The Best Fats to Get
Lean By Whitney Provost
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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 low-fat diets have been 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
fatand we offer five of the best fat sources to add to your diet.
How Eating Fat Will Help You Lose Fat
In 2008, researchers at Ben-Gurion
University of the Negev in Israel 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.
Fat is an important element in weight loss
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 (like 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
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. After 6 months, both groups had lost
weight. 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 had
maintained their weight loss, while the low-fat group participants had gained
most of the weight back.
If you reach for a box of low-fat or
fat-free crackers or cookies because 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 insulinthe fat-storage hormone. As a snack, a sliced
apple with some 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.
- Fish. Fish like salmon, albacore
tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines contains 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 like Beachbody's
Omega-3 will give you the benefits without the fishy
- Olive oil.
Heart-healthy oils like olive, canola, and peanut oil
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 or vegetables with a
little vinegar and some 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.
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 while only adding about 75
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts are powerhouses
of good nutritionfull 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. Plus, there's a psychological bonus
to eating nuts: Because they're rich and satisfying, you probably won't feel
like you're on a diet.
Packing the triple 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 the aforementioned
non-fish-loving folks. Ground flaxseeds also have 3 grams of fiber per
tablespoon, which helps slow digestion and keep your blood sugar
Making Room for Fat
Certain fats might be considered necessary
for health, but that's not a cue to overindulge. At 9 calories per gram, fat is
a more concentrated energy source than either protein or 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 when you feel full and
satisfied after eating the right kinds of fat, you'll probably find it a bit
easier to manage your calories.