We all know that carrying extra weight is not good for our health, and it’s body fat in particular which can seriously harm your health. Obesity is fast becoming an epidemic in the Western world. It increases the risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.
- 1 The problem with excess body fat
- 1.1 How can you lose weight?
- 1.2 Create a calorie deficit
- 1.3 Make small changes
- 1.4 Be more active
- 1.5 Reduce your calorie intake
- 1.6 All about fat
- 1.7 Fats: the good, the bad, and the ugly
- 1.8 The Good: Unsaturated Fats
- 1.9 Monounsaturated Fats
- 1.10 Polyunsaturated Fats
- 1.11 The Bad: Saturated Fats
- 1.12 The Ugly: Trans Fats
- 1.13 Eat some fat to lose weight
- 1.14 Flax seeds
- 1.15 How flaxseeds can help you to burn body fat
- 1.16 The other benefits of flaxseeds
- 1.17 They can lower cholesterol
- 1.18 They can keep skin and hair healthy
- 1.19 They are gluten-free
- 1.20 They are high in antioxidants
- 1.21 They are good for digestive health
- 1.22 They can help to fight cancer
- 1.23 They are high in omega 3 fats
- 1.24 They can help to relieve symptoms of the menopause
- 1.25 How to add flax seeds to your diet
- 1.26 Final thoughts
The problem with excess body fat
It’s bad for your heart
Excess body fat pushes up blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and the arteries get clogged, which increases the risk of heart problems.
It messes up your hormones
Overweight women have increased levels of testosterone, which increases their risk of heart disease. Testosterone can also cause hair loss, excess facial hair, and acne.
It can trigger diabetes
Excess weight affects the way the body reacts to insulin, which can lead to diabetes. Having diabetes also increases your heart disease risk.
It ruins restful sleep
Overweight people often suffer from sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea. With sleep apnoea, you can stop breathing many times during the night. This reduces the level of oxygen in your body which can cause heart problems and daytime sleepiness.
It’s bad for the joints
Your joints have to take the impact if you are carrying excess weight. Hip, knee and back problems are common in obese people.
How can you lose weight?
It can be tempting to turn to crash diets or crazy exercise regimes when you are desperate to lose weight, but in the long-term, the only real way to lose weight, and keep it off, is to exercise sensibly and eat a balanced diet. Crash diets can be too severe and restrictive to stick to, and they can seriously affect the balance of nutrients in your body. Similarly, punishing exercise regimes are a turnoff for most people, and they are likely to reduce your motivation and lead to injury. So what can you do?
Create a calorie deficit
If you eat more food than your body needs over a period of time, you will gain weight. To lose weight, you need to burn off more calories than you take in. You can do this by reducing calories in your diet, and taking more exercise to burn extra calories.
Make small changes
Sometimes, all it takes to kickstart weight loss is a small change. Eat one less slice of bread per day, switch to low fat milk, or only eat dessert on a weekend. Any changes you make to your lifestyle need to be sustainable, as this is the key to losing weight and keeping it off.
Be more active
This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym, you just have to move more, however you choose to do it. The good news is that the activity only has to be of equivalent intensity to brisk walking to benefit health. You can run, swim, walk, or cycle; the important thing is that you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, it’s more likely to become part of your lifestyle. But it’s not always about structured exercise. Walking to the local shops, doing some gardening and playing with the kids all count.
Reduce your calorie intake
Limit fatty and sugary foods, and include whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy, healthy fats, and plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet. Don’t be tempted to do crash diets which are too severe and can cause your weight to yoyo. You can reduce your calorie intake by making these smart food and drink swaps:
Replace sugary drinks with milk, sugar free cordials and water.
Swap full-fat milk for semi-skimmed or skimmed.
Try to make as many of your meals from scratch, which is healthier for your waistline and for your pocket.
Stop taking sugar in tea and coffee.
If you must have a treat, have a smaller portion.
Cut out, or cut down on unhealthy treats such as confectionary, biscuits and crisps which are high in calories but provide the body with no nutritional value.
Cut down on alcohol which is calorie dense and can’t be metabolised by the body, which means that it will be stored if it’s not burned off there and then.
All about fat
Fat was previously the number one health enemy, but it turns out that it’s the type of fat you eat that can make all the difference. Your body needs some fat to function. It helps the body to absorb vitamins A, D, and E, and it keeps your nervous system healthy.
Fats: the good, the bad, and the ugly
The Good: Unsaturated Fats
These fats raise good cholesterol, lower bad LDL cholesterol, and protect against the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. They can also help to reduce abdominal fat, according to research.
Good sources of these fats include olive oil and olives, canola oil, almonds, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter, sesame seeds, and avocados.
These lower bad cholesterol, and contain omega 3 fatty acids which boost brain function, strengthen the immune system and can boost mood. Omega 6 fatty acids can be found in these foods too, and they can keep skin and eyes healthy.
Good sources include oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and tofu. Omega-6s can be found in corn and safflower oil, corn-fed chicken and beef, and farmed fish.
The Bad: Saturated Fats
These fats increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
Saturated fats are present in meat and poultry, in dairy products like cream, butter, and whole milk, and in some plant-based foods like coconut and palm oil.
The Ugly: Trans Fats
They are made from chemically-altered fats, which have been filled with preservatives to prolong the shelf life of a product. They raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, and increase inflammation in the body.
They are present in foods such as margarine, doughnuts, fries, and processed foods such as crackers, cookies, chips, and cakes.
Eat some fat to lose weight
Eating a small amount of healthy fat at each meal can keep you feeling satisfied for longer, so you will eat less overall. Try these heart and waistline friendly snacks:
1 ounce (23 nuts): 163 calories, 14g fat (1g saturated)
1/4 cup: 193 calories,18g fat (1g saturated)
1/4 California avocado: 57 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated)
1 tablespoon: 119 calories, 14g fat (2g saturated)
Peanut Butter (smooth)
1 tablespoon: 94 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated)
Olives (green or black)
8 jumbo olives: 54 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated)
Sunflower Seeds (unsalted, roasted, hulled)
1/4 cup: 186 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated)
If you’re looking for an excellent source of healthy fats, there’s one food we need to add to the list; flaxseeds. Flax seeds have been consumed for around 6000 years, so they might just be the world’s first ever superfood! They are sometimes called linseeds, and they are small, brown, or golden seeds, which are very rich in omega 3 acids, particularly a fatty acid called alpha-linoleic acid. The seeds are a nutritional powerhouse. Just 3 tablespoons of flaxseeds also contain fibre, protein, vitamin B1, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, iron, potassium, copper and zinc.
How flaxseeds can help you to burn body fat
They are high in fibre and low in carbs
Flaxseeds contain a lot of water soluble fibre, which helps to keep the stomach feeling fuller for longer. This can help you absorb more nutrients from food, and it also stops food cravings in their tracks, which can help you to lose weight. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that flax seeds might help to reduce body weight. This is due to the satiating effect of the healthy fats, and also the fact that the essential fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body will generally make it hold on to weight. Add a few teaspoons of flaxseeds to soups, salads, or smoothies to reap the benefits.
The other benefits of flaxseeds
They can lower cholesterol
The journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that including flax seeds in your diet can reduce cholesterol levels.
The soluble fibre in the seeds traps fat and cholesterol in the digestive system so that it’s not absorbed. Soluble fibre also traps bile, which is made from cholesterol in the gallbladder. The bile is then excreted, which forces the body to make more. This means that the excess cholesterol in the blood is used up and this reduces overall levels.
They can keep skin and hair healthy
If you want healthier skin, hair and nails then add 2 tablespoons of flax seeds to your smoothie or on top of your cereal.
The healthy fats in flax seeds plus the many vitamins can help reduce to reduce skin dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema. The seeds can also boost eye health as the vitamins and healthy fats can reduce dry eyes.
Flax seed oil has an even higher concentration of healthy fats. You can take 1-2 tablespoons per day to help hydrate skin and hair. It can also be mixed with other essential oils and used as a moisturiser.
They are gluten-free
Flaxseeds are a great replacement for gluten-containing grains which are inflammatory to people with gluten intolerance, where flaxseeds are anti-inflammatory. They may also be a good alternative to omega-3 fats in fish for people who don’t like fish. Flaxseeds can be used in gluten-free recipes, and is great when combined with coconut flour.
