This month, with the sun making a come-back, and all of us shedding our clothes, I am focusing on weight loss and maintenance.
In last week’s blog I discussed the importance of protein for healthy weight loss. In this week’s blog I’ll be giving the low-down on fat and its critical role in weight reduction, which seems impossible to many, but read on to find out how!
Fat : An Image Problem!
In PR terms, dietary fat requires a long overdue make-over! Maligned for decades as the root of all evil, and upheld as the prime offender in a myriad of diseases from obesity to heart disease and beyond, the Western World has developed an ingrained fear of fat.
The food industry perpetuates this fear, promoting low-fat and fat-free foods as the ultimate solution to weight loss. However, despite the hype, the research just doesn't back up this repetitive marketing message (1). The bottom line is that eating the right kind of fat doesNOT make you fat, and in fact, is actually conducive to weight loss (2).
Dietary Fats : The Good and The Down-Right Ugly!
You may not realise, but dietary fat is an essential nutrient which is crucial for normal body function, and without it we would not survive! Apart from providing energy, fat is a vital component of our cell membranes, crucial for brain tissue formation, and a critical constituent of hormones and other biochemicals in our body such as Vitamin D and bile.
There are primarily four different types of fat :
Monounsaturated Fat : sources include olives, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. Monounsaturated fats assist weight loss by slowing down your food absorption so that you can go longer without feeling hungry, and also transmit a hunger-curbing message to the brain decreasing appetite.
Saturated Fat : sources include the fat on meat and related oils, plus full-fat dairy products. Saturated fats are needed for the health of our cell membranes and support the proper functioning of our cells. Without saturated fat our cells would not be able to perform their multitude of tasks. One such task is blood sugar handling which involves the cell taking in sugar (glucose) from the blood stream to convert to energy. Impairment of this task leads to an inability to lose weight and spiralling weight gain. I recommend saturated fat from grass-fed animal sources due to its higher nutrient value.
For those of you worried about heart disease and saturated fat, this association has been grossly misrepresented, and I will be discussing this in future newsletters, so stay tuned!
Polyunsaturated Fat : sources include oily fish (Omega 3 fat) and vegetable oils (Omega 6 fat). Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats exert health-promoting benefits when consumed in the correct proportions. Unfortunately, in the West we tend to overeat our Omega 6 fats (in cakes, pastries etc.) and overlook our Omega 3s (in salmon, sardines, mackerel, walnuts, flax and hemp seeds). A much higher intake of Omega 6s to Omega 3s tends to produce inflammatory reactions in the body which inhibit weight loss and promote weight gain. Therefore, increasing Omega 3s in our diet and reducing down our Omega 6 intake will produce a positive effect on weight management.
The Down-Right Ugly!
Trans-fat : sources include fast food products, baked, processed and pre-packaged food, margarine and all products containing hydrogenated oils. Trans-fats are formed by a man-made process called hydrogenation which alters the structure of naturally occurring fats and turns them into artificial trans-fats. This process is used by the food industry to extend the shelf-life and “improve” the taste of baked and processed food. However, these fats are absorbed by our body cells and mess up their function. They are linked to weight gain, heart disease and cancer. In short, trans-fats should be avoided completely.
The right types of fats are fantastic and help you flourish, but transfats are tragic!
fat-healthy recipes are available on my Blog Page
(1) Howard BV Manson JE, Stefanick M et al (2008) Low-fat dietary pattern and weight change over 7 years : The Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA, 295, 34-49
(2) How Fatty Foods Curb Hunger, ScienceDaily, Oct 10 2008
Juliet Schaffer, Nutritionist, Evolve Nutrition