several spoons of butter or drinking glasses of heavy cream (because that’s just gross), but stop fixating on the numbers and start looking at the food as a whole. Repeat after me: “Eating fat will not make me fat.” Write it down every morning if you have to. Eventually you will feel ok reaching for that whole-fat yogurt (gasp) instead of your usual 0%, and you’ll feel and look better for it too.
Featured Recipe Bacon Parmesan Hamburgers
If you love bacon you will love these hamburgers. If you love cheese, you will love these hamburgers. If you love good taste you will love these hamburgers.
I eat them bunless so there is more protein and fewer carbs.
This is what you will need for 4 burgers:
1 pound ground chuck
4 slices of bacon
2 cloves garlic
½ of a medium sized red onion
½ grated cup Parmesan cheese
Big splash of Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon dried parsley
4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional – buns
Here is what you do:
Finely dice the onion; and press the garlic, and dice the fresh parsley.
Fry the bacon till crisp; or nuke in the microwave.
Place the ground chuck in a bowl and add the grated Parmesan, Worcestershire, egg, onion, dried parsley and the garlic.
Mix well. Best way to do that is with your hands. DO NOT over mix or over work the mixture as it will make the burgers tough. Just gently mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
Divide the meat unto fourths and shape into 4 patties that are not too tightly compressed. Season both sides of the patties with salt and pepper to taste.
Using your thumb pit a small indentation in the middle of the burger. This will prevent the burger from bloating up. If you look closely you should be able to see the indentation in the burger.
Lightly salt the bottom of a non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
When hot, add the burgers.
Sear on one side about 3 minutes. Turn patty over. Resist that urge to flatten the patties with a spatula. Lower the heat and cook another 2 minutes for a medium rare burger; longer if you want medium or well done.
Remove the burgers from the pan when cooked to your desired doneness and let sit for a min or two so juices can redistribute.
In the meantime in a small pan melt the butter. Off the heat add the parsley.
Spoon a bit of the butter with parsley over each burger.
Now add 1 tablespoon of the shredded Parmesan cheese in top of each burger.
Break each bacon strip in half and criss-cross on top on top of the cheese.
Serve bunless or on a bun if using. Serve with a salad or some fruit.
1 pound ground chuck $3.69
4 slices of bacon $1.52
2 cloves garlic $0.16
½ of a medium sized red onion $0.50
½ grated cup Parmesan cheese $2.28
Splash of Worcestershire sauce $0.36
1 egg 0.11
¼ teaspoon dried parsley $0.25 – or free if have a good friend
4 tbspns shredded Parm cheese $1.90
3 tablespoons butter, melted $0.24
¼ teaspoon fresh parsley $0.08
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional – buns
Total cost = $11.09
Cost per person =$2.77
Quote of the Day
Never eat more than you can lift.