For decades, the prevailing theory was that a low-fat, low-calorie diet was the only way to lose stored body fat. Unfortunately, the only people this worked out for long-term were the food manufacturers who made billions of dollars on “diet” foods.
Research Has Shown That Low-Fat Diets Don’t Work
Numerous studies have shown over the last twenty years that low-fat diets are almost in complete opposition to the goal of losing body fat, for a number of reasons.
Some of the biggest reasons are that a low-fat diet doesn’t provide enough satiety to keep followers satisfied, that “low-fat” products are loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners and empty calories that actually promote overeating and that a lack of healthy dietary fats suppresses the immune system, making it harder for you to lose that stored fat.
The Fats You Need and Why
There are four different classifications of fats:
- Monounsaturated fats, which are found in red meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds and fruits such as olives and avocados and olive oil.
- Polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in fatty fish, sunflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil.
- Saturated fats, such as those in meat and poultry, whole-fat dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds and palm and coconut oils.
- Trans-fats, which are manmade, created by treating vegetable oils with hydrogen in order to render them solid and more stable on the shelf. Trans-fats are found in virtually all processed foods and many fast foods.
Of these fats, the first three are all necessary to the proper function of your body and for fat loss. None of them can be classified as “good” or “bad” fats, though you need more of the unsaturated fats than you do the saturated.
Both saturated and mono-or polyunsaturated fats contain immunity-boosting and heart-healthy fatty acids and you need both in a healthy diet, even if you’re trying to lose fat. In fact, trying to lose fat by cutting these dietary fats is counterintuitive.
You Can Either Eat it or Store More of It
If your diet is too low in healthy fats, this sets off a chain of hormonal secretions and messages that will actually stop your fat loss in its tracks.
If your body perceives that there is a lack of dietary fat available on a consistent basis, it will actually make stored fat unavailable to your metabolism. In other words, it will determine that it needs to hang onto all of the stored fat in case its needed for healthy function. This is why many people go on a very low-fat/low-calorie diet and find that their fat loss stops altogether. In fact, they’re likely to lose lean muscle, as their bodies seek protein to burn as fuel in the absence of dietary fat.
Also, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are transported throughout the body with the assistance of dietary fat. Without those fats on bard and readily available, your body lacks the micronutrients needed for healthy immune function. This results in excess free radicals and systemic inflammation, both of which slow metabolism, muscle-building and fat loss.
Finding the Right Balance of Fats
As we said earlier, you need all three healthy fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats. Each plays a different role in both overall health and fat loss.
You’ll get plenty of all three by making fatty fish (such as salmon, haddock, mackerel and sardines) part of your weekly diet, or by supplementing with a high-quality fish oil.
You’ll get the mono and polyunsaturated fats you need by eating nuts and seeds and using olive oil, palm oil and coconut oil for cooking.
A simple way to ration your fat intake is to get roughly 40% of your fats from polyunsaturated, 40% from monounsaturated and 20% from saturated fats.
Many sources of saturated fat are high in calories and often too high in the saturated fats themselves, so try to get most of them from nuts and seeds and palm or coconut oil. Almond and coconut milks are also a good source.
Getting Rid of Trans Fats
Trans-fats have nothing to offer your body. Not only do they raise LDL and lower HDL cholesterol, clog your arteries and contribute to obesity, heart disease and stroke, but they also cannot be metabolized as energy and they slow your digestive system.
But one of the biggest issues with trans-fats is all the calories, sugar, refined flours and additives that go with them. No one eats Crisco by the spoonful. Instead, they get their trans-fats in fast food fries, junk foods, convenience foods and even “healthy” snacks.
Fortunately, getting rid of trans-fats completely is easy: stop eating processed foods or at least reserve them for a cheat meal. Virtually everything packaged contains trans-fats as a stabilizer (preservative).
By sticking to fresh, whole foods and single-ingredient frozen foods like chicken breast, fruits or veggies, you can eliminate 99% of the trans-fats in your diet. Call fast food restaurants off-limits and you just got rid of the other 1%.
Eliminating these two types of food from your diet can result in a significant amount of weight loss, even if you’re taking in more calories from whole foods and even if your overall fat intake (of healthy fats) is greater.
That’s good news for people who are tired of cycling on and off of low-fat, low-calorie, low-enjoyment diets.