A low fat diet is perfect for weight loss, and to help those with high cholesterol.
As the name implies, a low fat diet reduces the amount of fat, especially unhealthy fats, that you eat, as well as the total cholesterol consumed. Generally, it reduces fat to 20% or less of your macronutrient consumption, leaving the other 80% or more for carbohydrates and proteins.
It can also be incredibly helpful to people who have a condition that prevents them from processing fats normally, like pancreatitis or gallbladder disease.
And while the diet may sound pretty simple: just cut on fats, there’s actually a lot of nuance to it – such as different types of fat, effective ways to reduce fat intake through cooking methods, and more.
So, if you want a low fat diet for weight loss, or for any other reason whatsoever, make sure to read on until the end to get the best low fat diet possible for you.
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Table of contents
- 5 Life-Changing Benefits of a Low Fat Diet
- Types of Fat – Are They All Unhealthy?
- List of Foods to Eat in a Low Fat Diet
- List of Foods to Avoid in a Low Fat Diet
- Cooking Tips for Low Fat Diets
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
5 Life-Changing Benefits of a Low Fat Diet
Low Fat Diet for Weight Loss
The first and most obvious of its benefits is weight loss.
Because even though every macronutrient (Carbohydrates/Protein/Fat) is important, they’re not all created equal. Carbohydrates and proteins have 4 calories per gram. But fat has 9 calories per gram.
The benefits of a low fat diet for weight loss become as clear as day then: eat fewer fats to eat more carbohydrates and protein, and you end up eating fewer calories overall.
And, of course, for the simple fact that carbohydrates and protein don’t become fat in your body, and are instead converted into glucose. It is only at very high levels of glucose that your body starts to convert it into fats, though this process, called “De novo lipogenesis” is incredibly rare in humans.(1)
Reduce Blood Pressure
But weight loss isn’t the only benefit. Research has also found that eating a low fat diet that is high in fiber can reduce your blood pressure.(2)
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, you’ll also get increased energy throughout the day.
The reason for that is that your energy levels are regulated by your insulin sensitivity and the foods you consume.
Whenever you eat a carbohydrate, your body releases insulin, a hormone that reduces your blood sugar levels.
Problem is, if you have insulin resistance, your body becomes less effective at regulating your blood sugar levels.
Which results in less stable, and worse energy, throughout the day.
So, how does eating less fat help with that?
Well, it’s pretty simple. Nutritional research (3) has found that insulin resistance is often caused because of fat being accumulated in muscle cells.
By reducing your fat intake to below 20%, you can improve insulin resistance over time, and become more energetic throughout the day, and without long periods of tiredness and exhaustion due to diet.
Low Fat Diet for High Cholesterol
Cholesterol, one of the big bad names related to excessive fat consumption, is a substance your body requires to work normally. The problem arises when you have too much cholesterol, because it glues to the walls of your arteries, partially blocking them.
This blockage results in a greater risk of heart diseases, like coronary artery disease. (4)
But, just like the macronutrients, not all cholesterol is the same.
LDL (Low-density lipoprotein), also called bad cholesterol, does lead to buildup in your arteries.
HDL (High-density lipoprotein), does just the opposite and helps clear cholesterol from the walls of your arteries (and other parts of your body) back to the liver.
So, how does this all tie into fat consumption?
Well, it’s because two common types of fats – Trans fats, and saturated fats – can explode the amount of LDL in your body, causing a disbalance between LDL and HDL, therefore leading to higher blood cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart diseases.
In the case of trans fat, it can both increase your LDL and reduce your HDL at the same time. It’s a double loss.
But that’s not all…
Foods that are highest in cholesterol tend to be high-fat ones. And while the research on whether dietary cholesterol (the one present in food) increases your cholesterol levels or not, there has been an overall trend that recommends a decrease in the consumption of dietary cholesterol.
Conditions and diseases like pancreatitis, cirrhosis, or procedures like cholecystectomy (surgery to remove the gallbladder), reduce your ability to absorb fats and can cause severe negative effects in case of consumption.
So, if you have such a condition, it is crucial for you to understand low fat diets, which types of foods should or should not be consumed, and how to cook with the best methods to reduce fat.
But before we get into the list of foods ideal for low fat diets, let’s first talk about…
Types of Fat – Are They All Unhealthy?
