The Skinny on Fat: Does Fat Improve Weight Loss
April 29. 2021
Fat has taken a real beating over the past few decades. For quite a while, reduced fat, low fat and fat free foods were flying off the shelves because people were told that reducing their fat intake would lead to weight loss. Fast forward to today and some of that mindset has shifted, albeit not enough. The truth is, it’s not the fat that can derail your efforts to lose weight, but rather the type of fat you eat. Your body needs fat for a variety of reasons. But knowing how to navigate the supermarket aisles and what fats you should be eating is the first step in conquering the misinformation surrounding fat.
Taking the Fat Out of Food
When food manufacturers jumped on the low fat/no fat bandwagon, people cheered. Now they can enjoy their favorite foods, but with a lot less fat. But here’s the catch. The fat had to be replaced with something else in order to make the food taste good. Take the case of peanut butter. Regular peanut butter has four ingredients—roasted peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils and salt. Reduced fat peanut butter has twice as many ingredients including roasted peanuts, corn syrup solids, sugar, soy protein concentrate, salt, hydrogenated vegetable oil, mono- and diglycerides, minerals (magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, ferric orthophosphate, copper sulfate), vitamins (niacinamide, pyridoxine, hydrochloride, folic acid). In case you missed it, the second and third ingredient in the reduced fat version is sugar (corn syrup is just another form of sweetener).
Now let’s look at the nutritional information.
|Reduced fat PB||180||7||15||12|
Sure, the fat is less, but the carb content has doubled! And because weight loss comes down to caloric intake, you’re only saving ten calories with the reduced fat peanut butter. That’s hardly enough to make any kind of difference.
This gives you a good idea of what low fat foods look like with regards to what’s in them. As you can clearly see, opting for these foods is not usually the best choice. In most cases, you’re better off eating a little bit more fat than consuming ingredients that are unrecognizable and unhealthy. Or you can just reduce your serving size of the full fat foods. No one says you have to eat two tablespoons of peanut butter. One tablespoon is plenty.
There is a third option, however. Powdered peanut butter which is made from roasted peanuts, sugar and salt, contains only 45 calories per serving, 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbs and only 1.5 grams of fat. You simply mix the powder with some water and you get a peanut butter consistency that you can use just like regular peanut butter but for a lot less calories and fat. And there are no funky ingredients to worry about.
Why You Need Fat—and How Much
Despite the name, fats are actually good for you. They help regulate your hormones, keep your heart and brain in good health, and help your body absorb vitamins A, D and E. Another reason to eat fats—they improve your sleeping quality, your mood, your mental clarity and fight fatigue.
How much fat should you eat? Adults should get 20-35% of their total daily calories from fat. So if you are eating 2,000 calories a day, you should be eating 44-77 grams of fat. If you are eating 1500 calories a day, your daily fat intake should be about 50 grams per day.
You’re probably wondering how to get that much fat in your daily diet. It’s actually easier than you think. Foods like salmon, natural nut butters, seeds, whole eggs, almonds, olive oil, flaxseed and avocado are just a few of the healthy fats that you could eat on a regular basis in order to hit your fat goals. A lot of these foods are also high in protein so you’re getting the best of both worlds.
Omega-3—The King of All Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are commonly found in fish, nuts and seeds. This type of fat has tremendous health benefits. For example, fish oil can lower your triglyceride levels which means decreasing your risk for a stroke and heart disease. Other benefits to omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Relieves stiffness and joint pain
- Can boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory medications
- Lowers inflammation in your body
- Helps protect against dementia and possibly Alzeheimer’s disease
- Aids in the visual and neurological development in infants
Some studies suggest that fish oil can reduce the symptoms of ADHD in some children while improving their thinking, memory and learning skills. More research still needs to be done and it is not supposed to be used as a treatment, but rather as a supplement to treatment. But so far, the results have been promising.
It’s always optimal to get omega-3 from foods rather than supplements. Some good sources are fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies and sturgeon. If fish is not your thing, you can opt for flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts to get your omega-3. If none of these choices appeal to you, you can take a fish oil supplement, but be sure to consult with your doctor first as certain health conditions may prevent you from taking them.
Don’t Fear Fat
Knowing how important fat is to your diet means you can loosen up a bit when it comes to making certain food choices. Just be sure you are getting the right fat which, aside from omega-3, includes unsaturated fat as opposed to saturated fat. Weight loss clinic staff warns you to be mindful if you are trying to lose weight, because many of these foods have a lot of calories, so eat them in moderation. That means stick to the serving size or even a little less. This way you’ll still be able to control your caloric intake while still getting the benefits that fat has to offer. And that’s a win win all around!
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