Low-Carb vs Low-Fat Diet: Which One is Healthier?

Low-Carb vs Low-Fat Diet: Which One is Healthier?

Twenty years ago, fat-free foods exploded onto the diet scene, endorsed by everyone from the most glamorous celebrities to the grandma around the corner. Today, it's low-carb diets that are all the rage, but if past experience has taught us anything, it's that trendy diets aren't necessarily always safe. Both low-carb and low-fat diets offer some benefits, but ultimately, the healthiest diet is one you can stick with for a lifetime.

Low-Fat Diet Basics

Low-fat diets operate according to the principle that, since high-fat foods are often high in calories, reducing dietary fat will help you lose weight. Low-fat diets may also help lower cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, and even help you reduce blood sugar problems. These benefits have only been demonstrated in some studies, though. Others have shown no benefits at all. And low-fat diets aren't without risks, including:

  • Loss of healthy fats. Not all fats are created equal. Coconut oil and avocados, for example, are both high-fat foods that can improve health and reduce your risk of life-threatening illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. Removing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from your diet can even lead to depression and difficulty concentrating.
  • Eating unhealthy foods. If you adopt a low-fat diet by investing in fat-free foods, you could miss out on key nutrients while still consuming large quantities of calories.
  • Malnutrition. If you try to eliminate too much fat from your diet, you'll lose out on healthy proteins, and may miss important micronutrients. A diet that's too low in fat may undermine your body's ability to absorb several different vitamins.

Low-Carb Diet Basics

Low-carb diets have replaced low-fat diets primarily because a low-carb diet still allows you to get plenty of healthy proteins and oils. Carbohydrates are a form of sugar, so carbs tend to be high in calories. Moreover, some nutrition experts argue that excessive consumption of carbs plays a key role in contemporary health problems, since carbohydrates likely didn't play a significant role in our ancestors' diets. But eliminating all carbohydrates subjects you to various risks, including:

  • Loss of muscle. When a source of quick energy such as carbohydrates isn't readily available, your body begins breaking down muscle tissue.
  • Malnutrition. Low-carb diets often lack basic essential nutrients.
  • Binging on carbs. If you try to completely eliminate carbs, you may end up with overwhelming cravings. And adding carbs back in after a low-carb diet can cause you to quickly gain weight.
  • Consuming too much fat. Many low-carb diets are still high in fat.

Finding Balance

Diets that completely remove a specific type of food or food group are doomed to failure. The reason for this is simple: a healthy diet is one you can sustain for the entirety of your life. But diets build around deprivation are challenging to stick to. Instead, focus on a more holistic approach to health by reducing the calories you eat, staying active, getting plenty of aerobic exercise, and eating a wide variety of foods. That's a nutritional strategy anyone can follow, and one that will encourage and allow for a lifetime of great health.