“Help me – I’m a meat and steak lover. Tell me what this has to do with being overweight and what I can do to better my health.” from Anonymous.
This post will answer your questions, and make it clear that you need fat, but not high fat, above all – not bad fat.
You need fat in your diet.
Fat is one of the structural components for the cells in the human body. Fat provides energy for body functions and facilitates absorption of essential nutrients. In addition, fat adds flavor to food.
The question is how much you need. As recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adult daily fat intake should be 25 to 35 percent of their total calories. For example, if your food intake is 2000 calories a day, you should consume 500 to 700 calories of fat (or 55 to 78g of fat) or less daily.
You need to stay away from a high-fat diet, esp. “bad fats”.
Research shows that consumption of a high-fat, high-sugar diet significantly increased weight gain and abdominal fat. Overweight and obesity lead to an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. A high-fat diet dramatically exacerbates the development of insulin resistance (a condition where your cells fail to respond to insulin, thereby poorly managing sugar), hyperglycemia, and hypertriglyceridemia, hence risks for various illnesses. It also promotes chronic inflammation, and weakens immune functions.
That’s the danger posted by Standard American Diet (SAD), which is characterized with excessive animal fats or saturated fats (“bad fats”), but lack in fibers, fresh fruits and vegetables. Saturated fats are packed in red meats, processed meats, butter and cream, as well as fast or junk food. Trans fats are very harmful and mostly hidden in processed, fried foods (such as deep-fried potato chips and cheese sticks).
Are you aware of high-fat diet associated abdominal obesity?
Abdominal obesity refers to excessive fat build up around the stomach area (so-called belly fat), a condition can even present in normal-weight individuals. Many folks are unaware of this. Accumulating evidence indicates that abdominal obesity per se is positively associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. One study examined 44,636 women with 16 years of follow-up, and concluded that abdominal obesity is significantly linked to increased deaths from cardiovascular disease in normal-weight women.
Among multifaceted mechanisms possibly involved in abdominal obesity, lifestyle including high-fat diet is a modifiable factor. Thus, you have the power to make the change.
You can definitely benefit from healthy fats
Some fats such as omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our normal metabolism, but the human body cannot make them. So, your diet is the source to obtain these fats. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fish: salmon, sardines, tuna
- Nuts & Seeds: walnuts, flaxseeds
- Oil: canola oil or soybean oil
- Others: winter squash, beans (esp. kidney beans)
Other sources of healthy fats (i.e. “good fats”, unsaturated fat) include olive oil, avocado, and nuts. These are flavenoids-rich foods; increased intake can lower your blood cholesterol and your risk of heart disease and cancer.
How to trim-down high-fat diet and prevent weight gain: Four Proven Strategies
1. Modify your diet.
A healthy, balanced diet is a must, period. You need to say NO to Trans Fat, avoid or at least limit intake of animal fats, red meats, and processed meat products, eat a plenty of fruits, vegetables, and plan-based foods.
2. Replace bad-fat foods with healthy alternatives.
Here are some examples:
Replace deep-fry foods with baked or grilled food
Replace red meat with salmon, tuna or beans
Replace butter with avocado or olive oil
Replace cheese in salad with almond
Replace ice cream or sweet pie with fruit cake, or ice-cold fruit juice (important: fresh-made, not artificial or commercial one)
Replace whole milk with non-fat (skim) or 1% fat milk.
3. Replace high-fat diet with high-fiber diet.
Fiber has no fat and is beneficial for weight control. Fiber is abundant in whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Here are some tips to get 30-35 grams of fiber a day as recommended:
- Breakfast: Have high-fiber cereal or oatmeal.
- Lunch: Eat lots of veggies and beans, use whole wheat bread for your sandwiches.
- Dinner: Consume whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or potato with skin, and more veggies.
- Snack: All-bran or Multi-grain crackers, high-fiber bars, fresh or dried fruits, and nuts.
4. Do exercise esp. endurance exercise.
Exercise is an effective way to maintain a healthy weight and redistribute abdominal fat. To keep heart healthy and long-term wellbeing, stick with a fixed schedule of treadmill (or other routine) for 30 min/day, 5 days/week at least.