Experts used to think that dietary fat — which makes foods like cakes, ice cream and proper chips taste like the best thing ever — made people physically fat. But attitudes are changing. The only kind of fat that's definitively bad for you is trans fat, according to registered dietitian Abby Langer. And the other kinds of fat can be beneficial for general health — and weight management.
Of course you can't just add healthy fats to a crappy diet and expect to lose weight. But 'consuming a wide variety of nutritious foods, including fats, helps create satiety and can help prevent overeating,' explains neuroscientist Darya Rose, PhD, author of Foodist and the blog Summer Tomato. And that can result in sustainable weight loss.
If you want to control your weight and live your healthiest life, you can get over your fat fears and dig into the fat-rich foods below:
Although nuts are calorically dense — a serving size is a paltry 18 nuts and is about 170 calories — studies show that people who eat more nuts have lower BMIs than people who don't. While this doesn't exactly prove that nuts make you skinny, scientists believe eating nuts may increase the number of calories you burn at rest and keep you full for so long that you end up eating fewer calories over all.
Another theory: The body can't digest some of the fat calories found in certain nuts like almonds, explains Langer. And when food calories exit the body intact, they're excluded from the whole calories-in-versus-calories-out equation that's often blamed for weight losses and gains.
2. Coconut Oil
Preliminary research shows that simply swallowing coconut oil can increase your energy metabolism and burn up to 120 extra calories per day. If your goal is reduce your overall caloric intake, you're better off cooking with coconut oil than cutting out fats altogether.
Used in place of conventional butter (which is no longer considered the devil, but still packs quite a few calories per schmear), avocado delivers a worthwhile mix of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins that dietitians are rightfully obsessed with. Research even shows that overweight people who eat half an avocado at lunch feel greater satisfaction up to five hours later.
4. Egg Yolk
Contrary to popular belief, eggs don't appear to raise bad cholesterol or trigger heart disease, according to recent research that compared the effects of low- and high-egg diets. Eggs — yolks and all! — actually promote satiety that should (at least in theory) reduce overeating.
5. Hard Full-Fat Cheeses
Despite the fact that cheese is often demonized for being high in fat and calories, science suggests that full-fat, milk-based foods are undeserving of their rotten reputations. Some studies even show that people who cut back on calories while increasing their intake of full-fat dairy lose weight more quickly than people who only cut back on calories. Again and again, large-scale scientific reviews of existing research suggest that people who include high-fat dairy foods in their diets are less likely to be overweight and obese. Research has even found that people who eat upward of five servings a week have less body fat, lower BMIs, and lower blood pressure than people who steer clear of dairy altogether. While more research is needed to understand exactly why, some theories suggest that dairy's protein boosts satiety and its calcium binds to fatty acids to reduce fat absorption. There's also reason to believe that a certain fatty acid found in aged cheeses and produced by gut bacteria when you eat high-fat dairy may speed up the metabolism and promote weight loss. Which is as good an excuse as any to order pizza with extra cheese.