Friday, January 24, 2014

The fat-free confusion

I wrote about fat-free foods a little bit about two years ago.  I was in a different mindset then and don't really like the post, but I will link it since I did write about it before. 

I wrote:

"It's like the harder I try, the fatter I get.

I keep thinking about going to Weight Watchers years and years ago.  They had a fat and fiber plan (before points was so popular...actually, this is what probably lead to the points system being developed).  You were supposed to eat under 10 grams of fat and least 10 grams of fiber per day.  Well, okay...have you seen all the fat-free food options in the stores??  Do you know how they replace fat when they remove it from foods?  They use sugar.  So the calories may be the same or higher than your full-fat option.  And its stock full of sugar.  Yum.  I could eat thousands of calories in a day and never go over 10 grams of fat.  Weight Watchers, of course, had to start telling people, you still need to eat in moderation.  But that program was probably their biggest failure.  I know I failed on it."

Weight Watchers, of course, no matter which program they have rolled out, is just another diet.  The success rate of diets is generally 95%.  That means only 5% of dieters have kept off their weight at two years out.  That means the other 95% have re-gained, often to a weight higher than when they started.  The yo-yo isn't healthy for your body.

I know the statistics and the odds.  But, man, I still keep playing the game.  I'm currently on the verge of a meltdown and binge.  The thoughts....they're creeping into my head already.  "Fuck not eating cookies and cupcakes...just one won't hurt."  Six cookies later, I'm sick from sugar overload and can barely think because my head hurts and I'm exhausted.  I've been counting calories quietly for over two months and am really only down five pounds right now because I took that steroid that made me pee out water weight.  Otherwise, I keep bouncing up and down those same five pounds.  So recently I decided to remove even more calories from my "diet."  Instead of 2,200 (I should be eating around 2,600 to maintain), I'll go down to 2,000.  And here I am, standing at the edge of a binge.  Why do I do this to myself?

Anyway, that is a separate issue.  Today, I want to write about fat-free foods.  I am still always surprised when I see people acting like fat is bad (I learned this lesson years ago and apparently think everyone else should be on the same page).  Clearly, I don't want to be mowing down Ultimate Cheeseburgers and fries, but fat is not the enemy.  I eat real butter, no margarine.  I put coconut oil in my protein shake, even though it adds 14 grams of fat.  I don't really drink milk but we still have 2% in our house.  I generally buy the full fat hamburger at the store (80%-20%?).  It's cheaper and I assume most of the fat is what I just drain out at the end anyway.  When I was discussing fat free foods in my gastric bypass meeting once, someone mentioned that items like dairy have fat removed by a different process than regular foods, so I thought I would research it a little.  (Saved for another day will be the "good fat" versus "bad fat" discussion.)

"The problem is that sometimes 'fat free' is also, well, taste free. And to make up for that lack of taste, food manufacturers tend to pour other ingredients -- especially sugar, flour, thickeners and salt -- into the products. That may boost the calorie content."

This blog makes an interesting point:

"Just think about the difference between a yummy cracker topped with cheese and a low fat cracker all dry and bland. Which one would YOU choose? The tasty one of course! So basically, you’re subjecting yourself to bland, tasteless, dry food that, get this, costs more!
Statistically speaking, when you eat low fat or fat free foods, typically everyone will end up eating 28% more calories than regular full fat foods!" 
For years, I bought the lowest fat content ground beef available (generally the extra lean 4%), but I also paid a premium for that meat.  More recently, I've started purchasing the regular old high fat hamburger and draining the fat.  It saves money and I am no longer afraid of the fat.
Here are some tips for lowering the fat content of regular ground beef, if that is something you'd like to do:
"Drain & Rinse Regular Hamburger to eliminate as much fat as possible. Fry up a pound of regular, cheap Humble Hamburger in the normal way. Break it up into small pieces, and cook it until all the pink is gone. Drain as much of the accumulated fat as you can into a handy vegetable can, or grease catcher. Then dump the ground beef into a colander or strainer in the sink. Run hot tap water into the greasy skillet. Pour this water over the hamburger in the strainer. Do it again. Allow the beef to drain a few minutes, and then return it to the skillet. Proceed as directed by the recipe.
A 4 oz raw portion of regular hamburger that has been cooked, drained and rinsed has approximately 155 calories, 9g fat, 4g saturated fat and 46 mg cholesterol. Compared to the values for super-lean ground beef above, drained and rinsed crumbles have 15 fewer calories, 1 more gram total fat, 1 more gram saturated fat and 15 fewer miligrams of cholesterol. Because of this information I am whole-heartedly willing to eat and recommend regular ground beef that has been cooked, drained and rinsed to anyone who is trying to eat a healthier diet."
Type of Ground Beef
1 lb Raw; Weight after cooking
1 lb Raw; Calories after cooking
1/4 lb Raw; Calories after cooking
Super Lean (7% fat)
12-2/3 oz
Extra Lean (15% fat)
12 oz
Lean (20% fat)
11-1/2 oz
Regular (30% fat), Broiled
10-2/3 oz
Regular (30 % fat) Drained & Rinsed
11 oz
Next up is milk (and I assume this applies to cheese as well).  How do they remove the fat in milk?  (Side note:  I don't really drink milk outright since I had surgery ten years ago.  I am actually now using almond milk in my protein shake and have mostly given up ice cream.  I hadn't really realized it until I stopped regularly buying ice cream six months ago, but I am pretty sure I'm lactose intolerant.  It is a common side effect of gastric bypass.)  If you want a straight across the board comparison of different types of milk, click HERE

"Whole milk is separated in a centrifuge that outputs two streams, one cream and one fat-free milk. The fat-free milk is pasteurized then condensed in a vacuum evaporator to remove water and increase the concentration of solids. It’s then sent to a spray dryer, think industrial, high-pressure milk atomizer. The sprayer shoots a fine spray of milk into a warm, air-filled chamber that removes more moisture, turning the milk into powdery spherical particles, aka milk solids. They pop up in various low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
Restricting calories, we now know, leads to temporary weight loss as the metabolism adjusts to weight-loss by slowing down. Fat isn’t making us fat.
Whole milk’s three macronutrients—protein, fat and carbohydrates—are naturally, perfectly balanced. It has complete proteins (i.e. adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids), B vitamins and saturated and unsaturated fats. Its A and D vitamins help digest protein, assimilate calcium and absorb other fat-soluble vitamins. It’s nutritionally complete."
And one more interesting read HERE if you're interested.
"People haven’t always bought into the idea that fat is unhealthy. It all started with a flawed theory by a really bad scientist who said that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. Which is pretty weird, considering no one had heart attacks around the turn of the century when everyone was still eating pounds of butter and cream every week. 

Somehow, by the time World War II rolled around, we were all convinced that fat was the enemy, anyway. Butter was replaced with cheap margarine made from toxic industrial oils, and creamy, full-fat milk was dumped in favor of skim."

So there you go, fat isn't necessarily bad for you and fat-free isn't your friend.  Do you generally use low-fat/non-fat foods?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.  

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