Chances are in the past week or so you’ve heard the importance of having a low fat diet and the importance of a low carbohydrate diet. People selling weight loss supplements or meal replacement shakes will always tout the importance of one or the other. Should you enter into ketosis (extremely low carb and high fat diet) or should you just follow a low fat diet? Today we investigate.
So there is a lot of confusion about this topic and I’m not surprised. Go back 10 years or so and even the mainstream news was reporting on the benefits of low fat diets, to the point where it is engrained in everyone’s brain that foods with high fat content are bad. However today research has shown that sugar, a simple carbohydrate, is the real enemy to fat loss and we need to cut it out. So which one is the true enemy? Sugar, or fat? Well, the answer, as always, lies somewhere in-between.
Low fat fear mongering
The main reason low fat diets were being pushed as the best way to lose weight and maintain a healthy body was because of the calorie content. I’ve gone into this before, but macronutrients are broken down into calories:
- 1 gram of Protein is 4 calories
- 1g of carbohydrate is 4 calories
- 1g of fat is 9 calories
As you can see one gram of fat is over double the amount of calories in both protein and carbs. So at a glance it would make sense to cut the fat, and you’re saving calories instantly! Which is true, and losing weight is all about calories in vs calories out. So it’s understandable that lowering the fat intake would result in a losing weight and fat. This is true, if you eat less than you expend, and you do so by cutting down on fat intake then you will lose weight. However it doesn’t matter whether those lost calories come from fat, carbohydrates or protein. You will still lose weight, however weight doesn’t necessarily mean fat. It could mean muscle, water, or in extreme cases ligament or tendons. Fats play a vital role in your body, however not all fats are created equal. Some fats are good for you, and others are extremely bad for you. Let’s check out the benefits next.
The benefits dietary fats
Healthy dietary fats are extremely beneficial for your body and have numerous uses:
- They are more calorie dense and because of this provide more energy and can keep your appetite under control by keeping you full.
- Most vitamins are fat soluble, meaning they are only digested with fats. These vitamins are A, D, E and K.
- Many fats, such as omega 3’s and 6’s can aid fat loss.
- Fats are essential towards healthy hormones, meaning your body functions better. Meaning that you lose weight more optimally.
There are many more, however those last two should hopefully convince you that healthy fats are essential for the body. So which fats should you be eating and which ones should you avoid? You may be thinking you should avoid saturated fats and everything else is fair game. Wrong. All saturated means is that the fat is solid at a room temperature, whereas unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. It depends of the source, as most saturated fats should be taken in moderation. I’ll put a list of healthy fats below, there are more, many more, but these lists should be a good starting point.
- Nuts (brazil, walnuts, cashew, almonds and more)
- Olive oil
- Seeds (chia, etc)
- Fatty fish, mackerel, salmon etc.
- Coconut oil
- Dark chocolate (80% or more at least and in moderation)
- Peanut butter (buy 100% peanut brands)
Fats to avoid:
- Trans fats (sunflower oil, fried food oils etc.)
- Cream (cakes etc)
- Butter (people will debate the benefits of grass fed butter, most in the UK is not grass fed)
- Margarine (one of the worst things for you, never buy it)
- Fried chicken
- Partially hydrogenated oils
- Rapeseed oil.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand that low fat diets aren’t the only way to go. You can go for a medium fat or in some cases a high fat diet and still lose weight, you just need to be careful with your choices. It’s usually common sense. Which is the healthier high fat food? Avocados or french fries? Hopefully you know the answer is avocado. Of course this doesn’t mean that carbohydrates are the enemy either, so look out for an article on that next week as they are quickly becoming the most hated macronutrient amongst dieters today. Either way, just hit your macronutrient targets, but include some healthy fats in there over some unhealthy fats and watch the body fat melt away!