A low fat diet has been and is currently recommended by most health professionals for a healthy weight loss approach.
However, other dietary recommendations such as eating a balanced diet, moderate portions and eating a majority of whole foods need to be in conjunction with low fat for optimal weight loss. Fats do have some benefits that are needed and can be beneficial for weight loss.
Past to Present Fat Recommendations and Trends
In the past, the pendulum has swung too far to one side and low/no fat, high carbohydrate foods were eaten in excess. Things like fat free cookies, baked goods and pretzels became popular snacks.
The obesity epidemic continued to grow radically for the number of overweight and obese people despite a general conscious effort to eat low fat diet. In the 1990’s to 2000, the Atkins diet and other low carbohydrate diets became popular.
The pendulum swung the other way and the emphasis was on low carbohydrate intake, including limiting fruits and vegetables. Weight loss can occur drastically on a low carbohydrate diet which caught the eye of many trying to lose weight.
However, the popularity faded as people realized a very low carbohydrate diet is hard to maintain. Research studies for long term health effects of very low carbohydrate diets, like the Atkins, are not conclusive. Thus, any potential long term negative health effects on this diet are not well known.
How Much Fat is Recommended?
So where are we now with fat and weight loss recommendation? Basically, we are right back to where we always start in the nutrition world. The best approach for health and weight loss is eating a variety of foods in moderate portions with an emphasis on eating whole foods.
Going overboard on eating high carbohydrate, processed foods will increase glucose and insulin release which promotes fat storage. Dietary guidelines from the USDA recommend a fat intake of 20-35%.
Benefits of Fat – What Kinds of Fat Help with Weight Loss
Fats provide us many vitamins and minerals, and they can slow the release of sugar into the blood stream. Food sources rich in monounsaturated fats like plant oils, fish, avocados, nuts and seeds provide anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acid.
Omega 3’s help lower risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly some cancers. Omega 3’s could possibly help lower appetite and hunger in over weight and obese populations, according to a 2008 study in Appetite.
Choose foods high in monounsaturated fats over foods high in saturated and trans fats such as processed snacks, baked goods, butter, margarine, high fat dairy products and fatty meats.
Focus on eating fresh whole foods and avoiding processed foods. Choose dairy and meat products that are lower in fat content, as these are typically higher in saturated fats. For meals and snacks, eat a source of carbohydrate, protein and fat.
Even though fats are a concentrated source of calories, they are part of a healthy diet that can be beneficial for weight loss. Usually fat free substitutes have more sugars and can be equal to or higher in calories than something that is not fat free.
Check with a health professional if you have a health condition that may affect dietary fat intake recommendations.