Want to lose weight? “Exercise more and eat less,” says most weight loss advice these days. While the phrase isn’t necessarily incorrect, it’s a tiny bit misleading because it fails to recognize the fact that the quality of your food matters more than the quantity.
Instead of placing emphasis on the amount of food that you eat, painstakingly tracking every single calorie consumed, and constantly feeling deprived because you’re limiting your intake, it makes more sense to focus on the nutritional value of the foods you eat every day.
Especially if you’re exercising more often, your body needs energy and essential vitamins and minerals from nutritious foods to function optimally. Not to mention, if you don’t eat enough your exercise performance will suffer.
Low fat diet trends and the “eat less” mantra tend to trick us into thinking that all high-calorie foods are off limits, especially when we want to lose weight. However, some foods that are calorically dense pack a nutritional punch so powerful that they can actually help you lose more weight when incorporated into a balanced, wholesome diet.
Because fat contains 9 calories for every gram (compared to carbs and protein, which contain 4 calories for every gram), high-fat foods naturally contain more calories. But just because foods with high fat contents also have more calories, doesn’t mean you should avoid them. It simply depends on the type of fats they contain.
The Harvard Obesity Prevention Source explains:
Carefully conducted clinical trials have found that following a low-fat diet does not make it any easier to lose weight than following a moderate- or high-fat diet. In fact, study volunteers who follow moderate- or high-fat diets lose just as much weight, and in some studies a bit more, as those who follow low-fat diets. (3,4) And when it comes to disease prevention, low-fat diets don’t appear to offer any special benefits. (5)
For good health, the type of fat people eat is far more important that the amount, and there’s some evidence that the same may be true for weight control. (6-9) In the Nurses’ Health Study, for example, which followed 42,000 middle-age and older women for eight years, increased consumption of unhealthy fats—trans fats, especially, but also saturated fats—was linked to weight gain, but increased consumption of healthy fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat—was not. (6)
The following five foods are all high in calories, but also rich with monounsaturated and polyunsatured fats. And besides their healthy fat profiles, each tout a long list of additional nutrients that will help keep your body healthy and energized so you can keep up a consistent and effective exercise routine.
About 85% of an avocado’s calories come from fat (one cup or 150 grams contains 240 calories) and its unique nutritional profile makes it an excellent addition to any well balanced diet. In addition to containing healthy fats that can help the body better absorb nutrients, reduce inflammation, and lower the risk for heart disease, avocados are also known to contain carotenoids (the natural pigments found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables that are known to act as antioxidants), which may help protect against chronic illness when consumed through whole foods. Avocados are a low-cholesterol food and among other nutrients, are high in fiber, vitamin K, folate and vitamin B6.
Have you ever portioned out a 1/4 cup serving of almonds (the recommend serving size)? Averaging out to about 16 almonds, it doesn’t seem like much. Yet, with about 160 calories in one serving and about 73% of those calories coming from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, one serving usually typically makes for a satisfying snack. Plus, almonds are rich in magnesium, manganese, and vitamin E and tout a massive list of health benefits including the ability to promote weight loss and prevent weight gain.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Just one tablespoon of olive oil packs 119 calories, which means consuming it in excess could potentially lead to weight gain. However when incorporated into your diet while keeping portion control in mind, extra virgin olive oil (the type that research has shown touts the most benefits) helps keep your body healthy by providing anti-inflammatory benefits, reducing your risk for heart disease, and possibly even helping to prevent cancer.
A one ounce serving of flaxseeds contains about 150 calories, with about 99 of those calories coming from fat. However, this is another high-fat food that is not to be feared. Flaxseeds are one of the best food sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to protecting your heart health, some studies hint that the anti-inflammatory benefits of flaxseeds might help prevent weight gain by reducing the risk for diseases like metabolic syndrome and diabetes.