Low Fat Diet is the diet that limits the intake of fats in order to benefit the health by reducing weight and thereby lowering the risk of adverse health conditions. Fat is a nutrient that needs to be included in the diet with great caution. As such it is the fat component in the diet that enhances palatability. While it has vital roles to play in the human body – providing insulation to delicate body tissues, assisting in the absorption of essential fat soluble vitamins and providing concentrated energy sources, excess fat intake can lead to fatty tissue built up and cause obesity related disorders such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular complications. Therefore fat intake cannot be completely avoided. Embarking on a low fat diet would include essential fat intake without the accumulation of excess fat stores.
Guidelines for Low Fat Diet
Saturated fats elevate the risk for coronary heart disease by increasing the cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats are the healthy fats which have a positive impact and tend to lower cholesterol. The diet must be low in saturated fat and cholesterol with modest intake of total fat. Total fat intake must provide no more than 30% of calories per day.
- To reduce intake of saturated fat and cholesterol one must restrict the intake of high-fat dairy products such as full cream milk, cheese, butter, fatty red meats, poultry with skin and fat intact, palm oil and coconut oil. Other foods high in cholesterol are egg yolks and organ meats.
- Trans fatty acids are high in hydrogenated vegetable oils like margarines and shortenings commonly found in commercially fried foods and baked products.
- Unsaturated fats or oils do not raise the cholesterol levels. Vegetable oils, almost all nuts, varieties of fatty fish, and avocados are among the best sources of unsaturated fats. They may be classified as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Oils high in monounsaturated fats include peanut oil, canola, sunflower and olive oils.
- Vegetable oils like corn oil, rice bran oil, soybean oil and different nuts have a high content of polyunsaturated fats.
- Fatty fish such as Mackerel, Herring, Trout, Tuna and Salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that offer protection against arthritis and heart disease.
Excess calorie intake must be avoided while choosing to include moderate amounts of food high in unsaturated fats.
- Plant foods with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits may be the designated source for obtaining most of the daily calories needs.
- Reduction in the amount of oil used in cooking and choosing vegetable oils with more unsaturated fats could result in lesser calorie consumption.
- Opting for fat free or low fat/skim milk and other dairy products like low fat cheese, fat free yoghurt etc., helps in reducing calorie and fat intake while supplying all other nutrients.
- About 2-3 servings of lean meat, skinless poultry, and fresh fish per day may be consumed. This apart, nuts, lentils, dry beans or peas help to provide good protein sources.
- Egg whites supply high quality proteins and must be preferred over whole eggs. Similarly use of liver and other organ meats must be infrequent.
Benefits of Low Fat Diet
- Following this low fat diet may help limit the saturated fat intake at less than 10 % of total calorie consumption. This may consequently bring about weight loss.
- Lesser accumulation of body fats.
- Low fat intake would translate into improved lipid profile and cholesterol ratios.
- Decreased propensity to cardiovascular abnormalities, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and other serious conditions.
- Improved energy and fitness levels with sufficient weight loss.
Finally, it is all about making healthy choices - fish over red meat, hung curd as a spread over mayonnaise or cream sauce, grilled chicken over fried chicken, fruit in place of cream filled desserts, choosing foods with lower saturated fat and cholesterol by reading nutrition facts on food labels.