Low-fat diets used to be extremely popular several decades ago, and people still remember them as “recommended by the FDA” and “healthy.” This is why so many dieters today still think that cutting off fats can help them lose weight. Fortunately, in 2021 we understand that all macronutrients are essential for our health, and fats are no exception.
Dietary fats are fatty acids or triglycerides found in plants and living beings. Fat is essential for people; for example, it is necessary for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins the A, D, E, and K kind, as well as other carotenoids found in leafy greens and salads.
There are unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats, and their influence on your health differs dramatically.
There are two types of healthy unsaturated fats:
Both these categories raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein) aka “good” cholesterol, inhibit LDL (low-density lipoprotein) aka “bad” cholesterol, and improve blood pressure(1). Unsaturated fats also improve insulin sensitivity(2), making them a healthy choice for people prone to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Monounsaturated fats can be found in:
Polyunsaturated fats are contained in:
Omega-3 and -6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for the health of your brain(3), heart, skin(4), and eyes(5). Moreover, studies(6) show that unsaturated fats prevent fat storage around the stomach.
Saturated fats are triglycerides and fatty acids that become solid at room temperature; they’re usually found in animal products like fatty meat and full-fat dairy.
Products rich in saturated fats:
The FDA recommends minimizing the consumption of saturated fats to 10%, and the American Heart Association recommends limiting(7) your calorie intake from saturated fats to 5-6%. This is because saturated fats were told to cause inflammations, increase the LDL cholesterol level and your risk of heart diseases.
However, recent studies(8) show that stigmatizing saturated fats as the “bad” ones is not justified. According to some research(9), saturated fats don’t increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes.
We keep an eye on scientific updates concerning saturated fats. Meanwhile, we recommend you opt for the nutrition principles whose benefits were proven by scientists: The Mediterranean diet(10), which is rich in unsaturated fats and limits the consumption of saturated fats.
At least something is clear when it comes to fats! Trans fats were banned(11) by the US Food and Drug Association in 2018. Trans fats are artificial, chemically altered fats used to prolong the shelflife of processed pre-packed products.
Research(12) has shown that fats increase satiety through several mechanisms, including the stimulation of the satiety hormone and the inhibition of the fast transit of food into the intestines. Fat triggers the release of cholecystokinin, a peptide hormone that reduces appetite. Fat also needs more time to digest compared to carbohydrates, so it keeps you full for longer. Add some oil to your salad if you want to make it more filling.
Fat makes food taste good. It changes the texture and the smell of your meals. Why is this important to know? Because it explains why manufacturers make products less healthy when they take away fats.
Processed fat-free products need to stay attractive for the consumer. To improve their taste, manufacturers put large amounts of salt, sugar, starch, or chemicals in low-fat recipes. This happens both with low-fat cheeses and “healthy” fat-free alternatives of your favorite snacks. These changes might make products less calorie-dense, but this doesn’t make them more beneficial for your weight loss. If you buy low-fat snacks, pay more attention to the nutrition facts on their packaging and check the amount of sugar such products contain.
Can eating more fat help you lose weight? The ketogenic diet followers are sure the answer is “Yes.” The keto diet marketers state that by decreasing your carbohydrate intake to 50 grams per day, you can get into ketosis, the state when your organism has to burn body fat to get energy.
As a rule, your body gets energy from glucose it receives with carbohydrates (sugar, grains, fruits, and vegetables), and when it doesn’t have this source of accessible energy, it has to use body fat. However, to do so, your liver has to produce ketone bodies, the energy made of fat cells.
There are several explanations on why the ketogenic diet is good for weight loss. One of them is that when you deprive your body of carbs, you don’t stimulate insulin production, which means fewer hunger urges. Another reason is that when your body produces too much insulin, it can’t use body fat as a source of energy, even if you’re on a low-calorie diet.
So, ketogenic diets, including the paleo diet and Atkins diet, can help you lose body fat by affecting your insulin production. On the other hand, some studies(13) show that insulin sensitivity can be altered in people who used to be on a low-carb diet for a long period. This means that, maybe, you will have to keep to the keto diet forever to maintain your new weight.
There are other downfalls of high-fat diets, particularly because you make your liver and kidney work much harder than they used to. Before you opt for any restrictive diet, especially the one that deprives you of whole food groups, we highly recommend you consult your doctor or a dietitian.
USDA(14) recommends consuming 0,4-0,5 grams of fat per pound of your body weight. This is not that much! If you weigh 130 pounds, this will only be 160 grams of cheddar cheese. Even though fats are essential for your body, they are still highly calorie-dense. Remember that one gram of fats contains nine calories, while carbs and proteins contain only four calories per gram.
As long as losing weight is only possible when you’re in a caloric deficit, you should keep an eye on your fat intake. Here are some examples of portion sizes of high-fat products.
Recommended portion: one teaspoon, approximately 10 grams.
Recommended portion: ⅕ to ⅓ of a medium-sized fruit.
Recommended portion: one small handful, approximately 15 grams.
Recommended portion: the size of your palm, 100-150 of raw fish fillet.
Recommended portion: the size of a matchbox, about 20 to 40 grams.
Recommended portion: the size of your index finger, from 10 to 20 grams.
There used to be low-fat diets, and now we know that they don’t work. In 2020, ketogenic diets were trendy. However, scientists don’t have enough data to analyze their effect on health in the long run. What always works and has no side effects is balanced eating. Unimeal experts compose every meal plan according to the healthiest and the most balanced diet in the world, the Mediterranean diet(10).
If controlling portion sizes or composing balanced meal plans is too complicated for you, don’t worry. Unimeal experts are here for you 24/7, ready to provide you with a personalized eating plan based on your goals and preferences.