In our Western world of plenty, food has become a surprisingly confusing topic. Are we meant to eat low carb, high fibre, low fat or gluten free? The rules go on and on. To confuse you even more, did you know that eating fat helps you lose weight?

Not only do we want the best for our overall health but most of us want to eat in a way that also keeps our weight in the healthy range. From a perspective of purely calories in and calories out, it would make sense that reducing our fat intake would help us to lose weight. But is this actually the case?

Science has now proven that calories are not all created equal. While calories from fat, protein or carbohydrates all seem the same when burned in the vacuum of a laboratory they behave very differently in our complex body. Food interacts with microorganisms in our gut and affects hormones like insulin that help us store abdominal fat.

A Harvard research project compared high-fat and low-carb diets with low-fat and high-carb diets and then got the groups to swap diets so they could compare the different diets on the same bodies to give a more accurate understanding of the results. The outcome was very clear. The group that ate high fat and low carbs had an overwhelmingly better response, burning 300+ more calories a day, lowering their cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improving their insulin resistance level in comparison to the low-fat high-carb diet group.

So, now we need to look at which specific fats should we eat. The fats that have the greatest health benefits are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Foods to focus on are avocadoes, unroasted nuts and seeds and coconut and olive oil. A hero amongst these is the humble macadamia nut with the highest proportion of monosaturated fat. It has been shown that adding this nut to your diet can lower cholesterol in some people as effectively as a very restricted low-fat diet.

Eating fat has the added benefit of making us feel satisfied so we reduce hunger pains and stop craving the wrong foods, helping us to absorb our fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). It also encourages bile flow which improves the balance of good and bad organisms in our gut which, as I have discussed before, has a huge impact on our metabolism.

This festive season, don’t hold back – eat those healthy fats, feel more satisfied and keep up the probiotics.     

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Words // Dr Elen ApThomas



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