Does the low-fat diet for weight loss works? Is it a weight loss diet? Does it make you healthier?
As always, it depends: a diet with less fat does not necessarily imply that it leads to weight loss or that it helps you stay healthy. In this article, we analyze what to eat and in which cases it can be useful.
What Is The Low-Fat Diet?
The low-fat diet is a low-fat diet, which covers less than 25% of the daily energy requirement or is less than 0.6-0.8 g / lbs of body weight; a balanced diet, on the other hand, requires lipids to contribute 25-30% to the energy consumed.
It is not said that the lower the fats are, the more benefits you can get from this diet. It is true that some fats (eg some saturated, hydrogenated, trans) are to be limited to preserve one’s health, but it is equally important that fats, especially the “good” ones, are present in one’s diet.
Furthermore, fats are the vehicle of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K): the reduction of the lipid content also results in a decrease in the intake of these vitamins.
It is therefore advisable for one’s health and to meet the lipid requirement to choose fatty food sources so that they are of good lipid quality and rich in these micronutrients: 20 g of fats derived from snacks are different from 20 g of lipids from fish.
What Is The Low-Fat Diet And How Does It Work?
The low-fat diet serves to reduce the risk of complications that can result from consuming too much fat.
A diet rich in lipids does not necessarily lead to gaining weight, but it is still necessary to avoid that these cover most of the energy needs.
If on the one hand there is a lipid excess, on the other, there is probably a lack of the other macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins) and an unbalanced diet.
The quantity of fats present in the blood flow is proportional to the amount taken, therefore the excess lipid can correspond to blood values outside the physiological ranges of triglycerides and cholesterol.
By eating less fat… Do you lose weight immediately? This is not the case, indeed!
Like any diet, the low-fat diet also makes you lose weight only when associated with a calorie deficit ( low-calorie diet ): losing fat is not a response to the decrease in the fat intake but to energy restriction.
However, the lipid reduction probably also leads to a decrease in energy intake.
If you introduce less fat than you consume, the lipid balance is negative; however, it is not certain that you “lose more weight” because the accumulation or consumption of fat in the acute phase does not lead to weight loss.
To lose fat, the lipid (and energy) balance must be negative in the long run.
In addition, there is also the variable carbohydrates: you may have heard that “carbohydrates make you fat” and there is a grain of truth.
Carbohydrates are not always converted into lipids, on the contrary, this biochemical mechanism occurs only under certain conditions, i.e. energy excess and saturation of glycogen levels.
For athletes in normal conditions, fats should usually cover 30% of energy needs, but in the case of weight loss, this percentage can drop to 20%.
In fact, studies show that in the athletic population those with the lowest lipid intake are more successful in losing weight and maintaining the weight achieved.
Advantages And Benefits Of The Low-Fat Diet
What are the advantages of consuming low fat? First, there is more room for carbohydrates and proteins:
- high carbohydrates are mainly useful for athletes and for those with good insulin sensitivity;
- high proteins guarantee muscle maintenance and greater satiety in hypocaloric conditions.
When it comes to athletes a low-fat low-calorie diet (compared to a low-carb one), with high proteins and carbohydrates helps to preserve lean mass, because amino acids are not used to produce glucose and insulin has an anti-catabolic.
Also, fatty acids are not usable at a high training intensity, when carbohydrates are preferentially consumed.
Cholesterol is a fat that acts as a precursor to some hormones and which, together with phospholipids, constitutes cell membranes: it is essential, but like everything in excess is not good for you.
In fact, it is so important that the body produces it itself: 80% of the cholesterol present in the body is in fact synthesized endogenously, while the remaining 20% is obtained from the diet.
With the diet, it is, therefore, possible to lower the cholesterol level. With a diet that limits the intake of cholesterol and saturated fat. For the saturated, usually always demonized, however, we must not generalize, because not all of them have the same effect on cholesterolemia:
- short-chain saturates (6-10 carbon atoms) have no effect on cholesterolemia;
- saturates with intermediate chains (12-16 carbon atoms) increase LDL.
A low-fat diet, by limiting the intake of fatty foods, also reduces the intake of cholesterol.
For the health of the liver, but not only, but it is also better to avoid a hyperlipidemic diet (such as ketogenic) because the increase in fat and cholesterol in the blood corresponds to a possible prevalence of hepatic steatosis or accumulation of fat in the liver ( fatty liver ).
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, not due to excess alcohol but to other causes, is a chronic disease associated with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and obesity (all factors to which an excess of lipid and an unbalanced diet contribute), in addition to the presence of at least two of the following conditions:
- low HDL cholesterol,
Types Of Low-Fat Diet: Traditional, Moderate, Strict
There are several types of a low-fat diet, which differ according to the fat content:
- Traditional (or normal), fats are between 25% and 30% and resemble a Mediterranean diet;
- Moderate, with lipid content of 20-25%;
- Strict, in which the fat content is less than 20%.
