Science says you need fat in your diet. It wasn’t too long ago that leading health experts believed that fat was all-around bad news for your health. But — thankfully! — an emerging body of research is proving the opposite to be true: certain types of fat actually improve our health. As compiled from Reader’s Digest and Fitness magazine, read on to make sure you’re consuming the right kind of good fats — think olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and avocado. Sorry, but French fries didn’t qualify!
You’re having trouble losing weight
Yes, I know this sounds completely counterintuitive, but fact is, you need to eat fat to burn fat. Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says that eating a small amount of unsaturated fats at each meal will help you feel more satisfied over a longer period of time, and therefore consume less overall. When it comes to the low-fat v low-carb weight loss debate, the latest science squarely favours low-carb diets. A study from the National Institutes of Health recently found that low-carb eaters lost more weight (about eight pounds) than low-fat dieters over a 12-month period.
You’re always famished
If you leave the dastarkhwaan only to feel pangs of hunger again soon afterwards, you might not be consuming the right kinds of fat to help fill you up. A 2009 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition measured the effect of eating different kinds of fats on satiety and food intake, among other things. Fifteen subjects consumed different kinds of fat at their meals or none at all. The results showed that participants who consumed unsaturated fat felt more full after every meal. Also, just so you know — eating more fibre or loading up on lean protein can also help ward away hunger longer.
Your skin is always super dry
It’s not from the sun, weather, or a lack of lotion, so why is your skin always dry? It might be related to a lack of healthy fats in your diet, according to Los Angeles dermatologist Jessica Wu, who is also the author of Feed Your Face. “All of your skin cells are wrapped in a protective bubble of fats that helps to protect the skin from drying out and dehydrating, and it also helps to keep out harmful substances in your environment,” shares Wu, adding, “If you have a problem with the skin barrier, your skin looks and feels dry, and can be more prone to eczema rashes. In severe cases your skin can actually visibly crack and bleed.” Loading up on more unsaturated fats may reverse the trend, but Wu cautions overdoing it because a little will go a long way.
You’re low on energy
Your heart gets 70% of its fuel from fat, which is packed with energy, notes Hossein Ardehali, a cardiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Fats provide nine calories per gram, which is more than double the calories found in the same amount of carbohydrates or protein. Yes, that certainly means there are way more calories in an avocado than in paalak, but if you constantly feel like you’re running on empty, it might be time for more (healthy) fat-rich snacks.
You have trouble concentrating
According to extensive research, your brain is 60% fat, and it needs fat to keep running efficiently. A diet high in monounsaturated fats, which you can find in foods like olive oil, safflower oil, nuts and nut butters, increases production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is imperative in the functioning of learning and memory processes.
Your vitamins aren’t working
You’re a health nut and gym rat who makes sure they’re noshing on foods abundant with vitamins A, D, E and K, but maybe you’re not reaping their healthy benefits. Without adequate vitamin A, you could have dry eyes and skin, for example; without enough vitamin C, you could have prolonged wound healing time and more bruising. All four of these vitamins require fats in order to be absorbed and used by your body. This is why you should skip fat-free salad dressing and relish the full-fat balsamic dressing — or you won’t absorb as many nutrients from your leafy greens.
You’re constantly cold
Fun fact — seals have extra padding for a reason: the ocean is a chilly place. Research indicates that you, too, are supposed to carry a small layer of fat insulation underneath your skin to regulate your internal temperature. If you’re feeling chillier than usual, and you seem to be missing a layer of your own blubber, it might be time to boost your consumption of guacamole, hummus, nuts, seeds, and other fatty foods. No, healthy fats won’t make you gain weight if you’re watching your portion sizes.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2016.