Do you have a “fat phobia?”
Many of us have been brought up to think fat is the enemy. We buy low-fat and non-fat products with the hope of losing fat and gaining health benefits.
In reality, when fat is removed from food, taste and texture go out the door with it. Sugar and chemicals are added to compensate for the lack of flavor, but these additives bring no nutritional benefit for our bodies.
In fact, there’s no real research to suggest that low-fat and fat free products have any tangible health benefits; America’s obesity levels are at an all-time high despite the abundance of reduced fat products on the market.
It’s time to change the way we think about fat in foods. When you look at the facts, you’ll see that eating more fat is actually an important tool in your weight loss toolbox.
The Facts About Fat
Fat is your friend, not your foe. It’s essential for our health, supporting cell growth and brain function. Fats also help keep our body warm, help absorb some vital nutrients and produce important hormones. Fat is more energy dense than proteins and carbohydrates, but when eaten in the right portion and type, it won’t lead to excess weight gain.
Not all fats are created equal. This is key to changing your understanding about this food group. While saturated fats (think greasy hamburgers) and trans fats (think baked goods, packaged snacks, stick margarine, fried food) are detrimental to your heart health and your waistline, unsaturated fats are quite the opposite.
Monounsaturated fats like olive oil, almonds, hazelnuts, avocado and canola oil, are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and breast cancer, lower cholesterol levels, and yes, weight loss.
Omega-3 fats, which our bodies can’t produce on their own, can help curb joint pain and prevent against diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Sources of Omega-3 fats include cold water fish (like wild salmon, sardines, herring and light tuna), flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and soy.
For best results, limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your daily calories. Try to avoid trans fats all costs to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Fat and Weight Loss
The right kinds of fats discussed above not only have health benefits, they also keep you feeling full and reduce your cravings for belly-bloating carbs.
Eating low-fat or non-fat products, on the other hand, leads to more hunger and more cravings because your body isn’t satisfied by the chemical substitutes for fat. In fact, studies have shown that people who were placed on a reduced carb diet lost more weight than those on low-fat diet.
Eating enough fat makes you satiated faster and prevents you from eating more calories than you actually need. Some research indicates that people who choose reduced-fat snacks tend to eat twice as much of the lower-fat version than the original. So while their fat intake might drop, their overall calories may stay the same or increase, leading to weight gain over time.
Omega-3 fats help reduce inflammation, which improves overall health, helping shed off extra pounds and keeping them off more easily.
All About Balance
All nutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) are needed in the right proportions to form a healthy plate and help you achieve your optimal weight. A healthy combination of protein, fat and fiber contributes to feelings of fullness, which controls your appetite and weight.
Ideally, healthy fats should make up between 20 and 35% of your daily calorie intake. Aim for one to two servings of high quality fat per meal, such as a tablespoon of olive oil, a handful of nuts, a quarter avocado, etc.
Strive to include all three major nutrients during your meals and snacks, and try to maintain regular meal times to prevent getting too hungry and overeating. Use an app like Mealviser as a guide to stay on track with balanced meals and portion sizes, helping you not go over your daily allowance.