Pros & Cons of Low Fat Diets


Although trends in dieting wax and wane over the years, it does not mean that disfavored diets are without merit--only that they have taken a backseat to the latest movement. Hugely popular throughout the 1980s, low-fat diets have been eschewed in favor of low-carbohydrate and high-protein approaches. However, low-fat diets have their own advantages and disadvantages, which you should consider as you decide on the right dieting plan for you.

Diet Pros

Follow a low-fat diet in order to have more item selection in your diet. The primary advantage to a low-fat diet is that it offers more in the way of choice when compared to other types of diets, such as low-carb. Most menu items in the United States and similar societies are based on the consumption of grains and other carbohydrates, so keeping to a low-fat diet allows you the freedom to indulge in many of these items--making it less likely that you'll cheat.

The second major advantage to a low-fat diet is that your body is designed to run off of the glucose provided by carbohydrates. You can avoid the side effects that come from a low-carb diet, such as lethargy and "brain fog" as your body makes the switch from burning carbs to burning fat. With a low-fat diet there is no transition period or any other type of induction phase to follow, making a low-fat diet far more accessible and in tune with the manner in which your body is designed to function.

A low-fat diet also offers proven health benefits. According to the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, keeping your fat intake to around 30 percent of your daily calories (while minimizing consumption of saturated fat) can decrease your risk for certain cancers, cardiac conditions and stroke.

Diet Cons

Avoid falling into the primary trap of low-fat diets--the notion that just keeping fat intake low is sufficient for effectuating weight loss. The primary disadvantage of the low-fat diet is a corollary to its primary advantage: Where there is a lot of choice there is more room for error. While carbohydrates are permitted to be consumed on a low-fat diet, not all carbs are created equal. Many types of carbs--such as refined flour and all types of sugars--will impede weight loss if you indulge too frequently.

On a low-fat diet, it's possible to inadvertently eat the wrong foods, resulting in a lack of weight loss despite the perception that you are doing everything by the book. You need to know which carbs to consume and which to enjoy infrequently (coupled with the willpower to make it happen). Therefore, while on a low-fat diet, base your intake of carbs around fruits, vegetables and whole grains to avoid this particular issue.

The other primary disadvantage of the low-fat diet is in nutritional requirements. Some level of dietary fat is required for a number of hormonal processes. A study published in 1996 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Issue 64) concluded that a higher fat diet was linked to increased serum levels of testosterone when compared to individuals following a lower-fat diet. Complete aversion to consumption of dietary fat can lead to potential nutritional deficiencies. According to information from the dieting website and nutrition professor Joan Salge Blake at Boston University, low-fat diets are often devoid of vitamins A, E and K, which are mainly contained in fatty foods. To correct for these problems, be sure to take in at least 30 percent of your calories from fat to keep hormonal processes intact and supplement your low-fat diet with a multivitamin containing vitamins A, E, and K.

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