Can High-Fat Diets Help You Lose Weight Quickly?

Can High-Fat Diets Help You Lose Weight Quickly?

Chances are, you know someone who swears by a high-fat diet for weight loss. High-fat diets typically “work” by limiting carbohydrates, which naturally hold water in the body — so yes, you may lose a few pounds of water weight when you first start following a high-fat diet.

The most well-known high-fat diet, of course, is the ketogenic diet, a.k.a. keto. A keto diet plan is so low in carbs that your body goes into ketosis, meaning it starts burning fat as your main fuel source.

But are high-fat, low-carb diets like keto a healthy way to lose weight? Do they work for long-term weight loss? Here’s what you need to know.

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Are High-Fat Diets Healthy?

high fat diets- keto breakfast

High-fat diets typically cut out added sugar and refined grains, which should be healthy eating goals for all of us.

But some high-fat diets also cut out healthy sources of carbohydrates — at least in the beginning. When you’re first starting out on keto, for example, you’ll remove fruit, starchy veggies, whole grains, and beans from your meal plan.

The problem? These foods also provide fiber, and not getting enough fiber can lead to constipation. You may also experience low energy levels from the lack of carbs.

There’s also preliminary data that suggests a high-fat diet may have a negative effect on metabolism. In a small study, 12 healthy young men tested a high-fat diet for five days and found that it appeared to disrupt the way muscles used glucose. (However, it’s worth noting that the amount of saturated fat consumed by the study participants was pretty high — at least 25 percent of their daily calories.)

Still, obesity has been linked to certain health issues — so “if a high-fat diet produces weight loss for an individual that a low-fat diet could not, then the benefits may outweigh the risks for that individual,” says Kristen Mancinelli, MS, RD, author of The Ketogenic Diet.

 

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Do High Fat Foods Make You Fat?

high fat diet- stepping on scale

No, eating fat won’t make you fat. (And on the flip side, eating “fat-free” foods won’t keep you from gaining weight.)

Fat is an important macronutrient. Dietary fats are necessary for healthy cell function, and they help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

But when you’re following a high-fat diet, it’s important to focus on eating healthy fats — like avocados and wild fatty fish, which provide essential fatty acids.

Some high-fat diets, however, include all fats. Bacon, burgers, butter — it’s all fair game. This can lead to a diet that’s high in calories and saturated fat. (The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 5 or 6 percent of the total calories you eat every day.)

 

High-Fat, Low-Carb Diets vs. Low-Fat, High-Carb Diets: Which Is Better?

Short answer: Both healthy fats and complex carbohydrates can be part of a healthy eating plan for weight loss.

Research suggests there’s no significant advantage to following a low-fat diet. You also need to proceed with caution when consuming reduced-fat versions of foods, because the fat is often replaced with sugar or refined grains.

Some people find it easier to stick to a higher-fat diet, since fat carries so much flavor and is believed to increase your satiety for a longer period of time. However, super-restrictive high-fat diets don’t seem to be great long-term solutions, and should be approached hand-in-hand with a qualified health professional.

Ultimately, your best bet for weight loss is to aim for a calorie-controlled diet with a healthy balance of macronutrients. Ideally, around 40 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 30 percent from healthy fats, and 30 percent from protein.

 

What Do You Typically Eat on a High-Fat Diet?

These fat-rich foods are staples in most high-fat diets, but they’re healthy options even if you’re not following a high-fat diet for weight loss.

  • Fatty fish (like tuna, salmon, and anchovies)
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Almond butter
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds (such as flaxseed or chia seeds)

high fat diet pin image

Maggie Moon, R.D.

About

Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N. is a Columbia University-educated dietitian with culinary school training. Her new book, The MIND Diet, is available now. Readers can expect approachable explanations of the science, seasonal guides to the healthiest foods, tips for meal planning, plus delicious recipes featuring brain-healthy foods. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their small terrarium, thinking up ways to make healthy eating as delicious as possible. Follow her on Twitter.

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