An official move away from the Low Fat Diet

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Terri Quinlan is an Accredited Practising Dietitian at the Panaceum Group.

Over the past 30 years, the single piece of dietary advice that has taken precedence over all others is the need for us to strictly limit our total fat intake. A healthy diet, since the 80’s has been defined as ‘low fat at all costs’.

However, at least for the past 10 years… the evidence has significantly changed, and this newest thinking is now reflected in the ‘hot off the press’ new Australian Dietary Guidelines released last month.

The new Dietary Guidelines, strongly encourage us to make sure we’re eating adequate amounts of healthy fats, while limiting only sources of saturated fat. Some experts in the field are heralding this as ‘the end of the low fat era’.

But please read the exact wording carefully – as it’s important to note that saturated fat is proven to have a strongly causative role in many chronic diseases, and it lurks in many foods, not just meat, cheese and butter. To cut your intake of saturated fat you’d need to:

  • Limit your intake of foods such as many commercial biscuits and cakes, pastries, pies, processed meats, commercial burgers and pizza, deep-fried foods, hot chips, crisps and other savoury snacks, and
  • Replace high fat foods which contain predominantly saturated fats (such as butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut and palm oil) with foods which contain predominantly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as good quality vegetable/nut/seed oils, spreads, nuts, peanut butter and other nut pastes, and avocado.

A key piece of advice I give most of my clients is to consume more extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and especially nuts and seeds – ideally in their 3 main meals each day. Good fats add rich nutrients to our diet, and help keep us full and satisfied, potentially limiting the (often unnecessary) between-meal eating that we are so prone to do.

As well, I teach clients to choose good quality carbohydrates such as wholegrains and legumes, and reduce their overall carbohydrate intake somewhat. Poor quality carbohydrate, is now known to confer the same or even greater coronary risk than saturated fat, and must be reduced if Australian diets are to become healthier. This usually means eating less cakes and biscuits and pastry, but also, less white bread, white flour, white rice, low-fibre breakfast cereals, white potato and to some extent pasta, also.

Generally speaking, a Mediterranean-style diet is the best choice for most people – with plenty of fresh vegetables, legumes on most days, some high-fibre wholegrains (not just whole wheat, but try quinoa, buckwheat and brown rice), more fish and white meat, a couple of pieces of fresh fruit, some unsalted nuts every day, more seeds, and good quality olive oil, (and even a small quantity of red wine with your meal at night – so the studies indicate!). All this, with less red meat and very small amounts of processed meats, along with low amounts of refined carbohydrate foods. That’s the Mediterranean Diet in a nutshell.

This information is general, and only an individual dietary assessment by an Accredited Practising Dietitian will provide you with detailed recommendations relevant to your particular needs.