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MAR 14, 2024

The Secret Behind Brown and White Fats: A Key to Weight Loss Beyond Exercise

Breaking down the differences between brown and white fats as well as looking at the healthy fats we can eat to improve weight loss.

Read time: 5 minutes

Growing up, you quickly learn that fat is bad. It’s unhealthy, it’s in food you shouldn’t eat, and you need to get rid of it ASAP. But, as you get older, you eventually learn it’s a little more complicated. So let’s be frank. Eating fat isn’t necessarily bad, in fact, for certain types of muscle recovery, it’s essential. That said, like everything, too much will not only have a negative impact, it can be fatal.

That said, the solution isn’t as simple as cutting out fat altogether. Instead, we need to understand that there are different types of fat that you body processes, stores, and uses in different ways, and how we can successfully target the unhealthy ones. So, let’s break down the difference between white and brown fats and list a whole bunch of foods that are loaded with healthy fats.

Understanding Brown Fats vs. White Fats

What Are Brown Fats?

Brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, is a special type of body fat that is designed to help you maintain your body temperature. In other words, when it gets cold, brown fat kicks into action. Unlike white fat, which stores calories, brown fat burns energy and actually improves your metabolism. Which also helps control body weight. Yeah, that might surprise you. This is due to the fact brown fat is packed with mitochondria, which allows you to burn calories at a high rate.

What Are Brown Fats?

White fat, or white adipose tissue (go figure), is the most common type of fat in the body. Its primary role is to store energy and release it when other organs need it. On top of that, white fat also plays a significant role in hormone regulation, including insulin. And while this sounds good, excess white fat can lead to insulin resistance for some, as well as other various health issues, including diabetes and heart disease.

What Causes the Accumulation of These Fats?

The build-up of fat isn’t a complex puzzle to be solved, it’s actually quite straightforward. Excessive white fat is down to a caloric surplus: consuming more calories than the body burns. Because this leads to fat storage; essentially your body takes everything you’re consuming and stores it for later, assuming you’re cramming for a period of low food availability.

Genetics, lifestyle, diet, and physical activity levels also play significant roles in determining where and how much white fat is stored. On the other hand, brown fat levels are largely influenced by environmental factors, such as prolonged exposure to cold temperatures and genetics.

The Diet Factor in Weight Loss

Circling back to how this blog opened, we grow up being told fat is bad for you. As an adult, understanding how to adjust your diet can significantly affect your body's fat composition and overall weight. While targeted exercises are essential for building muscle and improving cardiovascular health, they might not be as effective for weight loss if not complemented by a proper diet.

What’s needed to reduce additional levels of excess fatty build up is investing in foods and nutrients that encourage your body to produce more brown fat or convert white fat into a form similar to brown fat, known as beige fat. That means seeking out a diet rich in healthy fats, proteins, and certain carbohydrates which will help manage the balance of brown and white fats in the body. And if you want to know exactly what foods we’re talking about, keep reading.

Foods with Healthy Fats You Should Eat

By incorporating a diet of foods rich in healthy fats, your body's fat-burning potential and for overall health will skyrocket over time. But where do you start? What types of food have healthy fats? Well, here's a comprehensive list of foods you should consider including in your diet:


Packed with monounsaturated fats, avocados can help reduce abdominal fat, potentially promoting the conversion of white fat to beige fat.


Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts are excellent sources of healthy fats, proteins, and fiber. They can help keep you full and reduce the intake of unhealthy snacks.

Olives and Olive Oil

Rich in oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat, olives and olive oil can improve heart health and may have beneficial effects on body fat.

Oily Fish

Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to reduced inflammation and possibly encouraging the formation of brown fat.


A great source of protein and healthy fats, eggs are incredibly versatile and can help keep you satiated and energized.


Tofu is not only a great plant-based protein source but also contains isoflavones, which have been shown to have a positive effect on fat metabolism.


Although high in saturated fat, the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut can increase energy expenditure and help with weight management.

By understanding the difference between brown and white fats and the impact of diet, you can revolutionize your approach to weight loss. It's not just about burning calories through exercise – although that is obviously a big part of it - what you eat significantly affects your body's ability to manage fat. Incorporating a diet rich in healthy fats and whole foods can not only help you shed unwanted pounds but also improve your overall health.

Remember, balance is key, and making informed choices about your diet can lead to lasting changes in your body composition and wellbeing.x

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Written by Matthew Stogdon

Matt has been writing for two decades, across print and digital media. He is also an accomplished filmmaker, with several accolades under his belt.


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