Can Eating More Fat Help You Lose Weight?

Close-Up Of Open Sandwiches Served On Cutting Board
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For people who are trying to lose weight, fat can seem like the enemy. However, dietary fat provides key health benefits that help with weight loss. Including certain fats in your eating plan will help you feel more satisfied, making weight loss easier and more effective. Fat serves important functions throughout our body systems. A sustainable, nutritious way of eating should never exclude 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. As a result, 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.

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).

Eating fat-free foods when we're hungry, on the other hand, can lead to overeating (think fat-free chips or reduced-fat cookies) because they leave us feeling deprived. 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.

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. Misguided recommendations to follow a fat-free diet for weight loss are no longer considered sound nutritional advice. 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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  1. Izadi V, Saraf-bank S, Azadbakht L. Dietary intakes and leptin concentrations. ARYA Atheroscler. 2014;10(5):266-72.