How Eating More Fat Helps You Lose Weight?

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.

But first: What are fats, and why do we need them?

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. 

Unsaturated fats

unsaturated fats

There are two types of healthy unsaturated fats: 

  • - monounsaturated fats
  • - polyunsaturated 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:

  • - olive and other plant oils
  • - nuts, including cashews, almonds, and peanuts
  • - seeds
  • - eggs
  • - avocados

Polyunsaturated fats are contained in:

  • - fatty fish
  • - nuts
  • - flaxseeds
  • - some plant oils, like canola

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

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:

  • - fatty meat
  • - lard
  • - butter
  • - cheese
  • - sausages and processed meats
  • - coconut and palm oil
  • - whole milk
  • - chocolate
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.

Trans 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.

Why are fats essential for weight loss?

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. 

What’s so bad about fat-free products?

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. 

High-fat diets: How does eating fat make you skinny?

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.

keto diet

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.

How much fat should you eat to lose weight?

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.

portion control
  • - Olive oil. Most researchers agree that extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat source. It is loaded with antioxidants and contains vitamins E and K. Thanks to these nutrients, olive oil can lower blood pressure and minimize risks related to heart disease.

Recommended portion: one teaspoon, approximately 10 grams.

  • - Avocado. Avocados are rich in potassium and fiber. They bring satiety, raise good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering triglycerides and bad cholesterol (LDL).

Recommended portion: ⅕ to ⅓ of a medium-sized fruit.

  • - Nuts. Nuts are full of healthy fiber and fat, as well as magnesium. Studies show that the lack of magnesium can increase the risk(15) of cardiovascular disease, so nuts are a great supplement to your healthy meal plan.

Recommended portion: one small handful, approximately 15 grams.

  • - Salmon and fatty fish. Fishes such as trout, mackerel, salmon, and sardines are rich in fatty omega-3 acids that are incredibly beneficial for heart health. Fish can even help with depression and dementia.

Recommended portion: the size of your palm, 100-150 of raw fish fillet.

  • - Cheese. Cheese is a source of protein, B12 vitamins, and minerals, such as phosphorus, selenium, and calcium. According to studies(16), cheese and other dairy products can lower the risk of diabetes.

Recommended portion: the size of a matchbox, about 20 to 40 grams.

  • - Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is rich in all kinds of antioxidants and minerals, and as it can lower blood pressure, it is valuable for cardiovascular health.

Recommended portion: the size of your index finger, from 10 to 20 grams.

These are some more healthy fat foods to help you lose fat: 

  • - Whole eggs. Eggs contain nearly every nutrient the human body needs, and because they’re so high in protein, they’re very filling despite their small size.
  • - Full-fat yogurt. Yogurt contains probiotic bacteria that help regulate the digestive system and fight heart disease and obesity.
  • - Chia seeds. Chia seeds are nearly 80% fat, they lower blood pressure and have an anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Coconut and coconut oil. Coconut is one of the richest sources of fats, and nearly 90% of them are saturated. Fats in coconut metabolize differently: the liver turns them into ketone bodies easier than other saturated fats. Coconuts are also beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s(17).

Summing up

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.

Sources:

  1. Appel J. L., Sacks F. M., Carey V. J., et al. (2005, November, 16). Effects of Protein, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate Intake on Blood Pressure and Serum Lipids: Results of the OmniHeart Randomized Trial. JAMA. DOI: 10.1001/jama.294.19.2455
  2. Vessby B., Uusitupa M., Hermansen K., et al. (2001, March). Substituting Dietary Saturated for Monounsaturated Fat Impairs Insulin Sensitivity in Healthy Men and Women: The KANWU Study. Diabetologia. DOI: 10.1007/s001250051620
  3. Derbyshire E. (2018, August 10). Brain Health across the Lifespan: A Systematic Review on the Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements. Nutrients. DOI: 10.3390/nu10081094
  4. Huang T-H., Wang P-W., Yang S-C., et al. (2018, August). Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin. Marine Drugs. DOI: 10.3390/md16080256
  5. Miljanović B., Trivedi K. A., Dana M. R., et al. (2005, October 10). Relation between Dietary n−3 and n−6 Fatty Acids and Clinically Diagnosed Dry Eye Syndrome in Women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/82.4.887
  6. Micallef M., Munro I., Phang M., et al. (2009, November). Plasma n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Are Negatively Associated with Obesity. The British Journal of Nutrition. DOI: 10.1017/S0007114509382173
  7. Sacks F. M., Lichtenstein A. H., Wu J. H. U., et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association. (2017, June 15). Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510
  8. Chowdhury R., Warnakula S., Kunutsor S., et al. (2014, March 18).Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.7326/M13-1788
  9. Nettleton J. A., Brouwer I. A., Geleijnse J. M., et al. (2017, April). Saturated Fat Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Ischemic Stroke: A Science Update. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. DOI: 10.1159/000455681
  10. Martinez-Gonzalez M. A., Martín-Calvo N. (2016, November). Mediterranean Diet and Life Expectancy; Beyond Olive Oil, Fruits and Vegetables. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. DOI: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000316
  11. U. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, May 18). Trans Fat. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/trans-fat
  12. Montmayeur, J. P., & le Coutre, J. (Eds.). (2010). Fat Detection: Taste, Texture, and Post Ingestive Effects. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
  13. Kinzig K. P., Honors M. A., Hargrave S. L. (2010, April 28). Insulin Sensitivity and Glucose Tolerance Are Altered by Maintenance on a Ketogenic Diet. Endocrinology. DOI: 10.1210/en.2010-0175
  14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015, December). 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
  15. DiNicolantonio J. J., O’Keefe J. H., Wilson W. (2018, January 13). Subclinical Magnesium Deficiency: A Principal Driver of Cardiovascular Disease and a Public Health Crisis. Open Heart. DOI: 10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668
  16. Kalergis M., Leung Yinko S. S. L., Nedelcu R. (2013, July 23). Dairy Products and Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes: Implications for Research and Practice. Frontiers in Endocrinology. DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2013.00090
  17. De La Rubia Ortí J. E., García-Pardo M. P., Drehmer E., et al. (2018). Improvement of Main Cognitive Functions in Patients with Alzheimer's Disease after Treatment with Coconut Oil Enriched Mediterranean Diet: A Pilot Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. DOI: 10.3233/JAD-180184