Different types of body fat and what to do about it

Seeing fat on your body may make you want to hit the treadmill to sweat it off or only eat carrot sticks for a week. The good news though, is that not all fat is bad… there are good kinds too.

Body fat plays an important role in storing energy, managing your hormones and regulating your metabolism. This means it’s important to have enough of the good fat and to manage the bad kind. There are four main types of fat in your body. Each kind has its own structure, colour, and effect on your health.

Where fat is stored also affects your health. Let’s look at the different kinds of fats, where they accumulate and how to manage them.

The good

Brown fat
This is one of the good fats in your body which primarily provides energy to your cells and regulates your body’s core temperature. It is found in the back of your neck and chest areas. Brown fat is considered a good fat because it helps your body burn bad fat and keep your weight down. Increase your percentage of brown fat with healthy food, regular exercise and consistent exposure to cold temperatures.

Beige fat
This fat is found along your spine and collarbone and is a combination of brown and white fat. When you exercise, a hormone called irisin is released, which converts white fat into beige fat. According to research by Washington State University, certain foods like grapes, blueberries, apples, and raspberries can help turn beige fat into brown fat. It can do this because it contains an antioxidant called resveratrol, which burns calories.

The bad

White subcutaneous fat
White fat is what weight gain nightmares are made of because it’s this type of fat that stores calories. When there’s too much white fat, your metabolism slows down. When your metabolism slows down, you gain weight around your hips, tummy and thighs. Fat in these areas on your body makes it difficult to lose weight.

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Subcutaneous fat (SF)
SF fat is found all over your body; particularly around your bottom, thighs and arms. It’s located directly under your skin and is what is usually measured to calculate body fat percentage. This fat also produces oestrogen hormones in men and women, and a surplus of oestrogen has been linked to obesity. The worst place to have SF is around the stomach as it ups your risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Visceral fat
This is the most dangerous fat you can have, as it accumulates around your abdominal organs. In small amounts, it helps cushion your organs against injury, but an excess leads to health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Say goodbye to bad fat

  • To lose White SF fat and SF fat, replace processed foods and carbs with protein and healthy fats in your diet. Protein makes you feel fuller for longer, which can reduce your cravings for sugary foods.
  • Exercise regularly to keep a good amount of brown fat in your body.
  • SF fat is one way that your body stores energy. This means that you need to burn energy in the form of calories to burn SF fat. Do aerobic exercise and cardio like swimming, running and skipping to burn calories. Strength training like weightlifting can also help burn SF fat, by increasing your metabolism.

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