They are high in antioxidants
Flax seeds are also packed with antioxidants. In flaxseeds, these are in the form of lignans, which are polyphenols which have anti-ageing benefits, balance hormones, and keep cells healthy. Polyphenols can also support the growth of probiotics in the gut and can help to eliminate yeast and candida in the body. Lignans are also known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties, so adding flaxseeds to your diet might help to reduce the number of colds and annoying viruses you get.
They are good for digestive health
Flaxseeds are great for digestive health. The essential fatty acids in the seeds can help to protect the lining of the gut and reduce inflammation, so it has been shown to be beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease. You can also say goodbye to constipation by taking 1-3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil with some carrot juice to help to get things moving. The high fibre content of the seeds can help to keep your system healthy and cleanse your colon.
They can help to fight cancer
Flax seed benefits have been shown in some research studies to help to fight cancer, especially breast, prostate, ovarian and colon cancer. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Cancer Research found that consuming flax seeds may decrease the risk of breast cancer. The three types of polyphenols found in flaxseeds are converted by intestinal bacteria into substances called enterolactone and enterodiol which can help to balance hormones. This may be the main reasons that flaxseeds appear to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that antioxidants in flaxseeds might reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer too.
They are high in omega 3 fats
Fish oils contains 2 essential omega 3 fats, called EPA and DHA, which are crucial for health. Although flax seeds do not contain either of these fats, they do contain ALA, another type of beneficial omega-3 fat.
They can help to relieve symptoms of the menopause
The polyphenols in the flaxseeds have been shown to have benefits for menopausal women. They can be used as a feasible alternative to HRT because the polyphenols have similar properties to oestrogen. Flaxseeds can also benefit women of childbearing age, as the polyphenols can help to regulate the menstrual cycle. Try adding 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed to a smoothie, or try taking a tablespoon of flaxseed oil.
How to add flax seeds to your diet
There are many ways to add flax seeds into your diet including adding them to homemade muffins, breads, and cookies, to boost fibre content. Baking does not appear to have any negative effect on the amount of omega 3 in the seeds.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet include:
Add 1-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to a morning smoothie
Mix a tablespoon of the seeds with some natural yogurt and raw honey
Bake ground flaxseeds into muffins, cookies, and breads for added fibre.
Add the seeds to homemade granola or muesli
The seeds can be mixed with water and used as an egg substitute if you follow a vegan diet.
Flaxseeds are best consumed in ground form, as our bodies can’t fully access the nutrients if they are eaten whole and they will often pass through the body undigested.
You can grind the flax in a coffee grinder or you can buy them pre-ground from a supermarket.
The absolute best way to get the full benefits is to consume them in their sprouted form. Soaking flax seeds and then sprouting them can increase mineral absorption. Like other sources of fibre, make sure to take them with plenty of water.
Carrying excess body weight, particularly fat, is damaging to health. Excess fat can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. It can mess with your hormones, cause sleep disorders and damage your joints. Losing weight sometimes isn’t as easy as we would like, but there is no need to resort to faddy crash diets which severely restrict your calorie intake and can cause nutrient deficiency. Neither do you need to adopt an exhausting fitness regime. The best way, and maybe not the most glamorous, is to adopt a healthy eating plan, and take regular exercise that you enjoy, and that is most suited to your current fitness level and lifestyle.
We all know that we should base our diet on whole grains, fruit and veg, lean protein and healthy fats, and that we should cut down on sugar, salt, and saturated fats. We all know that eating whole foods is the best way to achieve good health, but we don’t always heed the advice. We opt for processed foods which are lacking in nutrients, often believing they are healthy because clever marketing has given them that tag. ‘Diet’ foods are some of the worst foods for this. They may be low in fat, but they are pumped with sugar, chemicals and other additives. We have been conditioned to think that fat is bad, but that’s not true. All fats are not equal. Of course, you should avoid the saturated fats in fatty meats, cakes, biscuits and hard cheeses, but you should not forgo fat altogether. Instead get your fats from healthy sources, like the humble flaxseed. They will lower your cholesterol and help you burn fat into the bargain. They might just be the missing piece of your weight loss puzzle.