Do I have to cut fat from my diet to lose weight?

Low-fat diets were a major trend in the 1980s and 1990s, but in today’s day and age, we understand that fat isn’t the enemy. Once, it was believed that reducing fat intake would lower the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.

From a mathematical standpoint, it seemed logical that cutting fat would lead to weight loss. Protein and carbohydrates contain approximately 4 calories per gram, while fat contains approximately 8 grams. However, in reality, it’s not that simple! Fats – think olive oil, nuts/seeds, and avocado – tend to be very satisfying. This means they help you feel full after a meal. When you feel satisfied after a meal, you are more likely to stop eating. In contrast, if you consume a meal entirely composed of carbohydrates – imagine a large plate of rice – you are unlikely to feel satiated, and if you do, it won’t be long before you feel hungry again.

So, while a mathematician might have thought that cutting fat would reduce total calorie intake, this is not necessarily the case. Additionally, we know that certain fats are good for our health. Unsaturated fats, found in oily fish, nuts/seeds, avocado, and olive oil, are particularly beneficial for heart and brain health. These same fats also enhance the flavor of food. When we enjoy the taste of a meal, we are more likely to feel satisfied. For example, a plain salad with chicken may not be very enjoyable, but if we add an olive oil-based dressing, this meal becomes much more enjoyable.

So, while we don’t need to eliminate fat from our diet, we should enjoy it in a balanced way. Our diet should include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Consider the following:

  • Protein: Include a palm-sized portion at each meal, such as chicken, beef, fish, eggs, or dairy.
  • Carbohydrates: Consume a cupped-hand-sized portion at each meal, including brown rice, whole-grain bread, quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, or regular potatoes. 
  • Fat: Include a thumb-sized portion at each meal, such as olive oil, nuts/seeds, or avocado.

References: 
https://academic.oup.com/jhmas/article/63/2/139/772615

About the author

Cheyenne Holman

Cheyenne Holman

Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD)
Accredited Sports Dietitian
Certified Personal Trainer
Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher