Why Eating Fat Makes You Lose Fat

And other reasons to get your olive oil, seeds and avocado on. Employ our latest nutritional pillar: Eat Healthy Fats Daily.

The Equinox Nutrition Philosophy is comprised of 12 fundamental nutritional pillars, all of which support the health of your cells, and thus increase your body’s overall energy capabilities while decreasing acidity and inflammation. The result: A younger, healthier (and we bet, happier) you with a metabolic system that hums. Here, the tenth:

Let’s face it, fat has gotten a bad rap. It can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease and it can cover up those abs you work so hard on in the gym. But cutting fat from your diet in an effort to stay lean isn’t the answer. It may seem surprising, but you actually need to eat fat in order to lose fat. The key, of course, is to eat healthy fats.

Healthy dietary fat is critical for a healthy body—not to mention vibrant skin and shiny hair. It helps maintain your cell membranes, keeping them pliable, and it’s necessary for healthy hormone production, including hormones that aid in the digestion and elimination of fat (one reason you need to eat it to lose it). Dietary fat also provides fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and allows us to absorb them—without fat they wouldn’t make it into the bloodstream to do their nourishing work.

Having some fat on your body is necessary too. Not only does it create flattering lines on a well-sculpted physique, it acts as insulation so you can maintain body temperature. It’s a shock absorber, too. “The fat surrounding your bones, organs, and nerves offers protective cushioning for sudden impact from both contact sports and possible trauma, helping to shield you from extensive damage,” says registered dietician and Tier 4 coach Maria Pagano. “But the number one role of fat is to provide us with energy. When you don’t have access to glucose from carbohydrates, your body releases fat as fuel.”

Of course, we’re not advocating a thick spread of butter on your toast. All fats should be consumed in moderation. Some butter—a saturated fat—is okay, as long as it’s from antibiotic-free, grass-fed cows. “Studies show that including some saturated fat in your diet can reduce levels of lipoprotein(a), which is associated with heart disease,” says Pagano. Coconut oil, another good-for-you saturated fat, contains lauric acid, which has been shown to raise HDL (good) cholesterol. But there’s another reason to add it to your shopping list: It’s a medium chain triglyceride so it’s metabolized faster by the liver and is less likely to be stored as fat. 

You’ll also get a dose of saturated fat if you eat meat and dairy, but the majority of your fat balance should come from monounsaturated fats, which can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and polyunsaturated fats like omega 3s, which enhance the immune system and minimize inflammation—including the type that can contribute to muscle soreness after workouts. You can find the former in olives and olive oil, avocados, and almonds, and the latter in walnuts, eggs, and fatty cold-water fish like sardines and salmon.

Sunflower and safflower oils are rich in the essential fatty acid omega 6 and they’re considered healthy polyunsaturated fats too, but Pagano advises sticking to a 1:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 based off a hunter-gatherer diet. “Most people over-consume omega 6s, often in the form of partially hydrogenated, shelf-stable soybean oil, corn oil and canola oil, which are highly processed.” Stay away from those and all trans fats—they tend to sneak into packaged snack foods you really shouldn’t be eating anyway.

Focus on weaving a range of healthy fats into your weekly meals. Some oils taste grassy, others nutty, so chef it up and play with flavor profiles. Grill some fish, drizzle walnut oil over veggies, make salad dressing with hemp oil, sprinkle ground flax into your salads, and have pumpkin seeds as a snack. Another big fat benefit (wink, wink): Fat adds a richness that’s both mentally and physically satisfying. Since it digests more slowly, you stay full longer so you just might eat less in the end. 

Dip into the right kind of fat with these recipes from Tasting Table:

Avocado Toast with Shrimp Salad

Avocado Toast with Pickled Onions, Anchovy and Tomatoes

Avocado Toast with Eggs Gribiche

Chile-Garlic Broiled Salmon

Practice what we're preaching for the next few weeks, then check back on November seventh for rule number eleven. If you're just tuning into our 12-month eating overhaul, read our nutrition philosophy.

Photography by Maria Robledo / Trunk Archive