Imagine this common scenario. You start off your day with a breakfast that consists of nonfat cereal, loaded with nonfat milk, banana slices, orange juice and a coffee filled with milk and sugar. Do you lose weight? Absolutely not! In fact, you gain weight, are starving by 10 a.m. and continue your day feeling fatigued and eating sugar in the form of a variety of high-glycemic-index carbohydrates. Not the best recipe for long-term weight-loss results, is it?
Poor fat -- this essential macronutrient is so misunderstood. From low-fat diets to an abundant amount of “fat-free” foods, many people are dodging fat in an attempt to lose weight and keep it off for good. Yet research shows that we indeed need fat to lose weight, for disease prevention and to feel satiated.
In terms of fat -- let's call a spade a spade. Fat tastes delicious! Fat provides food products with a specific “mouth feel” that satisfies and makes food taste great. Without it, food tastes lousy and needs something extra added to it to improve flavour. So, if you are a food manufacturer and remove fat from a product to be able to market it as “low fat,” what do you typically add back in to improve taste and appeal to consumers' taste buds? Sugar, of course! Unfortunately, an excess of sugar and refined flour will trigger the oversecretion of our “fat storage” hormone, insulin. This will lead to fatigue, cravings, excess weight gain, and in severe situations -- the development of type II diabetes.
For weight loss and optimal health, there are five keys to eating fat and losing weight
1. Eliminate trans fatty acids (partially hydrogenated fats)
Trans fatty acids are a specific type of fat formed when liquid vegetable oils are made into solid fats such as shortening and hard margarine. Most of the trans fats in the typical North American diet are derived from commercially baked and fried foods that are made with vegetable shortening, some margarine (especially hard margarines) or oils containing partially hydrogenated oils and fats. French fries, doughnuts, pastries, muffins, croissants, cookies, crackers, chips and other snack foods are high in trans fatty acids.
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2. Minimize saturated fats
Saturated fats are found in full-fat cheeses and red meats. Excessive consumption of saturated fats can raise the level of the bad cholesterol known as low density lipoprotein (LDL). High LDL levels increase heart disease risk because they keep cholesterol in blood circulation and carry it to the arteries to be deposited. In addition to raising LDL levels, research has also demonstrated that eating too many of the wrong fats such as saturated and trans fatty acids increases inflammation in the body.
3. Eat monounsaturated fats
Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil (73 per cent), rapeseed oil (60 per cent), hazelnuts (50 per cent), almonds (35 per cent), Brazil nuts (26 per cent), cashews (28 per cent), avocados (12 per cent), sesame seeds (20 per cent) and pumpkin seeds (16 per cent). The health benefits of monounsaturated fats are numerous and include lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease.
4. Fill your diet with essential fats
Essential fatty acids are called such because they are vital for health and cannot be produced by the body, thereby making them essential. Every living cell in the body needs essential fatty acids to rebuild and produce new cells. The essential fats to include are those called omega-3 essential fats, found in coldwater fish, fish oils, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds and fortified foods (i.e., bread, soymilk and eggs).
5. When using fat, think “sprinkling”
Fat contains more the twice the calories per volume of carbohydrates and proteins (9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram), so you do not need to eat as much (e.g., 1 teaspoon of olive oil for cooking, 1 ounce of low-fat cheese, etc.).
Take home point:
For weight loss and optimal health, fat is a necessary part of the daily diet. From fish oils and wild salmon to avocados and raw almonds, eating the right type of fat can improve heart health and brain function and can reduce inflammation naturally in the body. Now that you know the “good” fats vs. the “bad,” you can get the most out of this precious and necessary macronutrient.
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Dr. Joey Shulman is the author of national bestseller The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2005). For more information, please visit www.drjoey.com.