Low fat diets

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When you're trying to lose weight, a diet seems to make a lot of sense - surely eating less fat will make you, well, less fat? There is a lot of evidence to support this assumption, although there are also some arguments against it.

People follow low fat diets for various reasons besides weight loss, including prevention and treatment of diseases such ashigh cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes.

In addition, very low-fat, high-fibre, vegetarian diets such as those developed by Nathan Pritikin, and Dean Ornish are proven to reverse coronary artery disease.

If you are considering a low fat diet it's important to understand the role that fat plays in your diet. The bottom line is, we need fat - some fats, such as monounsaturated fats or omega-3 fatty acids have numerous benefits including lower risks of heart disease. Foods that contain fats, such as meat, are good sources vitamins E and B12 and zinc. Finally, if you have too little fat in your diet, your body will not properly absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K.

There are fats and fat sources to avoid however. These would include:

  • Saturated fats: these can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. They are found in meats, whole milk products, butter, cheese and cream.

  • Trans fatty acids (TFAs): TFAs are found in processed foods - look for the term partially hydrogenated oil - and also in many fast foods. Consumption of TFA greatly increases the risk of heart attack.

Better choices are vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil, which have been shown to lower cholesterol levels in most studies, and in particular fish oil and olive oil, which are both associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and may play a role in the reduced risk of certain cancers.

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