I’m sure you’ve heard/read compelling arguments from both sides and just don’t know what to believe. On the one hand, you know sugar can’t be great for you and it makes sense what some of the low-carb folks are saying, and on the other hand, you’ve seen all these low-fat food options that are supposedly healthy and going to help you lose fat. So which is the better option?
Let’s dive into each of the diets and discuss the key aspects.
Originating from the classic myth from the mid-1900s where many in the nutrition space were sucked into the belief that eating fat would directly lead to a higher body fat percentage, the fear of fat-caused health issues led to the release of a whole range of low-fat diet plans and supermarket products that gained massive traction.
It is true that fat is more caloric at 9kcal per gram compared to its macronutrient peers - protein and carbohydrates, both of which are only 4kcal per gram. Thus it makes sense that if you eat less fat, you would be eating fewer calories. However, simply eliminating it from your diet has its consequences.
Research shows that for optimal hormone balance, you need at least 20-30% of your daily caloric intake from fat. Below these figures, you risk poor brain function, heart health, hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance/diabetes… among many more things you definitely do not want to risk.
On the positive, fat plays an important role in increasing satiety and pleasure from food, and it’s unlikely to be sustainable to go on an ultra-low-fat diet for anywhere more than a few months.
Low Carb Diet
Derived from the more recent and classic myth that carbs, and in particular, sugar makes you fat.
In recent years, sugar and refined carbohydrates have been demonized, largely backed accompanied by the argument that eating carbs raises blood sugar causing insulin to be released from the body - the hormone that stores nutrients into the body’s cells. When there is insulin in the body, fat burning is set aside and thus arrives the belief that we need to minimise carbs to reduce the duration insulin is present in our body and allowing our bodies to be in “fat-burning mode” as long as possible.
This myth has a bit of truth to it in that insulin does prevent fat loss while present in the system, however, it’s important to note firstly that fat can be deposited into fat cells regardless of insulin.
The Real BEST Diet
The truth is there is no one best diet. There are thousands of diets out there, and if there was one clear winner, we’d all already be on it! The important thing to note is whether it be the low-fat diet or low-carb diet, pick the option that you know you can stick to long term.
Time and time, research has shown a caloric deficit is required for fat loss. Whichever diet you decide on, as long as you are in a net caloric deficit, you can be sure that with time, you will be progressing towards your goal. Stop being sidetracked by the arguments for which diet is better and focus on what works for you!