Back in the 90’s slimmers everywhere were raving about the low-fat diet. From low-fat cookies to low-fat shakes – the fad paved the way for the low-fat-everything that lines the shelves of our supermarkets today. On the face of it, it all seemed to make sense back then. Lower fat food equalled less fat in our bellies - right? Well, not necessarily. It wasn’t until 2006 when Harvard University unleashed the results of their eight-year long study into low-fat diets. The study, in which 49,000 women participated, concluded that low-fat diets didn’t make us slimmer at all - In fact, it could do quite the opposite. What’s more, the low-fat diet didn’t even lower the risk of heart disease, breast cancer or colorectal cancer as first claimed, either.
The Low-Fat Flop
The low-fat diet, which emphasizes whole grain foods and fruit and vegetables (with a daily calorie intake consisting of about 20% from fat, 60% from carbohydrates, and 20% from protein) was found to significantly slow metabolism (the body’s fat-burning furnace, of course); with more recent studies also noting its adverse effect on both lipids and insulin resistance. Furthermore, because low-fat diets are high in carbohydrates (most of which come in the form of quickly digested foods, such as flour, rice, potatoes) the diet can also increase hunger - meaning it has the potential to be a particularly torturous experience for anyone who struggles with dietary discipline. Add to that the link between obesity, heart disease and additives (which are commonly used in low-fat foods as a substitute for flavour, after fats have been artificially removed) the low-fat diet isn’t as good an option as it might at first seem - especially for those of us who don't consume processed foods.
The Good Fats
Granted, avoiding the ‘bad fats’ (primarily trans fats) can help your lose weight; but in order to do so any budding ‘loser’ must acknowledge the good, healthy fats too – and not put them aside like the low-fat diet encourages. According to research, monounsaturated fats can actually prevent abdominal fat, along with providing a whole host of other health benefits; such as raising good cholesterol, lowering the bad and keeping your arteries plaque free. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats shouldn’t be overlooked either. Found within Omega-3 and Omega-6, they also contribute to overall well being. Omega-3 (found within fish, such as salmon or mackerel) improves brain function, mood and immune system; whilst Omega-6 (found within corn and beef) keeps skin and eyes healthy when consumed in moderation. Consequently, avoiding all fat isn’t necessarily a wise move when you’re in pursuit of a slimmer figure.
Foods That Boost Fat Burning Hormones
Aside from exercise, or in conjunction with it, altering your diet to stimulate fat burning hormones is an ideal way to lose excess weight. And unlike the low-fat diet, it makes scientific sense. Fat burning hormones are present in all of us; testosterone, HGH, Leptin and thyroxine, for example, all play a part in burning fat, and their efficiency and influence on the metabolic rate can be boosted by eating the right foods.
Seafood is fantastic when it comes to giving those fat burning hormones a kick in the rear. Oily fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids offer many benefits (as noted above) but also stimulate the production of leptin. The leptin hormone regulates and controls metabolism, therefore when your leptim levels rise, your metabolism speeds up and you feel less hungry - which is especially good news for those wanting to lose weight.
HGH (aka Human Growth Hormone) is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, which does many useful things; including boosting energy, keeping bones strong, retaining muscle and of course burning fat - even whilst we’re asleep. Amino acids stimulate HGH, and can be found in nuts. Therefore Brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds can all contribute towards burning fat and weight loss.
Vitamin C Foods
Citrus fruits that contain vitamin C are fantastic for diluting fat, and helping to remove it from the body faster. Oranges, tangerines, limes (and perhaps the occasional margarita?) are all very useful in weight loss. As well as being packed with vitamins and all that good stuff you’d want anyway, they also give your metabolism a kick.
Foods that boost Metabolism
As well as the larger groups, there are plenty of individual metabolism-boosting foods that can contribute towards losing weight when integrated within your diet. Many of them stimulate positive fat-burning hormones, and some counter the negative ones, making them all pretty useful. Here’s just a handful.
Hot Peppers – are great for giving your metabolism a kick. Even a pinch of cayenne in your meal is shown to increase your metabolism by 25% for three hours after you’ve eaten.
Milk (raw organic milk is best) – Calcium is wonderful for the metabolism - it’s also recommended you have a daily intake of 1,200 – 1,300mg for your general health anyway.
Eggs (oragnic) – As well as stimulating metabolism, eggs are full of Vitamin B12; which contributes to breaking down fat.
Ginger – Great for both metabolism, and circulation.
Organic Dark Chocolate – Stress hormones can cause the body to store fat. Dark chocolate counters this, reducing cortisol levels.
Lean Protein – Lean protein is great for both energy and metabolism. When it comes to weight loss, protein helps you lose fat, as opposed to muscle. This can lead to a higher lean muscle mass, which in turn leads to burning more calories on a daily basis - further aiding weight control.
And of course, there are many, many more.
The Big Fat Truth
With obesity ever on the rise, fatty food is on everyone’s lips. There is a huge emphasis on what we shouldn’t eat, rather than what we should. With relatively recent studies like Harvard’s, turning out such dramatic revelations, perhaps we should see through the fog of dud diets, flimsy fads, metabolism myths, and celebrity weight loss sagas; instead turning our attention onto what science actually tells us. And what science tells us is that there’s a whole host of wonderful fat-burning hormones waiting to be triggered by good, non-processed, natural food. Therefore, eating yourself skinny is not as far-fetched as it might seem!