The low-fat diet: Friend or Foe?
The world of weight loss is a complicated one. There are so many different diets, slimming pills and exercise regimes out there that it's easy to get overwhelmed and give up before you've even begun.
When it comes to diets, there is one that is often hailed as the best and most effective – low-fat.
"But does it really work and is it good for me?" I hear you ask, well read on and, hopefully, you'll be able to make a decision as to whether it's right for you.
Is all fat bad?
If you eat lots of fat, you'll become fat – it's simple. But unfortunately the way of becoming slim and healthy isn't as simple as cutting out all fat from your diet.
Earlier this week, Amanda Holliday, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, explained that we need to eat some fat.
"You need to consume fats to obtain some vitamins, and the unsaturated fats found in plant oils, certain vegetables and fish can actually reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease," she said.
Dietary fat is essential for a number of things, including tissue repair, healthy skin, the protection of internal organs, transporting vitamins around the body, hormone metabolism and normal growth and development.
But there is a lot of confusion out there as to what the difference is between "good" fat and "bad" fat and how they can be spotted.
Last year, research by the aptly-named Fat Panel revealed that nearly one in five people think saturated fat is a "good" fat, when, really, the good guys are polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs).
PUFAs are mainly found in sunflower, corn and most other pure vegetable oils as well as nuts, seeds and oil-rich fish such as sardines and salmon.
High amounts of MUFAs are found in most nuts, avocados, rapeseed oil, olive oil and products made from these oils.
This type of fat doesn't raise blood cholesterol and can help to lower 'bad' blood cholesterol levels.
The fats you should be trying to avoid if you're looking to lose weight fast are saturated fats and trans fatty acids (TFAs).
Saturated fat is found in full-fat dairy products including butter, cheese and cream as well as fatty meats and meat products and baked goods such as cakes, biscuits and pastries.
TFAs are found mainly in biscuits, cakes, meat pies and pastries.
If you eat a lot of saturated fat or TFAs, you not only risk developing high blood cholesterol levels, but an increased chance of heart disease – put down that cake, quick!
How to adopt a safe low-fat diet
So, we've established that a no-fat diet is a no-go, but an eating plan that contains a moderate amount of good fats could be the key to success in your mission to shed a few pounds.
Nutrition consultant Dr Carina Norris recommends slimmers to replace fatty meats such as pork and beef with fish, as this will cut your intake of saturated fat.
She also advises eating lots of fruit and vegetables: "They're rich in fibre, which fills us up and helps us maintain a healthy weight, as well as aiding digestion, and also helping lower total cholesterol."
It will be hard to do, but instead of reaching for the biscuit barrel when you feel peckish, reach for the fruit bowl as you'll not only lose weight quicker but you'll become healthier on the inside, reducing your risk of heart disease, strokes and certain cancers.
While a lot of people have success with the low-fat diet, others don't, so it may or may not be the right one for you, but it's at least worth giving it a try – what have you got to lose, other then those wobbly bits?