We're thrown a whole bunch of diet terms our way on a consistent basis: alkaline, Paleo, high-protein, low-calorie, low-fat—it's exhausting (and confusing). But in the case of the latter, while a low-fat diet seems effective in principle (eating less fat means less fat on the body, right?), studies show that this isn't the case. Quite the contrary, actually.
Monounsaturated fats are the good kinds of fats that the Mediterranean diet is based upon. We know, another diet. But hear us out. Foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids include olives, oils, nuts, dark chocolate, avocado, and seeds, and along with reducing cardiovascular risk, bad LDL cholesterol, and the development of diabetes, they'll also help slim your waistline.
In a 2011 study in the The American Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Basel University Hospital in Switzerland divided participants up into two groups and had them follow either a low-fat diet or a Mediterranean diet. After two years, those who followed a Mediterranean diet lost more weight than their low-fat counterparts. In this same study, body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference decreased more in subjects in the Mediterranean diet group than subjects who ate a low-fat diet.
A second Spanish study found that a diet rich in monounsaturated fat prevented central body fat, aka that dreaded belly pooch. After following three different diets for one month, participants were measured with a body fat X-ray machine, and researchers found that fat actually moved away from the midsection following one month of a high-MUFA diet. Yes, please!
If that hasn't convinced you to move away from a low-fat diet, an article from Harvard notes that a low-fat diet isn't a sustainable diet, even if you do find that you're losing inches initially. This is because high-carbohydrates tend to replace fats, and if they're unsaturated and eaten in abundance, weight loss isn't on the docket. Low-fat diets also tend to be less filling, hence you search for alternate foods that eventually put the weight on.
However, if your plan is to lay on the olive oil and eat heaps of avocado toast, you've got to slow your roll. Dietitian Dr. Chrstine Rosenbloom notes that MUFAs have more than twice the amount of calories per gram than carbs and proteins. "Fats have to be controlled because it is easy to overeat nuts or guacamole which can undo the health benefits by packing on the pounds," she explains. In other words, keep the calorie count low, like the recommended 1600 calorie high-MUFA diet in the highly rated Flat Belly Diet ($8).
What diet have you tried and had success with? Please tell us your experience in the comments!