It’s time to get fat. Not around your waist, but on your plate.
No, we’re not talking about the awful food relatives force us to eat at the holidays. We’re talking about getting the fat on your plate: A new report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute found that more and more of us are choosing whole-fat foods over skim, lite, fat-free or other modern monikers of leanness. And while many health organizations like the American Heart Association still want us to cut down on fat—particularly saturated fat—this full-fat trend may be a healthy rebellion against those decades-old credos, according to recent studies.
In fact, people who eat a lot of high-fat dairy products actually have the lowest incidence of diabetes, according to a 2015 study of 26,930 people in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Those who ate a lot of low-fat dairy products, on the other hand, had the highest incidence. The researchers speculated that while calcium, protein, vitamin D and other nutrients in yogurt are indeed good for us, we need the fat that goes along with them in order to get their protective effects.
“I consume grass-fed butter every day because I consider it a health food,” says Cassie Bjork, RD, LD. “It’s an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, and it helps slow down the absorption of sugar and carbohydrates, leading to consistent energy levels and improved brain function. Plus, it tastes great!”
Heavy Cream in Coffee
“Heavy cream is a healthy fat that helps keep your blood sugar stable between meals and snacks, which means consistent energy and brain power—not to mention it makes your coffee taste decadent!” Another bonus: “Heavy cream also helps negate any potentially negative side effects of caffeine, like the jitters,” “The other creamer options, like whole, skim and even their new coconut milk—which is basically sugar water—can stimulate the production of your hormone insulin, which promotes weight gain and a host of inflammatory reactions. I have greater focus and brainpower and no cravings when I add heavy cream to my coffee.”
Thanks to the ever-growing Paleo trend, bacon is more popular than ever (if that’s possible)—and we recommend going with old school, full-fat pork. Because although opting for turkey bacon will save you about 13 calories and a gram of fat per slice, it also adds sodium to your plate—which can lead to high blood pressure. Plus, pork offers more protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAS) than its poultry-based counterpart.
While full-fat dairy packs more calories, it’s also more filling. That may help explain why a 2013 study review in the European Journal of Nutrition found that people who eat the fatty stuff are less likely to suffer from obesity than those who try and skip the calories with low-fat dairy. The study authors also found no ties between full-fat dairy and heart disease or diabetes. Ironically, some acids in milk fat—ones you don’t get from zero-fat varieties—may crank up your body’s calorie-burning centers, says study coauthor Mario Kratz, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Washington.
4% Fat Yogurt
Packed with protein, crammed with calcium, and popping with probiotics, yogurt has all the makings of one of the best foods you can eat for weight loss and general health. And no, eating full fat won’t make you fat: Whole-milk yogurts tend to have more protein and less sugar than their leaner versions. Customers have noticed. “We still sell plenty of nonfat and low-fat dairy products, but the growth has come from whole-fat dairy products,” says Errol Schweizer, executive grocery coordinator at Whole Foods Market Inc., recently told the Wall Street Journal.
Natural Peanut Butter
Check out the nutrition labels on jars of regular and reduced-fat peanut butter. You’ll see a few differences: While the reduced-fat PB has—surprise!—less fat, it also has more sugar and salt. Now consider that the fat in PB is the healthful, monosaturated kind that research shows lowers your sensitivity to insulin. “You’re really just trading healthy fat for sugar,” says Manuel Villacorta, M.S., R.D. “The only type of peanut butter I’ll eat is the natural variety,’ adds Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, a Washington D.C. area Registered Dietitian. “Non-natural nut butters usually contain partially hydrogenated oils, which is a type of trans-fat!”
Olive oil is rich in cancer-fighting polyphenols and heart-strengthening monounsaturated fats, and when it comes to looking lean, it’s backed by some pretty strong facts. A recent study from Obesity found that an olive-oil-rich diet resulted in higher levels of adiponectin than did a high-carb or high-protein diet. Adiponectin is a hormone responsible for breaking down fats in the body, and the more you have of it, the lower your BMI tends to be.
Walnuts and Walnut Oil
Certain dietary fats come with red flags. And the absolutely worst match for your apple-shaped figure: saturated fats. While unsaturated fat can help reduce abdominal fat, saturated fat can increase waist size, a study published in the journal Diabetes found. Saturated fats, like the kind you’ll find in baked goods and red meat, “turn on” certain genes that increase the storage of fat in the belly, researchers say. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, activate genes that reduce fat storage and improve insulin metabolism. At about 13 grams per one-ounce serving, walnuts are one of the best dietary sources.
Salmon doesn’t get as bad of a rap as it used to when it comes to fat, but its health benefits are worth repeating. Adding a filet of this fish into your diet just twice a week to get the amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids recommended by the American Heart Association. Healthy people aren’t the only ones reaping the rewards of their dinner choices, though. Even those already at a high risk of cardiovascular disease can get a leg up by serving salmon a couple times a week. Omega-3s reduce the risk of arrhythmia, decrease triglyceride levels, and can actually slightly lower blood pressure.
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