Low-Fat vs Low-Carb Diets: Which One Should You Choose?

For years, the media and the diet industry have gone back and forth with contradicting claims. Sometimes the buzz praises low-carb dieting as the salvation of the free world, while at other times it heralds the virtues of a low-fat diet. It’s enough to drive you crazy—who do you believe? Which should you choose?

Let’s compare the low-fat diets to the low-carb and try and make heads or tails of what is best for you.

Low-Fat

Doctors and nutritionists still most often recommend that you keep the fat within reason in your diet and that you're even more careful if you have certain conditions like high cholesterol or are at risk for heart disease.

The biggest failure of low-fat diets is that instead of just lowering fat, they’re more likely to opt for unhealthier substitutes, such as margarine with trans fats, or ‘fat-free’ snacks and food that replace the missing flavor with added sugar and calories. This ‘low fat’ revolution has actually contributed to the obesity epidemic.

Low-Carb

Low carbohydrate diets are often thought of as more controversial than low fat diets, and they’ve gotten a bad reputation as such. This is because some low carb diets limit you to as little as 30 grams per day of carbohydrates, strictly limiting nutritious fruits, grains, and starchy veggies. Another problem with low carb diets is that some of them encourage people to eat more fatty foods and meats.

On the other hand, carbohydrates (particularly grains) have been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and blood pressure, as well as food cravings -- they tend to make some people hungrier.

Quality, Not Quantity

The thing everyone in this debate seems to forget is that not all fat is bad for you, and not all carbohydrates are bad for you. The quality of the types of fats and carbs that you choose is far more important—it’s better to pick nutritionally dense, healthy foods than trying to cut out entire food groups. Even worse is when you try to replace the food groups you’ve cut out by over-indulging in other food groups, or by adding a lot of processed foods to your diet.

Keeping your fat intake to under 30% of your diet, and your carb intake between 45% and 60%, is a far better option than trying to cut out or replace either of them. Just opt for healthier fats like avocados, olive oil, lean meats, and dairy; and healthier carbs such as loads of fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The biggest health problems seem to come when people rush to extreme measures—try to keep your diet balanced instead.

Photo: Pexels

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