We all want to look and feel our best at this magical time of year, yet not even Scrooge himself is up for a strict diet. To the rescue: a virtually effortless trick that’ll help us slim as we celebrate. “Just by adding good fats throughout the day, most women will see a pleasant surprise when they step on the scale,” shares Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, author of 60 Seconds to Slim and Pain Erasers. Her top fat-rich picks: simple mix-ins like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts — all loaded with omega-3s, the most powerful good fat. Fran Bronski is a big fan. The New York mom, 58, began sneaking omega-3 rich flax, chia seeds, nuts, and more into her meals, and says, “I could feel weight falling off.” Down up to 11 pounds a week and 80 pounds in all, Fran raves, “Good fats are my miracle!”
What exactly makes “good fats” good? They’re options that are natural, mostly unsaturated and have a powerful ability to alleviate blood-sugar issues and inflammation— two conditions “at the root of nearly every chronic disease,” explains Cleveland Clinic functional medicine expert Mark Hyman, MD, bestselling author of The Pegan Diet and Eat Fat, Get Thin. “The right fats help us achieve optimal health.” From olive oil and avocado to dark chocolate, good fats are found in many plants. But experts believe omega-3 fats from fish and certain nuts and seeds provide the biggest benefits. One recent study even found that a daily serving of omega-3–rich sardines slashes diabetes risk for over 78 percent of us.
Not a sardine fan? No problem. Enjoy omega-3–rich pancakes and muffins instead! “Omega-3s from sources like flaxseeds and walnuts are affordable and so easy to incorporate into food you already love eating,” says Schoffro Cook. They also set us up for automatic weight loss…
All good fats dial down appetite and have an effect on our hormones “that tells our bodies to stop hoarding fat and speed up our metabolism,” says Schoffro Cook. Omega-3s just do it to the max. For example, there’s evidence that just 3 grams of omega-3s a day — the amount in each muffin from the recipe at right — will “increase resting metabolism by five percent in 12 weeks,” says Lisa M. Davis, PhD, a Johns Hopkins–trained obesity researcher. Turns out, omega-3s have a such a strong anti-inf lammatory effect, they help “restore normal cellular function and may improve thyroid function.” So we end up blasting extra calories around the clock, which translates to a lot of weight loss, even without counting calories or carbs.
Want proof ? In a study called“extraordinary” by How Not to Diet author Michael Greger, MD, a group of volunteers who got healthy-eating advice plus ground flaxseeds to mix in their meals lost 21 pounds in 12 weeks; meanwhile, a group given the same advice but no flax lost just 7 pounds. Flax tripled results. “Those are astonishing numbers for a study that added rather than removed calories,” notes Dr. Greger.
And a metabolism boost isn’t the only factor at play. Omega-3s also soothe an overactive appetite. Scientists using brain scans found that an area of the brain that suppresses hunger and cravings literally “lights up” after we eat walnuts, per Harvard’s Christos Mantzoros, MD, PhD. Adds Schoffro Cook: “You can still enjoy your favorite treats — you just won’t feel that same urge to go overboard. So you eat a little less as you supercharge health and fat burning.” Good fats let you make merry as you get lean!
It’s all well and good if omega-3s help younger women slim down. But do they help at every stage of life? “Yes, they do!” says Sadie Cherichetti, 80, whose daughter Fran suggested incorporating good fats to see if it would bring down her weight and blood pressure. “I’d just lost my husband, and it made me worried about my own health,” recalls Sadie. “So I said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’”
Sadie found she loved morning smoothies blended with flaxseeds, nuts, and fruit. “They’re very filling and delicious!” She also enjoyed a whole avocado at lunch, plus nuts as snacks and regular salmon suppers. Her body responded. “I lost 28 pounds while feeling so satisfied. My blood pressure meds were lowered too.” During the holidays, Sadie enjoys her favorite treats while continuing to slim down. “I definitely recommend good fats to everyone, especially women over 60. You’ll lose weight and feel so young!”
How can you add more good fats to your diet?
Getting a serving of good fats at most sittings is just plain healthy — particularly if you swap them in place of processed foods. But for the most dramatic weight loss, add 1 to 2 Tbs. of ground flaxseeds at breakfast (ideas at right, or mix it in a smoothie or oatmeal). Aim for an additional serving of flax, walnuts, chia, omega-3 eggs, or salmon at lunch or dinner. Another tip: Listen to your body, eating only foods you enjoy until you feel full.
POUNDS OFF PANCAKES: Mash 1 ripe banana with fork. Mix in 1 omega-3 egg and 1 Tbs. ground flaxseed. Cook pancake-style, 3 minutes per side, in coconut oil. Top as desired.
UPGRADED NUGGETS: Blitz 3⁄4 cup nuts, 1⁄3 cup flaxseed, and pinch seasoning. Dip 1 lb. chicken tenders in omega-3 egg and flax mix. Sauté in coconut oil till golden and cooked through.
SWEET POWER BITES: Mix 1 cup oats, 2⁄3 cup nut butter, 1⁄2 cup ground flax,
1⁄2 cup dark chocolate chips, sweetener to taste and pinch salt. Chill. Roll into 16 balls.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.