What’s The Skinny On Fat
For a long time, we thought avocados were good for nothing but ready-made guac and a decent California burger every now and then. But these little nutritional hand grenades were having an explosive impact on our diets for all that time. How so?
They’re infused with a key nutrient for maintaining healthy weight: FAT.
Wait…fat can help us maintain our weight? You mean to tell me, that dietary fat doesn’t make us fat?
Seriously though, fat is not something to avoid. For starters, it’s essential for normal growth and development. Dietary fat also provides energy, protects our organs, maintains cell membranes, and helps the body absorb and process nutrients. Even better, it helps the body burn fat, at Frequency we recommend that about a third of any weight-loss plan’s macros come from dietary fat.
Not all fatty foods are created equal. While pizza, French fries and hamburgers can contribute to weight gain and deterioration of health, the dietetic community is learning that the overall nutritional content of these foods — not their saturated fat — is what’s to blame.
Fat Burns Fat
The body needs three macronutrients for energy: Carbohydrates, protein, and fat. A gram of fat packs more than twice the energy of a gram of the other two. So essentially, when you don’t have any fat in your diet its like you don’t have fuel to burn calories.
The body requires energy to keep its metabolism properly functioning, and a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming fatty acids can boost metabolic health.
What’s more, “old” fat stored in the body’s peripheral tissues—around the belly, thighs, or butt (also called subcutaneous fat)—can’t be burned efficiently without “new” dietary fat to help the process, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dietary fat helps break down existing fat by activating PPAR-alpha and fat-burning pathways through the liver.
Think of mealtime like baseball spring training: young, hungry players (new fat) hit the field and show the general manger (the liver) that it’s time to send the old, worn-out players (subcutaneous fat) home.
(Makes sense right?)
Fat Keeps You Full
Fat isn’t the easiest nutrient to digest, so it sticks around in the digestive system for more time than many other nutrients. Fatty acids may also help stabilize blood sugar levels, according to Mayo Clinic. That means you feel full longer, and you won’t feel the stomach-growling urge to raid the refrigerator after mealtime.
In fact, diets with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fatty acid that the body can only acquire through food, create a greater sense of fullness both immediately following and two hours after dinner than do meals with low levels of the fatty acids, according to a 2008 study from University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. It’s no surprise that dieters who consume moderate levels of fat are more likely to stick with their eating plans than dieters who consume low levels of fat.
The result? More weight lost.
Fat Makes You Happy
Everyone says that dieting, not to put too fine a point on it, stinks. Eating yummy foods makes you happy, and it turns out low-fat versions just don’t do the trick for one surprising reason: We can taste the fat — not just the salt, sugar and other goodies in food.
Recent research from Purdue University shows that our taste buds can detect fat in food, which helps explain why low-fat foods don’t curb our fat cravings. According to the research, fat may be an entirely different basic taste than what we’ve long considered the four mainstays: sweet, salty, sour and bitter.
On an even happier fat note, omega-3 fatty acids can boost serotonin levels in the brain, helping to improve mood, increase motivation and keep you from devouring a large pizza like it’s your job. 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men have suffered from diagnosed binge-eating disorders, while millions more people are occasional emotional eaters, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.
Fat Builds Muscle
Eating good fats along with an effective exercise program can increase muscle. That’s great because increasing muscle mass is vital to increasing metabolism and burning calories both in and out of the gym. In a 2011 study published in Clinical Science, researchers examined the effects of eight weeks of Poly unsaturated fatty acid supplementation in adults ages 25 to 45 and found that the fat increases protein concentration and the size of muscular cells in the body. Previous studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids stimulate muscle protein synthesis in older adults and can mediate muscle mass loss due to aging.
Fat Makes Food Better for You
Many nutrients including vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning that the body can’t absorb them without fat. If your body isn’t absorbing nutrients properly, that can lead to vitamin deficiencies and bring on dry skin, blindness, brittle bones, muscle pains, and abnormal blood clotting, according to Gidus.
These vitamins are also key to maintaining energy, focus, and muscle health, all of which contribute to a healthy weight. Vitamin E, for example is a powerful antioxidant and helps maintain your metabolism, while the body’s levels of vitamin D predicts its ability to lose fat, especially in the abdominal region, according to a clinical trial from the University of Minnesota Medical School.
So while you can pile your salad high with nutrient-rich spinach, tomatoes and carrots, you really need to thank the olive oil for sending the salad’s vitamins your way.
The new found dietary fat that you’re eating is surely going to attest to some of the feelings of fullness that you’re going to have on this new meal plan. Don’t worry though, the multitude of positives surely outweigh this one negative. Lose more body fat, build more muscle, and improve your mood all with dietary fat!
See you tomorrow 🙂
Riley Phelps, MS CSCS