Nowadays, many people who want to lose excess weight choose diets with lower fat content. One of such meal plans is a low-fat diet that limits the amount of consumed total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. It aims at reducing the incidence of health conditions like obesity and heart diseases. The low-fat diet is also beneficial for people with congenital metabolic syndrome, seizures, and those at risk of certain cancer types.
The low-fat diet is more than just eating foods low in fat. To see the result, you also have to watch how many calories you consume. Low-fat diet plans recommend eating low-fat foods or eating fewer portions of fatty foods. The low-fat diet encourages the consumption of foods that are naturally low in fat or fat-free (vegetables and fruits). In addition, following this diet plan, you can also eat processed foods that contain fewer fats than their traditional analogs, such as low-fat cookies and low-fat ice cream. However, you should be careful with such foods and read the labels because some processed low-fat foods replace oils with sugar or thickeners. It decreases the fat content of food but increases sugar and sometimes calories content. Also, the oil in some fat-free coffee creamers is the same as the oil in their full-fat counterparts, but it is so minimal that the food may be labeled as fat-free.
To follow a low-fat diet, you do not have to exclude foods containing fat altogether. However, to stay compliant with the diet plan, you have to consume a smaller-than-usual portion of higher-fat products.
The low-fat diet is highly restrictive and may involve the intake of less healthy foods and refined carbohydrates. It also can lead to a micronutrients imbalance. Therefore, this diet plan may harm patients with pyruvate carboxylase deficiency, porphyria, and other rare genetic disorders of fat metabolism.
How to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies
The low-fat diet is highly restrictive. It can result in calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, vitamin B-12, and dietary fiber deficiency. Therefore, you should balance your diet and pay attention to the listed nutrients in order to give your body an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals.
- Calcium: leafy greens (spinach, kale, mustard, bok choy, collard), winter squash, low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt, beans, lentils, whey protein, rhubarb, edamame, figs.
- Zinc: beef, legumes, low-fat dairy, whole grains, potatoes, green beans, kale, mushrooms.
- Magnesium: legumes, tofu, whole grains, bananas, leafy greens, edamame, potato with skin, halibut, okra.
- Iron: spinach, legumes, red meat, quinoa, broccoli, turkey, tofu.
- Vitamin B-12: beef, fortified tofu, low-fat dairy, fortified nutritional yeasts.
- Fiber: vegetables, fruits, skinless chicken, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, whole grains.
Additionally, you can take vitamins and minerals supplements to meet your body’s needs.
Tips on improving your dieting experience
- Calculate your fat intake. You should count your macronutrients and calories intake to ensure you do not eat too much fat. To calculate your daily fat grams, you can use the following formula:
- Total grams of fat per day = (Total amount of calories per day x desired fraction for fat) / 9 calories
- For example, if you want to eat 1800 calories and reduce your fat intake to 25% of total calories, you should eat 50 grams of fat per day ((1800 calories x 0.25) / 9 calories = 50 grams).
- Learn about the different types of fat. To follow a healthy low-fat diet, you should understand the difference between different fat types. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats provide health benefits. Therefore, you should choose more fatty foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and lower or no foods high in trans fats and saturated fats.
- Read labels. Look through the food labels when doing shopping. Food labels include fat amount per portion.
- Get rid of excess fat. Remove all visible fat, including skin from poultry. Do not fry foods.
The low-fat diet is highly restrictive and may cause nutrients deficiency. This diet plan also may not be effective for long-term weight loss. The reduction of saturated fats and trans fats undoubtedly benefits your health. However, your body needs healthy fats from foods like avocados, fatty fish, and plant-based oils. Such fats are essential for good health. So, the reduction of healthy fats consumption may harm your body.
You may try the Mediterranean or Nordic diet, emphasizing food quality over fat consumption.