By Michelle Pfennighaus, DivineCaroline
Imagine it. You’re watching Friends on prime time and wearing Doc Martins, Snapple iced tea in hand. In front of you is a box of fat free Snackwell’s cookies. Ah, the nineties. It made perfect sense. We were all going to get fat unless we stopped eating foods that contained fat! Perfect logic.
The fat free craze didn’t begin in the nineties though. For decades, scientists were warning of the dangers of fats. Saturated fat was deemed a killer, clogging the arteries, and causing our pants to get tighter.
Never mind that for thousands of years indigenous cultures ate animal fat at nearly every meal and only in recent times had obesity become a problem and heart disease become a number one killer. So, we ate less fat. I did, anyway. Snackwell’s cookies were super, right? Eat all you want—zero fat. The food industry had a field day, manipulating processed foods until they were marketable as “Low” or “No Fat.” And we bought them at a premium! We declared with glee, “I Can’t Believe its Not Butter!” The century ended full of hope for trim waistlines and healthy hearts.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what happened.
It didn’t work. We are fatter and sicker than ever before. Many of us (myself included) ended up with dry skin, constipation, and a cold feeling in our bones. Our bodies’ need for fat manifested itself in magnificent cravings we satisfied at 3 a.m. with French fries and Ben & Jerry’s.
Hey Science, what gives?
Here’s what happened. We replaced fats that were maybe unhealthy with darn near fatal fats (think hydrogenated trans fat in margarine) and plenty of sugar, fillers, and chemicals. What brilliant ideas will we think of next?
I’d like to stop thinking of what’s next and reflect for a moment on what has come before. For thousands of years, populations around the world have thrived on indigenous diets of all sorts. Meat-based, plant-based, or a combination of the two, they all included fat. It was not until processed food was introduced that we encountered the diseases of excess that plague us today.
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