Lets get one thing straight: dietary fat ≠ equal body fat. Dietary fat has developed a bad reputation over the years, but I’m here to tell you that fats are good for you and you SHOULD be eating them! Isn’t that a relief? In fact, you can actually lose weight by eating fat.
For many years a low-fat diet was the go-to prescription for weight loss. To a novice in nutrition and fitness, I can see how this would make perfect sense; you want to lose fat, eat less of it. Unfortunately, we have been mislead. Don’t worry though, I am here to make sense of it for you. Let’s start by discussing why low-fat diets DON’T work.
The low-fat diet trend flooded the markets with products labeled “low-fat,” “diet,” “lite,” “trans-fat free,” etc. If you were going along with the structure of this diet, consuming these types of products would make sense. They were lower in calories and in fat so they must be healthy, right? NO. These products are often pumped with other additives to compensate for having a lower fat content. Marketing is a tricky beast which is why you need to be sure you read your food labels. If you need help reading food labels, you can read my post How To Read a Food Label for more information.
In addition to sub-par quality ingredients incorporated in those foods, another problem with the low-fat diet is that people were so focused on consuming all of these low-fat products that they neglected to eat naturally low-fat foods like fruits and vegetables all together. Does filling up on processed diet foods sound better for your body than eating whole foods consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables? (You guys know how I feel about a diet full of whole foods. If you’re new to my blog you can read my post on Healthy Eating Basics to see what I’m talking about). Now, more importantly, it’s time to understand why eating fat is good for you.
With that being said, you want to eat the right kinds of fats. I’m not telling you to run out and eat fast food all of the time, but getting enough fat in your diet is important for your body to carry out necessary functions. You want to eat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats while avoiding the trans-fats and saturated fats. (One exception to this rule is coconut oil). A good rule of thumb if you’re not sure whether or not something is a healthy fat is if it is solid or liquid at room temperature. The saturated fats that we want to avoid will typically be solid at room temperature whereas the healthier, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats will generally be liquid at room temperature.
So now you know what kinds of fats you should be eating, but what kinds of foods contain these fats? You’re best sources for dietary fats are your nuts, seeds, olives/olive oil, avocados, eggs, and fish oil or fatty fish like salmon. Keep in mind that fat does have more calories than protein or carbs, but it is very important that we incorporate them into our diet. When you increase your healthy fat intake you will want to scale back on the carbs and vice versa. Generally speaking, around 30-35% of your diet from healthy fats will suffice; if you are following a low carb diet then you will be consuming more.
Fat can promote weight loss is various ways. Fats give us a sense of satiety (that sensation that we are full and don’t need to eat anymore) and they slow down digestion. Another important function of fats is hormone regulation: by consuming more healthy fats and less carbohydrates, we can make our cells more sensitive to insulin (the hormone secreted when carbs are consumed) resulting in better metabolism. CCK (cholecystokinin) and PYY (peptide YY) are also hormones that triggered by fat consumption. These hormones are responsible for regulation of appetite and satiety.
In summary, consuming adequate healthy dietary fats can help you lose weight, decrease overall body fat composition, improve metabolism, and regulate hormones and appetite. The benefits of incorporating healthy fats into your diet goes on, but these are the most relevant benefits from a fitness aspect.
Although you have the green light to incorporate more fat into your diet you still want to be mindful of portion sizes. This should be true to everything you eat, but fat is more calorically dense and not paying attention to portion sizes can easily lead to consuming excess calories resulting in weight gain. As with everything, moderation is key!
Tell me, have any of you guys noticed a difference in appetite, your weight or body composition by making this change? What have your experiences been with increasing fats and lowering carbs?
P.S. Because I want you guys to be as knowledgeable as possible so I think you should check out these great articles about fat intake and weight/fat loss. You won’t be disappointed 😉