When you think of losing weight, fat was always thought of as enemy number one; in recent years, carbohydrates have seem to taken its place though. While super low-fat diets were once touted as the way to most effectively lose weight, it is becoming clearer that fats, certain types of fats anyway, are beneficial for our health in many ways and that they should make up a greater portion of the diet than once believed. If you are trying to lose weight, eating the right fats in the right quantities may be an important part of the equation.
Not All Fats are Created Equal
The distinction between ''good'' fats and ''bad'' fats has been becoming clearer and it is an important distinction to make. Good fats, like those found in nuts, seeds and olive oil offer many health benefits, particularly for the heart. Saturated fats in animal products can harm our health when eaten in excess. Trans fats, the worst fat of all, offer no benefits, serve no purpose in the body and is best avoided as much as possible.
One study that appeared in Diabetes Care ,for example, found that a diet high in monounsaturated fat led to the greatest reduction in belly fat compared to diets high in carbohydrates or saturated fat.
But, it is important to remember that when you are trying to lose weight, fat has more than twice the calories of proteins and carbohydrates so eating large amounts of it, especially when you are not regulating your intake of other nutrients, can thwart your weight loss efforts.
What about Coconut Oil?
When it comes to fat and a positive impact on weight loss, coconut oil has probably gotten the most attention in recent years. It used to a diet pariah due to its high saturated fat content, but it appears the saturated fat found in plant foods, like coconuts, is different than that found in animal foods. It contains a type of fat that the body tends to use as an immediate source of energy, much like carbohydrates, rather than being stored for future use. For this reason, it has been heavily touted to speed up metabolism and aid in weight loss, and some studies have shown it may help.
But, according to Mayo Clinic dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, a recent review of research suggests its effect on weight and BMI does not appear to be significant, though it may help reduce waist size. It certainly cannot hurt to experiment with adding it to your diet to see if it helps, you can consume it straight from the bottle, use it for cooking or add it to foods. But, due to its high fat and calorie content, you need to pay attention to your fat intake from other sources, as well as overall consumption of any type of food, and reduce accordingly to make room for the coconut oil.
High-Fat Diet to Lose Weight?
A recently published animal study by Israeli researchers suggests that a properly scheduled high-fat diet may help reset metabolism and prevent obesity. Note the caveat of properly scheduled. The scientists compared the effects of a scheduled high-fat diet (eating at the same time of day and for the same amount of time at each meal) to a scheduled low-fat diet, an unscheduled high-fat diet and unscheduled low-fat diet.
The mice eating the scheduled high-fat diet lost the most amount of weight and experienced a unique change in their metabolism where the body used fat for energy rather than stored it. Not surprisingly, the group eating the unscheduled high-fat diet gained the most weight: remember fat has more than twice the calories as proteins and carbohydrates. Based on this study, the researchers believe that it is not the amount of fat that affects weight gain but the timing of food intake.
When it comes to weight loss, it can be a confusing. Conflicting studies and recommendations abound. Conventional wisdom would call for a reduced fat diet since it is the nutrient highest in calories, yet the Israeli study suggests eating a lot of fat on a proper schedule, may actually help you lose weight. What is a person to do? If you want to experiment with the high-fat approach, it is best to seek out the advice of a knowledgeable health care professional before you start eating huge amounts of it. If you have the choice between a handful of nuts or a low-fat or fat-free ''diet'' food that loaded with processed carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners, it is probably best to go with the nuts. Ultimately, you need to watch your caloric intake, no matter what the source of those calories is.
As it stands now, your best bets for weight loss is keeping fat to about 35 percent of your calories-choose healthy unsaturated fats for the majority of your intake. Eat healthy carbohydrates and lean proteins. Boring, clichéd advice I know, but this is really the core of losing weight and staying healthy overall.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content. If you are interested in following a structured weight loss program check out a weight watchers diet review or a review of Medifast program, to learn more about these popular plans .