You might think that to lose weight you need to cut the fat out of your meals. After all, fat is higher in calories than protein and carbs, and lowfat diets have been very popular since the Senate Nutrition Committee first recommended them in the late 1970s. But research shows that a moderate-fat diet (with about 35 percent of calories consumed coming from fat) will help you drop pounds permanently, feel full longer, and avoid bingeing. The trick is to eat the right kind of fat to increase satisfaction and boost weight loss. Here’s why it’s important to eat fat and we offer five of the best fat sources to add to your diet
Several university and medical studies have found that people who followed low-fat diets lost less weight than people who followed low-carb or moderate-fat diets. The low-fat group lost an average of 6.5 pounds over 2 years, but the low-carb and moderate-fat groups lost about 10 pounds. Women did especially well on the moderate-fat diet, losing an average of 13 pounds during the study.
For weight loss, fat is important for several reasons:
• Fat helps your body control blood sugar and insulin spikes after eating carbohydrates. Better sugar metabolism means less fat storage.
• Fat slows down digestion and aids nutrient absorption. You’ll stay fuller longer and get more health benefits from the food you eat.
• Essential fatty acids (such as omega-3s) may boost your metabolic rate and increase fat burning.
• Fat tastes good. It also provides a “mouthfeel” that is satisfying, which can help you be happy with less food.
Eating more fat may also help you stick to your diet longer. In a study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, participants got either 20 percent of their calories from fat or 35 percent of their calories from fat. Both groups lost weight after 6 months. But after 18 months, only 20 percent of the people in the low-fat group were still following the diet, compared with 54 percent of the people in the moderate-fat group. Likewise, the subjects in the moderate-fat group maintained their weight loss, while the low-fat group participants gained most of the weight back.
If you reach for a box of low-fat or fat-free crackers or cookies when you want to lose weight, you may actually be sabotaging your diet. Manufacturers frequently replace fat with sugar in packaged food items to make them taste better. You think you’re making a good decision by
eating fat-free products, but the excess sugar and refined flour can lead to fatigue, cravings, mood swings, and weight gain caused by the overproduction of insulin, the fat-storage hormone.
As a snack, an apple and peanut butter or a salad with oil and vinegar dressing would be a better weight loss choice. The complex carbs and healthy fats will maintain your blood sugar levels, boost your energy, and keep you satisfied longer.
What kind of fat should you eat? To get lean, you need to eat the right kind of fat. Avoid saturated and trans fats (which are found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, and many packaged foods), and instead choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Here are some of the best sources of fat to help you reach your weight goal.
1. Fish. Fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines contain beneficial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most experts agree that eating two servings of fatty fish per week is safe for people who are worried about mercury or other toxins. (Pregnant women should consult with their doctors about consuming fish.) If you don’t like fish, a quality supplement such as Core Omega-3™ will give you the benefits without the taste.
2. Olive oil. Heart-healthy oils such as olive, canola, and peanut are excellent sources of fat for dieters. They have also been shown to lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Use them sparingly when sautéing, or drizzle them over your favorite salad vegetables with a little vinegar and herbs to maximize the absorption of nutrients. Moderation is important: You really only need about a teaspoon of oil to get all its benefits. Using more will add significant calories.
3. Avocados. Eat a spinach and carrot salad with a little avocado, and you’ll not only get a dose of good fat, but you’ll also absorb more phytonutrients like lutein and beta-carotene. Scientists at Ohio State University in Columbus found that more antioxidants were absorbed when people ate a salad containing avocados than when they ate a salad without this tasty fruit. One-quarter of an avocado will add flavor with about 75 calories.
4. Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts are powerhouses of good nutrition—full of antioxidants, minerals, and monounsaturated fat. The Nurses Health Study, where more than 86,000 nurses were followed for 14 years, found that those who ate nuts regularly (about an ounce per day) tended to weigh less than those who didn’t. The protein, fat, and fiber make nuts more filling, which helps dieters stay on track.
There’s an added psychological bonus to eating nuts: Because they’re rich and satisfying, you probably won’t feel like you’re on a diet.
5. Flaxseeds. Packing a wallop of fat, protein, and fiber, flaxseeds are a delicious and healthful addition to any diet. You can grind them up and add them to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, or vegetables, or pretty much anywhere you want a nutty crunch. They’re a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, making them a good choice for vegetarians or people who don’t like fish. Ground flaxseeds also have 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon that will help slow digestion and keep your blood sugar stable.
Making room for fat––Fat might be considered a health food, but that’s not a cue to overindulge. At 9 calories per gram, fat is a more concentrated energy source than protein and carbohydrates (each has 4 calories per gram). You need to be mindful of your overall caloric intake if you want to eat more fat and lose weight. But you’ll probably find it a bit easier to manage your calories when you feel full and satisfied after eating the right kinds of fat.