Big fat lies

Aug. 13, 2014 @ 02:08 PM

It's all been a big fat, supersized lie.
We've all been bamboozled: me, you, everyone.
And what bothers me most is that I was one of the megaphones through which an ill-informed U.S. Department of Agriculture and bad science trumpeted that saturated fats were unhealthy and fat makes us fat.
That's really embarrassing.
Let me recap ...
In 1990, I lost more than 100 pounds. After losing 75 of those pounds I discovered "The Choose to Lose Diet: A Food Lover's Guide to Permanent Weight Loss," a low-fat, weight-loss diet. The concept: reduce dietary fat and its nine calories per gram and lose weight.
Immediately, I squeezed almost all the fat out of my personal recipes; banishing egg yolks, high-fat dairy products and bacon. Everything high in fat headed out the back door while bags full of fat-free and low-fat food products rushed through my front door.
And for the first time in two decades my weight dropped below 200 pounds. Magic! Or, so it seemed.
Little did I know then that low-fat and fat-free products (remember SnackWell's Devil's Food Cookies?) were not really in my best interest.
Those products tasted good because food manufacturers traded sugars for fats. They made a boatload of bucks (and still do); I jeopardized my health.
I know this because of Nina Teicholz's impressively researched book, "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet."
Teicholz writes, "... in 2014, a growing number of experts has begun to acknowledge the reality that making the low-fat diet the centerpiece of nutritional advice for six decades has very likely been a bad idea." In the remainder of her book Teicholz repeatedly smashes what we believed were heart-healthy dietary concepts.
Here's just a few of the "surprises" you'll find:
• Our fear of the saturated fats -- butter, eggs and meat -- has never (my emphasis) been based in solid science.
• Inconvenient study results were ignored. For example, studies showed the lower our cholesterol, the higher our cancer risk.
• In 1955, studies clearly showed that dietary cholesterol, for the vast majority of people, had either a trivial or no effect on cholesterol levels.
• Fat does not make us fat.
• The dietary dangers of red meat could possibly be ascribed to the vegetable oil in which it's fried.
• A $725 million study testing low-fat diets of 49,000 women in the 1990s resulted in no reduction in cancer rates, heart disease or strokes.
• Trans fats cause heart disease and sugars raise that and other risks as well. No surprise there, really.
And there's more, much more.
• The refined carbohydrates we thought were our dietary friends are now the enemy. The fats we thought were our enemy are now our BFFs.
I can only hope those authorities have gotten it right this time.
Try this recipe: This dressing isn't like the bottled stuff; it's better. I make it with my own homemade, organic olive oil mayonnaise, but you don't have to go that far. It's up to you if you want to make with low-fat mayo and buttermilk or full-fat versions of the stuff.

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Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

1 large garlic clove finely minced with a microplane grater
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh dill (or 1 tablespoon dried) dill, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Dash of hot pepper sauce (I like Frank's)
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk (or more, as needed to reach desired consistency)

With the flat side of a chef's knife or with the bottom of a spoon, mash minced garlic together with the salt. Add garlic paste to a medium mixing bowl with the mayonnaise, parsley, dill, chives, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, black pepper, paprika, hot sauce and buttermilk; whisk until combined. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add more buttermilk if desired for thinner texture. Chill 1 to 2 hours to allow the flavors time to blend. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
Cook's notes: The garlic flavor will become more assertive over time. Full-fat mayo and buttermilk may be substituted.
Nutrition values per 2 tablespoons: 46 calories (35 percent from fat), 1.8 g fat (trace amount saturated), 7 g carbohydrates, 0.1 g fiber, 0.3 g protein, 0.4 mg cholesterol, 297 mg sodium.

Don Mauer’s “Lean and Lovin’ It” column appears every other Wednesday. Don welcomes comments, suggestions and recipe makeover requests at