What's the secret? Fat or fiber?
All our lives, we've been told that the secret to trimming our waistlines and boosting our health is cutting out fat. The food industry has made a mint on our fear of fat with low-fat and no-fat Frankenfoods lining the shelves of every grocery store.
But what if fat isn't the secret?
The question is raised by a study recently published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. A group of researchers from Michigan State University investigated the American diet in a study analyzing the diets of teenagers, and found something a bit shocking.
Cutting out "unhealthy" foods might not be nearly as important as adding healthy foods. They found that restricting foods high in calories or saturated fat isn't as important as encouraging people to eat more nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, plant-based foods (hmm, sounds like a familiar call to action, doesn't it?).
As fiber intake increases, the lead researcher reported, the risk for metabolic syndrome decreases. That's because fiber-rich, nutrient-dense foods are jam packed with vitamins and minerals that rev up your heart's health and stave off cardiovascular and other health problems.
Among the research participants, who were all between the ages of 12 and 19, there was a three-fold increase in the incidence of metabolic syndrome in those who ate the least fiber over those who ate the most. On the flip side of the coin, there wasn't much of a connection between cholesterol and saturated fat intake and metabolic syndrome.
They concluded that reducing risks for metabolic syndrome in teens should be centered on including healthy foods instead of excluding foods that are deemed unhealthy (read: high in fat). Rather than focusing on deprivation, the secret could be inclusion.
Which sounds like a tasty solution to me, indeed!
Of course, this study concerned teens, and you should certainly discuss this with the young people in your life, but I think it carries an important lesson for those of us who are…shall we say…past our teenage years. Often, the very best thing you can do for your body (and mind) is give it more of the good stuff it needs, rather than always focusing on making cuts and exclusions.
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