Big fat lies: 4 myths about fat you need to know

Diet lessons to unlearn if you want to lose weight

Chicken with sun dried tomato, rocket and crouton salad.

If you want to lose fat, stop eating it, right? The truth is that fat is more complicated than some food manufacturers would have us believe. "Losing weight is trickier than just exercising and eating right. When America was eating 'fat-free' we actually got fatter," says sports nutritionist Joanne Sgro-killworth.

Whether you're trying to lose weight, or just want to eat healthily, here's what you need to know.

Busting 4 Myths About Fat

Myth #1 Eating fat makes you fat

"Eating fat does not make you fat, because eating fat makes you full, so therefore you're less likely to go for refined carbs, which can lead to weight gain," says Joanne. The trick is to eat the right kinds of fats – things like avocado, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

You might also want to add some pine nuts to your stir fry or salad. Pinolenic acid found in pine nuts has been linked to appetite suppression and improved satiety, according to the Institute of Food Technologists.

Myth #2 Saturated fat causes heart disease

"Saturated fat from both animals are vegetables are important in our diet as they're a good source of energy," says Joanne. Contrary to decades of health advice, recent research suggests that eating saturated fat does not increase the risk of heart disease.

Researchers at Cambridge University conducted a "meta-analysis" of data from 72 studies involving more than 600,000 participants from 18 countries. They found that eating saturated fat, whether measured in the diet or the bloodstream, showed no association with heart disease – and that giving up fatty meat, cream, cheese or butter is unlikely to improve health. At the same time, eating so-called 'healthy' polyunsaturated fats (found in nuts, seeds and fish) does not prevent cardiovascular problems.

However, there's still good reason for women to stick to the recommended 20g of saturated fat a day. Several large-scale studies have found that eating a diet high in saturated fat can double your risk of developing breast cancer.

Myth #3 Salad dressing is bad for you

Pouring on the salad dressing will make you pack on the pounds, or so the weight loss experts tell us. While it's true that going without will save you a few calories, you won't be doing your health any favours. As Joanna explains, "You need the fat in the dressing to absorb the nutrients in the salad."

Need more convincing to eat dressing? Scientists in Spain analysed the diets of more than 4,000 women and found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented by four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day were 68% less likely to develop breast cancer than women who followed a standard low-fat diet.

4. Cardio burns fat

"This is a myth because a thousand calories of fat is stored in your liver," says Joanna. "You need the cumulative effect of all types of exercise over time to have an impact on fat stores." To really burn fat, do interval training combining cardio with strength training.

Studies show that the resting metabolic rate is higher in people with more lean muscle mass. A pound of fat burns two calories each day, while a pound of muscle uses six calories just to sustain itself. Not only that, but your muscles will continue to use calories several hours after a workout – so the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn.

Three kitchen gadgets to help you eat healthily:

George Foreman Grill & griddle, £54.99

Bella BEJU01 Whole Fruit Juicer, £59.99

Russell Hobbs 21140 3 Tier Steamer, £19.99

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