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Is a low-carb diet or fat-free diet better for losing weight?

Aug 20, 2013

Gwen Beckcom
FT Mission Hills


"Many different types of diets have been all the rage over time, including low-carb and low-fat. However, the most important factor is the healthfulness of the diet — as both of these types of diets could be healthy or unhealthy, depending on the types of fats and carbohydrates that are consumed.

"Emphasize eating healthy carbs such as fruit, veggies and whole-grain products and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados and along with lean protein.  Consume less simple carbs like sugar, white flour, and other processed carbs and less unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats.   This combination will lower your total calorie intake.

"Of course, you will still need to practice portion control when eating healthy to make sure your calorie intake is within your daily goal.  And, by tracking your foods and exercising daily, will help to not only keep you honest but bring awareness to more mindful eating. Make sure to cook with seasonings and herbs to bring out the flavor of foods to achieve satiety, and to be able to stick to a healthy lifestyle of eating over the long term."

Billy Pratt
FT Avon


"That depends on what kind of "weight" you're looking to drop. If you need to drop water weight, a low-carb diet is the way to go since one gram of carbohydrate binds to approximately three grams of water. The fast weight loss you typically see under the first stages of a low-carbohydrate diet is largely attributable to water loss.

"A low-fat diet, on the other hand, drops overall calories much more since fat contains the most calories per gram -- 9 kcal in 1 gram of fat vs. 4 kcal in 1 gram of carbs and protein.  A large drop in calories typically will facilitate a decrease in body fat since your body needs to draw from your energy stores -- one of fat's primary functions -- to continue working.

"You also need to take into account the other functions and types of fats and carbohydrates as well.  Healthy fats like those found in fish, nuts, avocados and flax serve a variety of essential functions for the body, such as reducing cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, and overall joint health.  Complex carbohydrates like vegetables, whole grains, sweet potatoes and so on don't cause an acute insulin spike like the simple sugars do and also serve to help you think clearly, have enough energy to be active, and is protein-sparing.

"Basically, you can lose weight on either a low-carb or low-fat diet; the primary concerns are choosing a method you can stick with for life, and getting enough nutrients to help your body perform the way it is meant to. Cut your calories down, keep your macros balanced, and exercise. It's that simple."

Sue Teoli
FT New Canaan


"There are good fats and good carbs. You should still consume a certain amount of good carbs and good fats per day depending pn your body weight.  Neither one is good if the person does not stay within a certain calorie count and substitute good food for bad food."

Dr. Janet Brill
FT Nutritionist


"The beauty of a low-carb diet is that it is high in protein. Eating lots of protein makes you feel full because it is the most satiating macronutrient compared to carbs and fat.  Protein is also metabolically taxing for the body, requiring the most energy of the three macronutrients to assimilate and metabolize.  And it has the highest thermic effect, meaning the highest calorie burn.

"So in a nutshell, high-protein, low-carb diets are very appealing to the masses as they make it easier to eat less calories and lose weight. The problem comes in with irritability and the accompanying decrease in exercise performance; the brain needs carbs as do the muscles.  This type of eating simply should not be practiced over the long term as it does not promote good health.

"Low-fat diets are passé, having been all the rage in the '90s. They are extremely difficult to stick with as -- let’s face it -- fat makes food taste good! Hence following a very low-fat diet long-term is not a practical approach as people tend to go off it quickly and return to old eating habits.

"The best weight loss strategy is to eat a calorie-controlled, plant-based diet -- moderate carbohydrates with added lean protein and healthy fats combined with daily cardio and a strength training routine. No magic here but since this approach has stood the test of time and promotes both health and weight loss, it should be the recommendation of choice for all FT clients!"

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