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Low-Carb, Low-Fat and High-Fat Diets : How High is High, and How Low is Low?

When we’re thinking of making changes to our lifestyle, it’s entirely possible to feel hesitant about what information or guidelines to follow. Moreover, it can be challenging to find the right support group to help you see the changes through.

For these reasons and many others, becoming a member of an impactful community of people undergoing the same challenges can be a game-changing decision.

When talking about different diets with friends, family or colleagues, you may have heard about foods containing “low” or “high” macronutrients. These same diets are often referred to as low-carb, low-fat and high-fat diets. The casual use of these terms has, however, caused for some confusion: what is high, low or even normal fat and carb intakes?

Defining and understanding the nutritional value of our food is essential; therefore, we need to consider that “low-carb”, “low-fat” and “high-fat” diets are relative to the individual. For instance, the general population’s average intake of carbs and fat can be too high for certain people.  

Indeed, to properly understand the value of a low-carb, a low-fat or high-fat diet, we need to start with the basics: macronutrients.

What Are Macronutrients?

In order to live, our bodies require large quantities of macronutrients, which are chemical substances that are found in the foods we eat. The three macronutrients essential to our survival are fats, carbohydrates (carbs) and protein.

Despite what you may think, fats are essential to our health as they allow for the absorption of certain vitamins, ensure the protection of our organs and offer significant amounts of stored energy. This, of course, applies to dietary fats which include saturated and unsaturated fats, as well as fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega 6. Trans fat is entirely unnecessary to our body’s wellbeing and is actually harmful.

Most people consume carbohydrates at a much higher amount than fats or protein. Carbs are found in starchy foods, fruits, vegetables, sugars, and fiber. Healthier foods such as quinoa and sweet potatoes contain complex carbohydrates (long chemical molecules made of glucose) while unhealthier foods such as simple sugars contain simple carbohydrates (smaller glucose chains).

Proteins are responsible for the development of our organs, our hair, our nails, and our muscle tissue. Once broken down, proteins become amino acids that are needed in the body – but several essential amino acids are not produced by the body and must be obtained through food.

What is A Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet?

How do I Balance my Macronutrient Intake?Plate of veggies, cheese and eggs - a high-fat meal!

If we consider that the average North American is suggested to follow a 2,000 calorie diet, we should understand that there are about 9 calories per 1 gram of fat, 4 calories per gram of carb and 4 calories per gram of protein.

 

Low-carb or high-fat diets are based on the concept of altering the percentage of micronutrients in one’s diet in order to force the body to burn fat as the primary source of energy. For instance, many North Americans will get 45% to 65% of their daily caloric intake from carbohydrates, 25% to 35% from fats and 10-35% from protein. In a low-carb high-fat diet, these quantities and percentages are altered so that the highest rate of one’s calorie intake is from fats, while a smaller portion is allocated to protein and carbs. A low-carb high-fat diet would look more like this:

  • 80%  fats
  • 12% protein
  • 8% carbohydrates

This, however, should not be done without considerable attention to an individual’s particular needs or proper guidance from a nutritionist who can help with wholesome meal ideas that meet all of your dietary requirements.

Why Do People Eat High-Fat Diets?

With all the negative things we have heard about fat, it seems counter-intuitive to partake in a high-fat diet (most people have tried low-fat diets for this reason). Fat, however, has exceptional health benefits.  There are two main types of fats:

  • Saturated fats: These fats are made up of molecules with single bonds between them. Because they contain a high concentration of hydrogen molecules, saturated fats are often solid at room temperature. Examples of saturated fats include cheese, butter, high-fat cuts of meat, coconut oil, etc.
    • Recent studies have shown that the healthiest type of saturated fat comes from medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Coconut is an excellent example of a rich MCT food.  
  • Unsaturated fats: These fats contain molecules that are linked together by two or three bonds. At room temperature, some unsaturated fats are liquids, but it is possible to find unsaturated fat in solid foods as well. Examples of unsaturated fats include avocados, avocado oil, olives, olive oil, peanut butter, peanut oil, vegetable oils, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, etc.), nuts and seeds.  

In the past, it’s been highly suggested that saturated fats were linked to bad cholesterol levels and a higher risk of heart disease. Recent research has, however, challenged these notions. Most foods that are rich in fat contain a combination of both types, which means that avoiding one type of fat entirely is not possible. For this reason, health care professionals and nutritionists will recommend eating saturated fats in moderation and opting for foods rich in unsaturated fats as much as possible.

High-fat low-carb diets are often regarded as the base concept of the ketogenic or keto diet. This diet allows the body to burn fat as the primary source of energy, making it useful for weight loss. It takes a few days for the ketogenic diet to take effect as the body’s natural processes are shifted, but it remains a rather quick approach to weight loss.

The keto diet is also proven to help reduce seizures in children because of its neuroprotective properties.  The ketogenic diet may also be helpful in treating other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, though more research needs to be done before making any certain claims.

Are High-Fat Diets Good or Bad for Me?

It is always better to opt for a diet that is sustainable over a long period of time. For this purpose, it’s best to follow the lead of your health care provider’s suggestions. A nutritionist or dietitian can help you create a plan that will give you results while ensuring that your body’s needs are being met.

A high-fat diet can be useful for you – so long as you’re getting your fat from healthy sources. Deep fried foods are evidently a bad idea. Consuming a variety of fatty healthy foods is, on the other hand, very beneficial to your health. Eggs, nuts, and avocado all contain high concentrations of healthy fats which are a sure sign that they hold significant health value.

High-Fat or Normal-Fat or Low-Fat diet?

A normal-fat diet is not a ketogenic diet. The purpose of a keto diet is to implement a very low-carb intake (5-10%) and a very high-fat intake (70-80%).

It might be more comfortable, and even more delicious to follow a low-fat, low-carb diet. As long as you’re getting all the micronutrients you need through healthy foods, you can see incredible changes in your energy and general health. The low-fat low-carb diet is, in fact, less extreme and therefore much easier to maintain for a long period of time. An excellent example of a low-carb, low-fat diet would be the following:

  • 40% protein
  • 30% carbs
  • 30% fat

To make this lifestyle even easier, you can find incredibly delicious and wholesome recipes that already ensure all your nutritional needs are being met. If you love your vegetables, then this diet is going to be particularly pleasant – but even for the skeptics, a low-carb, low-fat diet can introduce you to surprising flavors!

Changing the way you eat and the way you live can sound like a big challenge, but it is entirely feasible with the right support! Inspiring recipes, expert advice, and awareness are critical to a successful transition. Make sure that you are choosing whole foods that offer your body the vitamins and minerals you need. With the right resources, you’ll discover new energy and health. It’s not about following a restricted diet but embracing your individual needs and life itself.


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