Eat Fat to Burn Fat

Brought to you by The American Health Coach

Sounds Crazy, Right? Fat has gotten a bad rap, but adding some to your diet may be the key to a slimmer, healthier you.

Wait…fat can help us maintain and even lose weight and fat doesn’t make us fat?
The answer: Exactly!


Fat should not be avoided. For instance, it’s essential for normal growth and development. Dietary fat makes foods taste great, is a wonderful source of energy, protects our organs, maintains cell membranes, and helps the body absorb and process many nutrients. Best of all, it helps the body burn fat.

Now don’t run off to KFC for a bucket of fried chicken, biscuits and mashed potatoes, consider this: not all fatty foods are created equal. It’s a little more complicated than that. The foods you choose can mean the difference between a healthy body and one plagued with obesity and disease. While a diet of stereotypically fatty foods like 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. Research from 50 years ago found that saturated fats raised LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. But a reevaluation of that research has shown that they raise HDL (good) cholesterol just as much, if not more, protecting the body from unhealthy cholesterol levels and heart disease. Unfortunately, this new research is slow to come to light and most people, even doctors, are unaware.

So what fats should be eaten and where are they found?

Most of the fat that you eat—especially if you want to lose weight—should come from unsaturated sources, both monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA). These good-for-you fats can be found in fish, seeds, nuts, leafy vegetables, olive oil, and, of course, avocadoes. They are packed with tons of fiber, protein, and nutrients. Besides removing LDL cholesterol from arteries and promoting a healthier heart, unsaturated fat can help you burn fat big time without cutting calories. A 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that participants who consumed the most unsaturated fatty acids have lower body mass indexes and less abdominal fat than those who consumed the least. Why? The unsaturated folks ate higher-quality foods.


In the 90’s, the low-fat/no-fat diet craze swept across the food landscape. Manufacturers marketed low-fat and no-fat everything. And what happened with the low fat/no fat craze? America got fatter! Why? It turns out that fat provides a big component to the foods we love: Taste. When food manufacturers removed fat from their foods, they had to load the foods with sugar and salt to increase flavor. In fact, most of these low fat/ no fat foods have the same caloric content as the full fat counter part

What to eat – and what to skip – when adding fat to your diet

*Unsaturated Fatty Acids: Consisting of both monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). MUFAs are found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocadoes, while PUFAs are found in vegetable oils, fish, and seafood. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two PUFAs that can only be obtained through diet and are called “essential fatty acids.” Adjust your diet accordingly.


*Saturated Fatty Acids: Found primarily in foods from animal sources such as meat and dairy products, like butter and cheese, they are usually solid at room temperature. Some vegetable oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil also contain saturated fat.

*Trans Fatty Acids: Chemically processed vegetable oils, they are semisolid at room temperature and are used in some margarines, fried foods, and processed foods to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life. Also called “partially hydrogenated” oils, they should be avoided like the plague they are.


Fat Really Does Burn 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. Fat is an incredible 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 can’t be burned efficiently without “new” 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


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. These healthy fats 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.


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. 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.


Fat Builds Muscle

Eating good fats along with an effective exercise program can increase muscle. 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 PUFA 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.


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.