With the same energy intake, as the fat intake decreases, there is a greater amount of protein and carbohydrates.
Low-Fat Diet Foods: What To Eat?
The foods allowed are those low in fat such as lean meats, cereals, fruit and vegetables, fish and lean dairy products, legumes: all foods that are mainly made up of proteins and carbohydrates.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the poorest groups of dietary macronutrients (fats are present only in trace amounts) but rich in water: useful for a low-fat snack but moisturizing and micronutrients. Every day 4-5 portions of fruit and vegetables should be consumed.
Meat, fish, low-fat dairy products, and some legumes are excellent sources of protein low fat ( lean protein ) and fillers are the high content of proteins that, in the case of legumes, dietary fiber.
Here are some examples of low-fat foods for these foods:
- Meat: turkey breast, bresaola, veal fillet, chicken, beef liver, and other cuts of meat that have no visible (or removable) fat;
- Fish: cod, shellfish, pike, octopus, sole, sea bass, anchovies;
- Dairy products: yogurt derived from skimmed milk, 0% Greek yogurt, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk;
- Legumes: fresh green beans, frozen peas, fresh broad beans, lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, lupins.
Of the eggs can be consumed l ‘ egg (the yolk is fat), while the grains are very low in fat and are made up of about 70% from carbohydrates, and 12% from proteins.
However, since fats must still be present, even if in lesser quantities, the foods to be preferred to obtain them (rich in lipids) are fatty fish in the first place, nuts, and seeds.
These, in fact, do not contain many saturated fats and are cholesterol-free – with the exception of crustaceans and mollusks, which although they are low in fat, most are cholesterol.
Foods To Avoid Or Limit
On the other hand, meat, fish, fatty dairy products, as well as whole eggs should be limited/avoided.
- Fatty meat: Sausages, frankfurters, sausages), offal, cuts of meat with visible fat
- Fatty fish: Salmon, eel, herring, mackerel
- Dairy products: Feta, mozzarella, brie, provolone, parmesan, gorgonzola, cheddar, spreadable cheeses
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds
- Packaged snacks: Snacks, bars, biscuits, various sweets
- Seasonings: Oil, butter
As for cooking, frying is definitely to be avoided or limited as the food absorbs a lot of fat and, even if lean, then at the time of consumption the meal will be anything but low-fat!
Example of Low-Fat Menu
Examples of breakfast, to which you can add drinks such as coffee, tea, herbal teas to taste:
- skim milk or bread with jam
- protein pancakes with egg white and flakes or oatmeal
- porridge made from oat flakes, egg white or skimmed milk or water + fresh fruit
- yogurt + fresh fruit
Examples of snacks:
- fresh fruit
- fresh fruit + low-fat yogurt
- low-fat Greek yogurt + a teaspoon of honey or jam
- crackers or rusks with jam
Example of lunch/dinner:
- pasta or rice (even cold) with vegetable, mushroom, or legume-based sauce
- cod and grilled vegetables
- grilled turkey breast with boiled potatoes
- egg white omelet with vegetables and salad with tomatoes, low-fat cheese flakes, chicken
When To Follow A Low-Fat Diet?
In the case of biliary lithiasis, the diet should be hypolipidemic, low in cholesterol, low in oligosaccharides, high in fiber, and norm caloric.
Dietary factors such as low / high-calorie diets, rich in cholesterol and fat, low in fiber are elements of risk.
In addition to hypercholesterolemia, even if you suffer from steatorrhea, you should prefer a low-fat diet so that the presence of lipids in the stool decreases in response to their less introduction.
Attention must be paid to the amount of fat even in the case of diabetes, even if it is not necessary to resort to a low-fat diet unless the aforementioned pathologies and complications are also present.
In fact, there is an association between diabetes and lipid metabolism diseases and cholesterol should not exceed 300 mg/day.
The fats must not exceed 30% of the daily energy and no more than 10% must come from saturated and trans fats (8% if the LDL is high).
Conclusion On The Low-Fat Diet
In conclusion, a low-fat diet requires that the proportion of fats covers less than 25-30% of the energy requirement and that the fats consumed come from foods of good lipid quality, such as fish and dried fruit.
It is not a diet suitable for everyone, in physiological conditions, it is however advisable not to go below a certain fat threshold.
On the other hand, it is useful in cases, under the supervision of a professional or doctor in which the blood levels of fats (including cholesterol), biliary lithiasis, steatorrhea, and possibly diabetes must be reduced.
For sportspeople, it is also useful for losing fat mass more effectively and then maintaining the weight achieved.
As always, it is not the diet to lose weight, but one of the proposals: before thinking about how many fats and how many carbohydrates are better, whether low-fat or low-carb, the energy intake and then the protein intake should be set.