Can Eating More Fat Help You Lose Weight?

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In the past, people trying to lose weight fat tended to avoid fat. However, dietary fat provides key health benefits that can aid in the weight loss process.

For example, including certain fats in your diet can help you feel more satisfied, making it easier to stick to a healthy, reduced-calorie eating plan. Fat also serves important functions in the body. A sustainable, nutritious meal plan should include dietary fats, regardless of your weight and fitness goals.

Health Benefits of Fat

Fat is a vital nutrient. It's one of the three macronutrients that our bodies require to function properly. Fat is not just beneficial, it is essential.

Dietary fat supplies essential fatty acids for growth, healthy skin, vitamin absorption, and for the regulation of bodily functions. 

The fat stored on our bodies (called body fat) provides energy during times of starvation and protects vital organs. It offers much-needed insulation and cushion to keep us warm and prevent injuries. Some non-essential body fat is required to maintain a healthy body.

Of course, not all fats provide the same benefits. Some types of fat are considered "healthy fats" while other types of fat are considered less healthy.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated fat found in foods including certain types of fish (such as salmon and trout), nuts, and seeds provide omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a decreased risk for certain health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fat is another type of fat that provides certain health benefits. These fats come mostly from plant sources (almonds, avocados, hazelnuts) and are usually liquid at room temperature. Because monounsaturated fats can help decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your blood the American Heart Association recommends that you choose monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats instead of saturated fat in your diet.

Health experts suggest that we limit or avoid consumption of saturated fat and trans fat. These fats may increase our risk for health problems.

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that adults consume less than 10% of our total calories from saturated fat. Trans fats, often found in processed snack foods, are no longer allowed to be used as a food ingredient in the United States as the Food and Drug Administration no longer considers them safe to consume. 

Why You Should Eat Fat to Lose Weight

If you've been focused on cutting calories for weight loss, you may think that restricting high-fat ingredients, like cooking oils, nuts, or avocado is a good strategy. After all, fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein. But calories alone don't tell the whole story. There are two important reasons to include fat in your weight loss program.

Fat Is Filling

Fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates and leaves us feeling full for longer. A smaller portion of food is more satisfying when it contains fat. After eating a balanced meal with some natural fats, we may be less interested in snacking between meals. For example, eating low-fat cereal with skim milk for breakfast may bring on the hunger pangs early in your workday. Instead, choosing a whole egg omelet (don't skip the yolks) or a slice of toast topped with avocado or peanut butter may do better at holding you over until lunchtime. That feeling of fullness can help you skip a mid-morning trip to the vending machine where you're likely to find empty calorie foods.

Eating natural foods that contain fat (like avocado, nuts, olives, sardines, and eggs) helps to manage weight loss efforts by providing more satiety than low-fat foods (especially highly-processed, low-fat foods). The texture of fat while chewing our food, along with how it moves slowly through our digestive system, signals our brains that we have enjoyed a satisfying meal. Adjusting food intake to include more fat and less carbohydrate has been shown to boost leptin levels (the hormone that signals our brain that we're full after eating).

Misguided recommendations to follow a fat-free diet for weight loss are no longer considered sound nutritional advice, and can lead to overeating and promote feelings of deprivation. Instead, consider choosing higher-fat foods carefully and working on recognizing the right portion size. A single serving of cheese, for example, is just one ounce or about the size of two dominoes. A single serving of peanut butter is just two (level) tablespoons. Though it's not necessary to measure everything you eat, remember that it takes less fat to feel full. If you have cut down on fat in the past, it may take a while to realize that smaller portions are sufficient.

Fat Tastes Good

Even when we use healthy meal preparation methods, adding a little bit of fat for flavor can be a good idea. Everything tastes better with a pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil. We are naturally inclined to prefer the taste of foods that contain fat.

If adding some creamy dressing or oil helps you enjoy a fresh salad or plate of roasted vegetables, then this is a win-win. Fat helps our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins from vegetables and turns them into a more filling (and delicious) meal. If your vegetables go untouched unless a little bit of butter is added, then go for it. Making veggies taste better means you'll be more inclined to eat them.

On the flip side, fat-free products often have extra sugar added to compensate for the loss in flavor. Fat-free salad dressings and desserts are more likely to be high in sugar. The extra sugar in these products makes them less healthy and less filling than their higher-fat counterparts. Don't be fooled by assuming that fat-free is healthier.

High Fat Diets

While consuming some fat in your diet provides known health benefits, there is mixed evidence regarding the advantages of diets that are high in fat. Ketogenic diets have become extremely popular in recent years. Those that follow this eating style consume about 75% of their total calories from fat.

Research supports the use of keto diets for the management of certain neurological conditions. But studies investigating the weight loss benefits of high fat diets have yielded mixed results.

For example, some researchers point out that these diets may not be sustainable because many experience negative symptoms including fatigue, weakness, light-headedness, headaches, and irritability. Others are concerned about the long-term effects on heart health and other outcomes. Lastly, ketogenic diets restrict foods that are high in fiber and other important nutrients.

A Word From Verywell

Fat improves our absorption of essential nutrients, helping us feel full and serving as a reserve for energy storage. By signaling our fullness cues, fat can help us stay off the roller coaster of sugar cravings and settle into a more sustainable way of eating. While some people may need to follow a low-fat diet for health reasons, fat-free diets are no longer considered nutritionally balanced. Bringing natural fats back into our meals can be part of the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.

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Article Sources
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