We’ve just mentioned a bunch of different types of fat – saturated and trans – but what is the difference between these types of fats? And are they all bad?
Let’s start with Unsaturated Fats. This type of fat is liquid at room temperature, and believe it or not, they’re necessary for a healthy, balanced diet. They can increase good cholesterol levels, help with inflammation, and more.
Unsaturated Fats can be divided into the following 2 types of fat:
- Monounsaturated fats: great at reducing LDL levels and increasing HDL levels, these are typically found in avocados, olive oil, and nuts.
- Polyunsaturated fat: these fats help with blood clotting, help build cell membranes, and help with muscle movement. Your body does not produce these naturally, so you need to get at least a little bit of it from your diet. Polyunsaturated fats are the famous Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and can often be found in fish and other seafood.
The other group of fats are Saturated Fats, which are solid at room temperature, and are also known as “solid fats”. These types of fats, unlike unsaturated ones, can increase your levels of bad cholesterol and are generally not as good as unsaturated ones.
Generally, you want your foods to have as little saturated fat as possible and as much unsaturated fat as you can. Having a few grams of saturated fats in your diet isn’t a big deal though, and is completely expected. Red meat, milk, and egg yolks are common examples of saturated fat.
And then there’s the bad guys of the bunch, Trans Fat. Unlike the previous two, trans fat almost never occurs in nature. Instead, they are artificially created to increase product shelf life and give different textures to food. They are most commonly found in deep-fried foods, processed cheeses, and most frozen foods.
These fats should never be consumed, if possible. They significantly increase HDL and cholesterol and are heavily linked with increased inflammation and other health issues. On top of that, there are no health benefits to trans fats.
Trans fats are so bad, that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates at least half a million deaths every year occur from trans fats causing heart disease.
Stay away from them.
And with these points in mind, we can now look at…
List of Foods to Eat in a Low Fat Diet
- Low Fat Dairy Products – low fat yogurts, fresh cheese, skim milk.
- Beans and Lentils – rich in protein and low in fat, plus a bunch of other healthy minerals and antioxidants.
- Fish – Rich in omega-3, and with a good amount of unsaturated fat, contrasted by a low quantity of saturated fat, and typically no trans fat, make fish a great option.
- Egg Whites – While eggs as a whole are quite fatty and full of cholesterol, both are present in the yolk. The whites, on the other hand, are just full of protein and vitamins.
- Chicken breasts – Unlike red meat, chicken breasts are relatively low in fat but rich in protein. Skinless chicken breasts are particularly lean since the skin is where much of the fat is. Chicken parts in general are great options, but some parts of the chicken can contain much higher quantities of fat than the breasts.
- Fruits & Vegetables – rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, but low in calories and fats. Some standouts include spinach, broccoli, oranges, and carrots.
List of Foods to Avoid in a Low Fat Diet
- Junk Foods – fried chicken, chicken nuggets, potato fries and chips, and fast food pizza sit at the top of the list of what to avoid. These contain high amounts of both trans fats and saturated fats. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also tend to be very low on micronutrients.
- Processed Meats – sausages, bacon, and processed cheese tend to have trans fat added to them, and those that don’t are typically higher on saturated fat than unsaturated fat.
- Butter, margarine, palm, and coconut oils – lots of saturated fat, sometimes trans fat too. Enough said.
Cooking Tips for Low Fat Diets
Cooking methods that do not include the addition of oil can greatly help you reduce the fat content on your diet – steaming, stewing, or boiling, and some forms of baking, can all be done without added oils.
Cooking methods that melt the fat off of the food can also be helpful. Grilling, for instance, lets the melted fat drip out of the meat. Grilling can also be done without the addition of oils, which gives it extra points.
The primary method of cooking you should stay away from is deep-frying – as they add mountains of fat to your meal.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
No. While a low fat diet can have great benefits to your health, some fats are necessary for your organism to function correctly. Having a certain amount of good fats is advisable for most people.
No. You can keep eating meat, as long as they are low enough in “bad fats” and are consumed in enough moderation to keep a low percentage of fat consumed on a day. Chicken and fish in particular are great choices.
As long as you’re consuming the minimum of healthy fats in your diet, it should be okay. You can get all of your required micronutrients from varied sources that are richer in carbohydrates and protein than in fats.
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