People on a high-carb low-fat diet are advised to restrict fat intake and consume a large portion of their calories as carbohydrate-rich foods. According to most proponents of this diet plan, fat should be less than 25 percent of total calorie intake. The remaining calories are primarily acquired by eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetable and grains, all high carbohydrate foods. Meat and dairy, sources of protein but high in fat, are eaten sparingly and should make up about 15 percent of total calorie intake. There is controversy about the effectiveness and health benefits of a high-carb low-fat diet.
Advocates of high-carb low-fat diets have differing opinions about what particular types of carbohydrates and fats to consume. Some emphasize eating complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and avoiding refined carbohydrates. Others simply encourage eating plenty of carbohydrate-rich foods. Animal-based saturated fats are generally avoided, and plant oils are preferred. Some mention avoiding trans-fats while others don’t.
A high-carb low-fat diet requires care in preparing carbohydrate-rich foods. Pasta and potatoes should be topped with vegetables, for example, rather than heavy sauces or cheeses. Vegetable dishes should be eaten without cheese sauces or oil-based dressings. Breads can be topped with low-fat spreads or eaten plain. Flavor can be added using spices and herbs rather than fats and sauces.
One study followed two groups of dieters for a year and found that those who followed a high-carb low-fat diet lost the same amount of weight as those on a low-carb high-fat diet. The researchers also looked at other factors and found the high-carb low-fat group had less hostility, anger and depression than the other group at the end of the year. These results were consistent with other studies that have found high carbohydrate, low fat and protein diets correspond with lower levels of depression and anxiety and better overall mood.
Controversy exists about the benefits of a high-carb low-fat diet. Some experts question whether emphasizing carbohydrate-rich foods has contributed to an increase in obesity, while others have linked excessive carbohydrate diets with an increase in Type 2 diabetes. A long-term study found that high-carb low-fat diets do not lead to weight gain as some suspected, but that weight loss was minimal over a seven year period.
There are conflicting research study results on fat intake and the development of disease. Some studies indicate that high fat intake can lead to chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, some cancers and obesity. The results of other studies seem to question whether fat intake alone is the culprit. One study linked a high-carb low-fat diet to certain cancers. Although the body’s need for fat is generally much lower than the amount of fat eaten in modern diets, it is an essential nutrient necessary for brain development, to metabolize some dietary vitamins and minerals and is an energy source.