While it seems logical to assume that eating fat makes you fat, the truth is not so simple. Fat represents a complex collection of nutrients. You need to eat healthier fats to be slimmer and healthier.

The Fat You Eat

Studies show that eating the right fats improves wellness even if you need to lose body fat. Yes, fat is denser in calories than protein and carbohydrate. But although fat has about 9 calories per gram compared to 3.5 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates, it is the type of fat that makes all the difference to your health.

Being overweight and obese means your body is suffering serious inflammation. There are many causes of inflammation, but the unhealthy fats like the trans fats and hydrogenated fats in processed foods are substantial contributors.

On the other hand, fats like the omega-3 (DHA and EPA) fatty acids in fish help to soothe inflammation. For example, in an eight-week intervention trial of 324 overweight subjects aged 20 to 40 years, researchers found that salmon consumption significantly lowered blood markers of inflammation. In this test, blood levels of C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation, came down by almost a third.

Higher in Sugar

Unfortunately, low-fat diets are usually higher in sugar to make up for the loss of taste that results when you cut fat. That’s a poor trade-off. Refined sugar triggers the secretion of insulin which tell the body to store more fat. Plus, while a low-fat diet may initially help reduce body fat, eventually you are more likely to put the fat back on in undesirable, unsightly fat-deposit areas. (Think cellulite.)

However, healthy fats can assist the process of long-term successful weight loss. Consuming healthy fats in moderation with high-fiber, nutrient-rich whole foods (predominately produce), lowers inflammation and improves your relationship with your diet.

The keys to eating fat and losing weight:

• Eliminate (addictive) processed foods containing trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils. Just say no to vegetable shortening, margarine or oils containing partially hydrogenated oils and fats. Know also that French fries, doughnuts, pastries, muffins, croissants, cookies, crackers, chips and other such snack foods are high in trans fat.

• Minimize your consumption of dairy fats, saturated fats that are high in cholesterol. In general, dairy fats that have more cholesterol and saturated fat increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. I often hear patients say they finally lost weight when they got off dairy fats (milk and cheese).

• Minimize your consumption of animal fats, which are high in cholesterol and saturated fat linked to heart disease. T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and his associates showed the link between consuming more than 10 percent of one’s diet as animal protein and the diseases of affluence (cancer, heart disease, diabetes).

• Increase healthier oils, such as fish oil, krill oil, olive oil and flax oil. Make salad dressings with olive oil or sesame oil and add balsamic vinegar and some herbs.

• Increase healthier fatty foods, such as raw nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, etc.), seeds (sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds), fruits (avocado, coconut), and fish (salmon, cod, tilapia, etc.).Take note that research has found that low-fat diets contribute to excess weight on your thighs, buns and belly. Also, studies have shown that laboratory animals on a low- or no-fat diet developed fatty liver disease more often than those on a regular diet.

Eating healthy fats is important for better health. It’s better for your waistline, too.

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