When it comes to health, fat gets a lot of attention. In recent years, health professionals have debated the benefits of a low fat diet. What is a low fat diet, and how does it work? What foods are allowed? What diet programs are based on a low fat diet, and who invented the most popular plan?
The Low Fat Diet Defined
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a low fat dietis one that contains little fat – especially cholesterol and saturated fat, which are thought to increase blood cholesterol levels and heart attack. Most low fat diets limit fat content to between 20 and 30 percent of daily calorie consumption. Extreme diets restrict fat intake to under 20 percent of daily caloric intake. Interestingly, dietary fat is necessary for good health. Good fat supplies energy, fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. Good low fat diets address the type rather than amount of fat consumed. While saturated fats and trans-fats harm the body, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats offer health benefits.
Popular Low Fat Diets
The Mediterranean diet is one example of a good fat diet. It encourages foods with good fats and avoids those with bad fats. The Mediterranean diet includes fish, poultry, nuts and plant foods. Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers are two commercial diet programs based on a low fat diet. The Mayo Clinic Plan, designed by medical professionals, is another popular low fat plan. The most famous low fat diet was created in the 1970s by Herman Tarnower, a cardiologist from Scarsdale, New York. His bestselling book, “The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet,” outlines a specific, structured, low fat plan.
Low Fat Diet Foods
People who want to control their weight with a low fat diet should empty their refrigerator and pantry of leftovers and get ready to restock. A low fat kitchen includes healthy, wholesome ingredients. In addition to “low fat” and “fat free” products, low fat dieters should eat natural foods. Lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, beans, spinach, strawberries and melons are a good place to start. Most raw fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat. Dieters should limit red meats in favor of fish and chicken. Reduced fat or skim milk, egg whites and low fat cheeses are recommended dairy products. Breakfast cereals, pretzels, and air-popped popcorn are good snack foods.