If you ask people what to do to lose fat, a lot of them will tell you “eat less fat”. In the end to lose weight you have to limit your calories, so it’s not that bad of an advice. On top of that, less fat usually means lower cholesterol and less health problems. But, there are fats and fats and while some should be avoided at all cost, other are healthy for you. It is less about plainly limiting fats in your diet, but more about the type of fat you are eating. While bad fats can increase your cholesterol and make you more prone to heart diseases, you will greatly benefit from good fats, and some of them are actually essential for your body.
Types of dietary fats
I’m quite sure that you’ve heard at least some of this, but just to remind, there are four main types of fats in food:
- monounsaturated fats
- polyunsaturated fats
- saturated fats
- trans fats
When you look at nutrition table, usually there are only main nutrition groups, like carbohydrates, proteins, fats. Some of tables will specify sugars and saturated fats, almost none (except of sports supplements) will specify trans fat. That’s the reality, but don’t worry, there is a way to figure out what fats are in given product.
Long story short, unsaturated fats are good for your heart and overall health. Monounsaturated fats lower total and bad cholesterol levels (LDL), while increasing good cholesterol levels (HDL). Polyunsaturated fats lower triglycerides and fight inflammation. Also, vitamins dissolves in fats, so you body can absorb them.
The best sources for unsaturated fats are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, avocados and fish.
Omega-3 are type of polyunsaturated fat, and proven by many studies to be the most beneficial. They reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer. You should eat them every day, both in food and as food supplements, as it’s difficult to meet recommended 1-3 grams per day requirement only from food.
While most studies show that saturated fats are bad, you still can include them in your diet, and without Paleo diet it’s almost impossible to eliminate them completely anyway.
Saturated fats appear, among others, in high-fat meat (lamb, beef, pork), whole milk and cream, chicken with skin, butter and lard.
The commonly known limit is 20 grams per day, or less than 10% of your calories and it’s easy to keep it in low. Swap butter with olive oil, whole milk with skimmed one, sour cream with non-fat yogurt and red meat with chicken and turkey.
You want to get rid of those in your diet completely, as they only harm your body. Commonly find in:
- bakery products, like cookies, cakes, muffins (in Starbucks, Costa and other lunch bars all of them only list saturated fats btw), pizza and some breads.
- Snacks, nachos, candy bars
- Fried foods, chips, fries, fried chicken, donuts
- Solid fats, like stick margarine
- Fast foods, they also usually list only saturated fats.
Low fat products
Whenever I see “fat free” label, I think of all chemicals that were used to remove fat. Fat free doesn’t mean that the product is healthy, as usually it’s high in carbohydrates (sugars) and calories.