Low Fat or High-Fat Diets – What’s Healthier?

Low fat or High Fat Diet, which is better

In the 1990s and 2000s, low-fat foods were the gold standard to lose weight. But a lot has changed since then and with the rise of high-fat diets like the keto diet, we’ll take a look at what the latest research says today.

The History of Low-Fat

The fat-free and low-fat frenzy was likely built on the thought that eating fat can potentially lead to making you fat. So people began to ditch anything with fat and look for low-fat or non-fat foods. We saw the rise of fat-free ice cream and cookies, low-fat yogurt, and baked chips.

Reddi-wip diet for low fat or high fat, high-fat
Image: Reddi-wip

But over the last 30 years, the rates of overweight and obesity haven’t decreased, so it appears that there must be something more going on than “eating fat can make you fat.” This may, in part, be due to the fact that dietary fat helps to keep you full or satiated. When people remove fat from their diet and choose fat-free foods, it can lead to less satisfaction and when you don’t feel full, it may cause you to continue eating fat-free foods that still are high in calories.

In addition, during food processing when fat is removed to create low-fat or fat-free foods, something else must be added in its place. Most of the time, artificial sugar is added as a low-calorie swap. While many types of candy and sweets are low-fat – like gummy bears or graham crackers – some research suggests that artificial sugar actually makes you crave more sweets. This could result in someone that may end up eating more than if they had chosen something with fat, ultimately contributing to weight gain.

High Fat Diets

high fat diet, avacados
Image: Erik Ahmed

Now, after the fat-free craze, we’ve swung the other way to a fixation on high-fat eating patterns like the ketogenic (or keto) diet. While the keto diet may be new to many, it’s actually been around since the 1920s when the diet was found to be beneficial for those with epilepsy. While medication typically helps to control seizures, some people with epilepsy do not respond to them. Under the care of a physician and dietitian, the ultra-low-carb, high-fat keto diet has often been able to help significantly reduce the number or severity of seizures. 

Many people are now using this diet and other high-fat, low-carb eating patterns as a way to lose weight. There hasn’t been enough research on the effects of high-fat diets like keto, but early research has suggested that high-fat diets could increase cholesterol levels and negatively affect kidney function. In addition, while the keto diet may help someone with rapid weight loss, likely associated with losing water weight, there is little evidence to support that this eating pattern will result in long-term weight loss – many people will gain back the weight loss over time.

6 Tips For Choosing Healthy Fats

So what should you choose? The research today shows that instead of the total amount of fat, the type of fat is what is important when it comes to health. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most people should be limiting saturated and avoiding trans fat while choosing more foods that are sources of unsaturated fats. Follow these tips when choosing healthy fats:

  • Limit saturated fats found in coconut oil, butter and higher-fat meat like bacon
  • Avoid trans-fat found in: fried foods, pastries like doughnuts and margarine
  • Choose lean meat, like skinless chicken, pork tenderloin or sirloin
  • Select oils like olive oil or canola oil
  • Choose nuts, seeds or avocado, which are all good sources of unsaturated fat
  • Try to eat fatty fish – like salmon, anchovies or tuna – at least two times per week. This is a good source of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.
choosing healthy fats for your diet, low fat or high fat
Image: Amanda Izquierdo

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