The idea that we should limit the intake of all high-fat, high-calorie foods is now outdated and actually unhealthy.
Research conclusively tells us that most plant-based fats and oils should be promoted and encouraged, because adding them into our diet results in significantly better heart and metabolic health.
What’s more, this impressive health benefit is one that few other dietary changes can achieve.
From the literature, I think we can confidently conclude that even eating more fruits and vegetables or more whole grains, whilst still important, is unlikely to give us the same heart health benefits that eating more plant-based fats and oils does.
What are plant-based fats and oils?
Not all plant-based fats and oils are equal, but some examples I encourage are:
- 30 grams (1 handful) of nuts or seeds,
- 50mL of most vegetable oils (particularly extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil),
- 50 grams (or 1/4) avocado,
- 20 grams of nut spread,
- If using salad dressings, to opt for full-fat salad dressings instead of low-fat salad dressings, and
- If not using avocado or nut spreads, to opt for margarine instead of animal-fat or lower-fat alternatives, such as butter, honey or jam.
Will eating these foods make you put on weight?
Research now clearly tells us that the fat and calorie content of a food does not, surprisingly, predict its effect on our weight.
- some high-fat, higher-calorie foods, such as nuts and cheese, are associated with less or no weight gain.
- some low-fat, lower-calorie foods, such as soft drinks and refined grains (like white bread and white rice), are associated with significant weight gain.
Whilst there are a lot of factors at play here, fat is well-known to slow down digestion, and thus changes our hormonal response after eating.
This is thought to contribute to a foods impact on our weight in the long-term, and might be partly why skim-milk or low-fat milk does not appear to be any better for our weight than full-cream milk.
The bottom line
The healthiest way to manage your weight, I believe, is to mostly enjoy a wide variety of minimally processed plant foods, including the plant-based fats and oils listed above.
If your daily consumption of calories is something that needs to be addressed, the first step is eating less highly processed or “treat” foods, such as cakes, biscuits, soft drink, refined grains and confectionary.
The total calories that you consume every day is still important.
But the total calories (or total fat) found in a single food, is not.