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Low-Fat vs. Low-Carb Diet: Is One Better for Weight Loss?

There are as many diets as there are people who want to lose weight.

No two people will lose weight in the same way: some will do better on a low-carb diet while others will reach their goal on a low-fat diet (or a vegan diet, or a carnivore diet, or a keto diet, or…).

If you already how your body responds to particular foods, you are many steps ahead of someone trying the latest diet without considering their own personal needs.

What Foods Are Low in Fat and Carbs?

Low-fat foods restrict the fat contribution to calories in favor of complex carbohydrate calories, in foods like grains, pasta, bread, and certain vegetables. Low-carb foods, on the other hand, tend to be high in protein and/or fats.

If you’re focusing on the low-carb approach, the key is to eat foods that contain the right type of fats. Unlike the fats in corn oil and animal meats, mono-unsaturated fats may help you lose weight faster. They can attach to other fat molecules and carry them out of the body, or at least to where they can be broken down further by the body.

Low-Fat Diet vs. Low-Carb Diet

People who thrive on low-carb diets are those that require extra protein. Their body burns protein more efficiently than it does carbohydrates. While both are essential to the body, this person’s body simply prefers proteins to carbs.

With a low-fat diet, the calories from carbohydrates are burned more efficiently. Simple carbs that produce quick bursts of energy are great for snacks, while complex carbohydrates provide a more sustained level of energy and work best when eaten in the afternoon.

How Does a Low-Carb Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Carbohydrate is the default fuel source for your body. During digestion, carbohydrates are first broken down into sugars and then absorbed into the bloodstream, forming blood sugar or glucose. High levels of blood sugar make your body release the hormone insulin that helps glucose enter the cells of your body, including pushing extra calories into your fat tissues for storage. Decreasing carb intake lowers insulin levels, which allows your body to burn stored fat for energy, ultimately leading to weight loss.

How Many Carbs Should You Consume Daily to Lose Weight?

The carb intake varies according to the age, gender, activity levels, personal preference, and metabolic health of an individual. The optimal carb intake can be:

  • 100-150 grams per day if you are active and want to maintain your weight while staying healthy
  • 50-100 grams per day if you want to lose weight while allowing a bit of carb in your diet
  • 20-50 grams per day if you want to lose weight fast or have some metabolic problems

Is a Low-Carb Diet Good for Weight Loss?

The reality is, ANY diet will work for weight loss, at first.

But if you are trying to SUSTAIN weight loss, you need to find which type of diet will work for you, in your particular situation, with your particular physiology.

Have you previously tried a diet that worked, with significant weight loss and that was easy to stick to? That, in law enforcement circles, is what is referred to as a clue.

Does your work or recreational time demand high levels of energy output? Including some complex carbs in your eating plan, or some extra protein to offset muscle breakdown, may be worth a look.

You need to find your own best balance of proteins, carbs, and fats. The available diets, like Paleo, Keto, Carnivore, or the various flavors of vegan/vegetarian, are starting points – guidelines — that can get you moving in the right direction, but that will need to be individualized.

Remember what works for one person may not work for the others. You need to figure out what will work best for you.

If you need help finding out what body type you have and which diet is better for weight loss, visit one of our Family Care Centers (located at Irvine, Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa) and talk to a physician. They will be able to help you get the answers you need.

Gina Nguyen, MD

Dr. Nguyen is a medical director at Family Care Center Costa Mesa. She has implemented standards of care for underserved population and helped the clinic achieve NCQA (National Committee of Quality Assurance) Level 2 recognition and FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Care Center) status. Now, her focus is on providing the highest quality care to patients and improving lifestyle choices to reduce or eliminate health problems.

Author

Dr. Nguyen is a medical director at Family Care Center Costa Mesa. She has implemented standards of care for underserved population and helped the clinic achieve NCQA (National Committee of Quality Assurance) Level 2 recognition and FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Care Center) status. Now, her focus is on providing the highest quality care to patients and improving lifestyle choices to reduce or eliminate health problems.
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