Low-fat yogurt, low-fat dressing, low-fat muffins… if you’re trying to lose weight, these foods might seem like they should make up a huge portion of your diet. Less fat means fewer calories, and consuming fewer calories leads to weight loss, right?
It turns out, that’s not entirely true.
A recent study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology found that low-fat diets aren’t the most effective for weight loss.
“Fat contains more than twice the number of calories than carbohydrates and protein, so it has naturally been a target [for weight loss], but this message is ineffective,” Dr. Deirdre Tobias explains. “Taking the focus off of total fat, and shifting to achieving an overall healthy, high-quality diet may be the ideal strategy for long-term weight loss success.”
Dr. Tobias worked on a team with researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to examine a variety of weight loss strategies. Among the trials that were reviewed, the team discovered that both high-fat diets and low-carbohydrate diets led to significantly greater weight loss than low-fat diets. Tobias explains, “A low-fat diet may lead people to avoid several choices for healthy high-fat foods, like nuts, vegetable oils, and avocados. It can give too much leeway to make poor choices, like opting for processed foods, refined grains, and sugar.”
Even though healthy fats aren’t the enemy, many experts feel there are some kinds of fats that should be avoided. “Saturated fats are linked to poor heart health outcomes, and should be limited,” Dr. Tobias says. “Choosing low- and reduced-fat dairy products and limited red and processed meats will cut back a significant amount of saturated fat in your diet.”
Instead of obsessing over exact calories and specific amounts of fats, carbohydrates and protein, an effective and long-term weight loss plan should focus on a well-rounded diet. You should aim for a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and especially vegetables. For protein, chicken, eggs, and fish are great options, as are plant-based sources like quinoa, hemp, tofu, tempeh, and the combination of whole grains and legumes. Don’t worry so much about labels. Instead, think more about eating foods and you won’t even have to give a second glance to products with labels such as “low fat,” “high fiber,” etc
Have so you can have your avocado and eat one too!