Low-fat diets have been touted as the road to weight loss since the 1970s. It’s only recently that researchers have started to report that dietary fat can actually help you to lose weight. Many people are still stuck in the old mentality that eating fat makes you fat. That’s not necessarily true.
If you’re not sure how much or what kind of fat you should be eating, there are several pros and cons to adding fat to your diet you should consider.
Pro: You Will Feel Way More Satisfied
Feeling full and satisfied after a meal is directly related to how well you can control what you eat. If you tend to feel hungry shortly after you eat, you are far more likely to reach for a snack. A meal that is higher in fat will usually help you to feel more satiated. On the contrary, low-fat meals that are high in sugar tend to raise your blood sugar quickly and result in a sudden drop in blood glucose shortly after that. This means you will start feeling hungry again regardless of how many calories you just consumed. In addition, when fat makes its way down to your small intestine, it slows the digestive process and decreases your appetite because you start to feel full.
Pro: Some Fats are Very Healthy for You
Maybe your diet is already high in fat, but are you eating the right types of fat? Omega 3 fatty acids, for example, play a vital role in a healthy body. These are usually found in fatty fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Adding more Omega 3s to your diet would go a long way in helping you reach optimal wellness. They have been found to decrease anxiety and depression. In addition, your eye, brain, and heart health may also get a boost from this polyunsaturated healthy fat.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are another healthy fat source with many benefits. You can find this type of fat in olives, olive oil, avocados, and many nuts. Several studies have found that a diet high in MUFAs reduces your risk of heart disease. They can also raise your levels of the “good” cholesterol – HDL. Finally, MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and help you to keep your blood sugar under control, thereby decreasing your chance of developing diabetes.
Pro: Many Vitamins are Fat Soluble
Several essential vitamins and minerals are fat-soluble, meaning your body cannot process or absorb them without fat. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins. If you find that you are deficient in one of these nutrients, it may be that you’re not absorbing the dietary or supplemental sources because of a low-fat diet. Vitamin A can be found in liver, butter, carrots, and spinach. Dietary sources of Vitamin D are some mushrooms, fish, and fortified dairy products. You can find Vitamin E in nuts, seeds, and some vegetable oils. Vitamin K is usually found in kale, liver, spinach, and egg yolks. You can guess that if you’re eating a large salad with fat-free dressing, you may not be absorbing all those great vitamins!
Con: Certain Health Conditions Don’t Do Well with High Fat
Some health conditions may make it harder for your body to process fat. If you have one of these, of course, speak with your healthcare provider because adding more fat to your diet could have a negative impact on your health.
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Gallbladder disease
- Heart disease
- Any condition that has a side effect of fat-malabsorption
Con: You Will Store More Fat if Your Carbs Are Also High
It turns out you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can have a diet that is high in fat and still lose weight, but your carb intake must be low. Or, you can have a diet high in carbs, but your dietary fat consumption must be low. Eating a high carb AND high-fat diet will just lead to weight gain. Your body will have too much fuel to burn, and it will end up storing all of those extra calories as body fat. The combination of high fat and high carbs in food can also lead to overeating. It’s hard to overeat a plate that only consists of steak and vegetables. It’s extremely easy, on the other hand, to overeat donuts and french fries (foods that are equally high in fat and carbs).
Con: Some Fats Are Quite Unhealthy for You
The worst kind of fat for your body, according to many researchers and nutritionists, are trans fats. These types of fatty acids raise your “bad” blood cholesterol levels (LDL) and significantly increase your risk for heart disease. Thankfully, the FDA has actually banned partially hydrogenated oils, but you can still get trans fats on your plate, especially if you frequent fast food restaurants. Even small amounts of trans fats can harm your health, like increasing insulin resistance and putting you at a higher risk for having a heart attack.
Recently, some vegetable oils have been discovered to raise inflammation levels in the body. Canola, grapeseed, sunflower, soy, corn, and safflower oils are all examples of these inflammatory fats that might have negative effects on your health. These oils are high in Omega 6 fatty acids, which most people consume too much of. Unfortunately, if lots of your meals come from restaurants or fast food joints, you are probably consuming way too many Omega 6 fatty acids.
The Bottom Line
Not all fats are created equal. Dietary fat is fundamentally essential to many functions and systems in our bodies. The type and how much, though, should be monitored carefully. It’s a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider to see if you are eating enough of the right kinds of fat or too much of the wrong types. Gone are the days of nutritionists praising low- and no-fat cookies, cakes, and yogurt. These products may actually be contributing to obesity and disease.