If you’re trying to lose weight, what you eat without a doubt plays a role in your efforts and overall success. There’s almost nothing worse than burning off hundreds of calories at the gym only to eat them back with a giant slice of vegan chocolate cake a la mode (non-dairy ice cream, of course). So if you’re changing your eating habits, naturally you might cut your fat intake. Eating fat makes us fat, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Fat is a very complicated macronutrient. Learning to eat the right fats in the right portions is essential to making fat part of your healthy, plant-based diet.

Not All Calories Are Created Equal — Literally!

Surely you’ve heard this phrase before. But we can go beyond saying that 1500 calories of wholesome food will affect your body differently than 1500 calories of processed food and pure junk. On a large scale, this is true. But gram for gram, carbohydrates, fats, and protein all have different caloric values.

Carbohydrates and proteins rank in at 4 calories per gram, meaning 100 grams of protein, carbohydrates, or a combination of the two will equal 400 calories. But fat ranks in at 9 calories per gram — more than double the carbohydrate or protein measurements! This means that gram for gram, fat has the most calories out of the three macronutrients. So, if you’re eating a high fat diet, even if your portions are small, chances are you’re still racking up a considerable amount of calories, or at least more calories than you think.

But This Still Doesn’t Mean Fat Makes You Fat

If fat has twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates, shouldn’t we adopt a low fat diet? As convincing as this theory sounds, it’s highly inaccurate. Remember the low-fat craze of the 1990s? Food companies took out a giant war against any and all forms of fat. Fat-free cookies, fat-free ice cream and all sorts of treats were now deemed as ‘healthy’ because they nixed the fat.

Surprisingly, America didn’t get any healthier, but actually fatter! Most of the fat that was removed from these food products was replaced with sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This goes to show that although fat might have more calories than other macronutrients, in this case it was excess sugar consumption that led to a national weight gain.

Fat Actually Has Loads of Benefits for Weight Loss

Here’s another reason to not completely write off fat from your diet: healthy fats can actually boost weight loss, increase satiety on low-calorie eating plans, and provide loads of other health benefits. Moderate consumption of mono and polyunsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, and avocados specifically target belly fat — the kind of fat that can lead to coronary heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Saturated fats, however, have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Fat also takes a long time for the body to break down and digest. Thus, consuming adequate amounts of fat with each meal can help with satiety, which is especially important if you’re following a restricted caloric plan to lose weight. Finally, healthy fat levels are what lead to glowing skin, bright eyes, and strong hair.

Aim for 1-2 ounces of nuts, half of an avocado, or a little olive oil/coconut butter when you cook to meet your fat requirements for the day. Within a few weeks, you’ll definitely notice a change in your complexion, not to mention a notable weight loss!

Image source: Beet & Avocado Soup With Cashew Cream [Vegan]