Two fats for weight loss can help you lose weight

An unpleasant side effect of our increasing consumption of ultra-processed oils? Accumulation of hard-to-lose pounds. But there is a potential solution: striking the right balance between certain types of dietary fat. We’ve been hearing about the role of dietary fat in weight loss forever. We’ve read about saturated and unsaturated fats and tried low-fat and high-fat plans; we reached for handfuls of walnuts and forkfuls of oily fish. But it was difficult to determine exactly what to do to make a dent in our waistline. That’s where we come in! Read what experts say about fat-fighting fats and how to balance them to optimize their benefits below.

Which fats help you lose weight?

Experts have discovered a simple approach that involves consuming the correct daily balance of two essential fatty acids – polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 and omega-6. Simply put, omega-3s come from “leaves” (such as spinach, kelp, and Brussels sprouts) and the animals that eat them (grass-fed cattle and kelp-eating fish); omega-6s come from “seeds” or nuts and grains (exceptions are flax and chia, both of which are rich in omega-3s).

“Getting the right balance of these two omegas is the most important fat-related choice you can make,” says nutrition researcher Anthony J. Hulbert, Ph.D. He analyzed a century of data and concluded that people who ate a lot of healthy omega-3s compared to their omega-6 intake were thinner. But unlike the minimum daily requirements that work for vitamins, the balance between the two is important as they compete for space in our cells.

What is the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6?

Health expert Mariana Moore recommends that adults consume 1.1 to 1.6 grams of omega-3s per day and about 6.4 grams of omega-6s. But unfortunately, modern diets fail. “Women today don’t get enough omega-3s,” says Yale-educated Susan Allport, author of The Queen of Fat. Why? Our food supply is flooded with omega-6s in processed foods, at the expense of the less stable omega-3s. Indeed, omega-3 intake has declined, says Dr. Hulbert. Instead, we unknowingly consume processed omega-6 oils, thanks to restaurant meals and boxed foods. In short: Dr. Hulbert says, “Omega-6s fatten our bodies like they do cattle.”

Once consumed, inflammatory omega-6s cause adipose tissue to proliferate. They can also affect our endocannabinoid system, leading to inflammation and low mood. The downstream effects of this? One study found that people who ate the highest ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 gained more weight over a 10-year period than those who did not.

Weight-loss expert Fred Pescatore, MD, says, “You’ll never lose weight if your diet is skewed too far toward pro-inflammatory omega-6s.” Conversely, omega-3s can reduce fat growth. Dr. Hulbert says that over time, when 3s replace 6s in cell membranes, those cells produce less fat, so weight is lost more easily.

How do I achieve the right ratio of omega fats?

Fortunately, achieving an optimal omega balance is not difficult. Just eat more foods rich in omega-3s and reduce your intake of fried or packaged foods. Allport explains, “Before each meal, scan your plate and make sure you always have a source of omega-3s, such as fish, fortified eggs, or grass-fed meat or butter.”

Weight loss is just the beginning of the benefits. “If you make sure you’re getting more omega-3s than before, you’ll lose weight quickly,” says Allport. You may also experience less joint pain, better skin and a boosted immunity.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before undertaking any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First for women.

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