Whether it’s for disease prevention or weight loss, a low-fat diet is one of the most popular. However, it’s not all about how low you can go. A successful low-fat diet relies on the consumption of the right amount of healthy fats. Learn more about:
Low-fat regimens usually call for getting between 10% and 20% of your daily caloric intake from fat. Typically, the standard American diet's from-fat calories hover around 34%.
You might think that the less fat, the better. But studies show that's not the case. In fact, consuming too little fat can be harmful. Ultra low-fat diets, or those recommending below 10% caloric intake from fat, have been shown to greatly increase the risk of essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiencies. Remember, they're called "essential" for a reason: EFAs are the basic nutrients needed for optimal heart health, mental function, skin health and many other of the body's functions. Too little fat in the diet can also prevent the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K. Those following a low-fat diet might consider taking an EFA supplement; consult your doctor.
It's essential, however, that your fats are the healthy kind: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, such as those found in olive oil, avocado and salmon. If you have to cut out fat from your diet, concentrate on the bad kind: saturated (found in red meats, cheese and butter, among other full-fat animal products) and trans fats (found in fried and fast foods and anything containing hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils). Care must be taken even with plant-based oils that harden at cold temperatures, such as palm and coconut oils, as these are also high in saturated fat.
Many low- and non-fat alternatives are available for foods that are typically high in fat. Studies have shown that these substitutes are often less satisfying (low-fat often means low-flavor), which can lead to overeating. Talk to a nutritionist and experiment with other ways to get satisfying flavor in healthier ways. Many of our stores have Healthy Eating Specialists who can give you great ideas.