The traditional diet and weight loss advice has been based on low fat and calorie counting advice for years. It is now argued that this advice may have been incorrect or misleading all along.
Fat-free products dominated the market after this advice and it was thought that these products were a healthier choice especially for weight loss and heart disease. Despite following this advice many people have continued to struggle with weight gain and weight related health problems such as diabetes.
Which fats are healthy for weight loss?
Food manufacturers had to make up for the loss of flavour when removing the fat from foods. they did this by adding sugars, sodium and flavourings. Diet foods labelled low fat have been a big business for a long time but many people have not found these products helpful for weight loss in the long term. As awareness about the impact of sugar on our health has grown there has been questions about whether the advice surrounding fat was correct after all.
This is still a difficult question for science to answer fully due to the complexities of reliably testing diets on humans as well as our genetic individuality. Even in identical twin nutrition studies the results were mixed because it seems we all react differently to foods. The diet that suits one person may not be right for another and may even be detrimental to health.
Does Eating Fat Make You Gain Weight?
Along with the low fat diet and calorie counting advice for weight loss came countless cholesterol scares. High fat foods were said to be responsible for weight gain, raised cholesterol and higher heart disease risk. The latest advice about cholesterol however is more reassuring and eggs are deemed healthy again. There is still no clear cut answer about the best diet at the moment, what suits one person may not be good for another.
Fat is one of the three essential macro nutrients along with carbohydrates and protein. It is recently understood to be more specifically the types of fat and the carbohydrates in the diet, as well as individual genetics that determines whether a food is healthy or harmful.
It is clear that trans fats which are normally listed as hydrogenated oils are inflammatory and extremely bad for our health. Fried foods and processed foods often contain these trans fats and should ideally be excluded or at least greatly minimised in our diets. This includes foods such as shop bought baked goods such as cakes, biscuits, pizza and pies. These foods are often made with chemically altered vegetable oils, artificial additives, refined flour and sugar.
Processed foods and refined ingredients are normally high in starch and sugar as well as artificial additives to enhance flavour and extend shelf life, these foods are therefore best avoided most of the time.
Are dairy products healthy?
Dairy foods are another matter for lengthy debate which could fill a whole article. Lactose intolerance is common. Due to biochemical individuality high-fat meals and dairy products may cause an inflammatory response in some people. In other studies though, dairy foods actually had an anti-inflammatory effect. This means nutritional advice should be personalised.
What are Healthy Fats for Weight Loss?
Monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids are healthful fats that are thought to fight inflammation. These are the types of fat most people should include in their daily diet even when trying to lose weight. The fats we call healthy fats are naturally occurring dietary fats. These have been shown to benefit the heart, improve blood glucose and insulin levels as well as lowering LDL cholesterol levels. This is sometimes refereed to as the bad cholesterol. It is thought that high LDL levels may lead to a build up in the arteries. Particle size and genetics are also important considerations. Additional nutrition studies are needed to understand the long-term effects of dietary fat on health.
Fat nutrition facts for weight loss
Dietary fat has some important health benefits. It may help in protecting our organs, maintaining cell membranes, hormone balance, promoting growth and development and absorbing essential vitamins. Even though fat contains more calories, including small amounts of natural fats in a meal is healthy for most people. Fats can also slow down the release of sugars and carbohydrate keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
I have seen many weight loss clients still restricting fats due to the over focus on calories. It is the nutritional quality of our food that is important for health and weight loss. Healthy fats, especially from whole foods when consumed as part of a balanced meal are often beneficial for weight loss. They might also lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Healthy fats can provide the essential fats and nutrition that your body needs. It can not produce these fats by itself.
Which foods contain healthy essential fats?
The main nutritious source of these essential fats can be found in whole foods like fatty fish such as herring, sardines, mackerel and salmon. Two or three servings of fatty fish per week are recommended for unsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids. Plant based foods such as avocados, olives, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts and seeds. A small handful of nuts, 2 tablespoons of nut butter or seeds and 10 olives is considered a portion.
Weight loss, especially long term weight loss is not as simple as cutting certain foods out of your diet. Our bodies are complex and quite often individual advice is needed for successful weight maintenance. Nurturing a positive relationship with food, focusing on sleep and reducing stress is also important for health and happiness. If you are struggling to lose weight and would like more information please see this Weight Loss Nutrition page for more information.
Essentials of healthy eating: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3471136/
Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2139