You've likely heard all about the benefits of eating healthy fats — from helping with weight loss and management to boosting heart and brain health — by now. An October 2015 study even found that diets that are too low in fat are actually pretty ineffective. But healthy fats might be doing even more than we've been giving them credit for: In a November 2016 study, researchers found that adding canola oil to participants' diets was linked to reduced belly fat.
Pennsylvania State University researchers had 101 participants try incorporating five different vegetable oils into their daily diets: canola oil (which, FYI, is made from a low-acid variety of rapeseed), high-oleic canola oil, high-oleic canola oil with added omega-3 fatty acid DHA, corn/safflower oil, and flax/safflower oil.
Each participant drank two smoothies made with the designated oil (we know — we were intrigued by the oil-in-a-smoothie part, too) per day for four weeks. The amount of oil in each participant's smoothie was calculated based on their personal energy needs so as not to overload their diets with excess canola calories. At the end of the four-week period, the participants' body compositions were measured, and then they were given a four-week break period before moving on to the next oil on the list.
The results? After four weeks of following a diet rich in conventional canola oil, participants had a lost an average of .25 pounds of belly fat. That weight also hadn't been redistributed to other parts of the body. So even though we would typically say that you can't target weight loss in specific parts of the body, participants in this study seemed to lose weight strictly from the belly — which researchers attribute to the presence of monounsaturated fatty acids (aka MUFAs) in the canola oil. Cool, right?
It's important to note that there are a few caveats to this study: For one, it only proves a link between canola oil consumption and decreased belly fat, not a cause-and-effect relationship. It was also a small, short-term study that was backed in part by groups with potential bias, such as the Canola Council of Canada. So, clearly, more research needs to be done.
But it's still worth adding more MUFAs — whether they come in the form of canola oil, nut butters, nuts, seeds, olives, or avocados — to your diet. The researchers behind this particular study suggest getting your daily dose by cooking or baking with canola oil or adding it to salad dressings. And if you want to get your MUFAs through a non-canola source? We've got you covered with these 31 delicious MUFA snack options.