The low-fat craze of the 90’s just won’t die. I thought we were past low-fat at this point, yet every time I go to the grocery store I’m still bombarded with the fat-free message… low-fat this, fat-free this, vegan-oil-free-fat-free-dressing that. In fact, Whole Foods has a full line of “healthy” fat-free salad dressings at the salad bar. In the school lunch program, fat is being pulled from the menu like never before in favor of whole grains, vegetables, and skim milk. New York City schools have gone as far to ban butter(!?!?). For the average consumer, the message is loud and clear: fat is bad, mmmkay? We’ve gotta eat more vegetables! Eat your broccoli, eat your salad! Throw out the butter and oil! Fat’s killing the kids!
But there’s a problem with that. A big one. Of course vegetables are full of nutrients, but eating them without fat renders their fat-soluble vitamins useless. Getting those important nutrients in is why we eat veggies in the first place, isn’t it!?
To quote one study… “Essentially no absorption of carotenoids was observed when salads with fat-free salad dressing were consumed. A substantially greater absorption of carotenoids was observed when salads were consumed with full-fat than with reduced-fat salad dressing.” Translation: no fat = no absorption. A little fat = a little absorption. A lot of fat = a lot of absorption. Doesn’t get any simpler than that. We need fat for carotenoid absorption, no two ways about it.
Maybe I should explain exactly what a “carotenoid” is… carotenoids are a family compounds found in plant foods, like spinach, kale, carrots, tomatoes, etc. This group includes some nutritional all-stars like beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, among others. They provide a wide variety of health benefits, ranging from having anti-cancer properties, to promoting eye health, to preventing plaque buildup in the coronary arteries. In addition they can be turned into vitamin A in the body, helping us meet our need for that important vitamin. You don’t want to miss this stuff! But if you’re not adding fat to your salads or your steamed veggies, you’re not getting it!
Of course, you need to use some discretion here… don’t go overboard and add a half a bottle of olive oil to your salad. And try to stick with good, healthy fats, like olive oil, butter, and coconut oil. Fat isn’t bad; you need it! Get out of the low-fat mentality. Take your brain out, shake it out, smother it in butter, and you’re ready to go! Add fat to your veggies and enjoy it… your body will thank you. 🙂