Should I eat a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet to lose weight?

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics

Whether it's low carb or low fat it's dependent on the amount of calories you're consuming. Because certain fats help to fill you up and provide health benefits, you don't necessarily want to cut it out of your diet. The same goes for carbohydrates. If you choose healthy carbs such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, they can provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and satiety. You should try to consume a balanced diet with moderate carbs, fat, and protein. To lose weight, monitor the portions that you are consuming of these nutrients.

Rose Reisman
Nutrition & Dietetics
An American Institute for Cancer Research study found that for short-term results the low-carb diet had the advantage. But in the long run, the number of calories is what sustained weight maintenance. In the beginning, people on the low-carb diets lose more weight than those on low-fat diets. This is due to the increased protein consumption, which satisfies the appetite. Often, low-carb dieters stop their diets within six months because they lose all the weight desired or they're bored with the diet. That's where the long-term maintenance comes into play. After one year of either low-carb or low-fat dieting there isn't much difference in the number of pounds lost and kept off.
Rose Reisman's Secrets for Permanent Weight Loss: With 150 Delicious and Healthy Recipes for Success

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Rose Reisman's Secrets for Permanent Weight Loss: With 150 Delicious and Healthy Recipes for Success

For the journey toward healthier living. Losing weight can be a constant and frustrating struggle. Rose Reisman's Permanent Weight Loss Solutions creates a blueprint for lifelong weight control that...
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics
The key is to eat a "lower" amount of carbs and a "lower" amount of fat to lose weight. Whatever you are eating now, eat less. A good way to keep track of what you are eating is keeping a food journal. It is a great tool that lets you know what and how much you are eating. Of course, it's important to eat the right balance of healthy carbs, healthy fats, and healthy protein.
Pierre Dukan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Studies show that low carb diets help people lose weight, lower their cholesterol and triglycerides while improving blood sugar levels. You can consume healthy carbs from oat bran, vegetables and low glycemic fruits. Eating processed carbs and sugars can lead to insulin surges and an increased storage of body fat. Also, you will experience less glycation in the body when eating a low carb diet.
Rachel Begun
Nutrition & Dietetics

Neither. We know that it is difficult for people to stay on a diet that requires dramatically limiting a particular nutrient or food group. The key to healthy weight loss is in maintaining a long-term dietary pattern that incorporates moderate portions of the better choices of all three macronutrients: carbs, protein and fat. Maintaining a regular exercise regimen goes a long way towards maintaining a healthy weight because the exercise itself burns calories and as we build more muscle we burn more calories (muscle burns more calories than fat). We need dietary carbohydrates, as our muscles store them as glycogen, our body's primary energy source. It's best to eat carbs in the form of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy. Protein is an important aspect of weight management because it is satiating, meaning that meals containing protein help us to feel full. However, excess amounts of protein are unnecessary as the body eliminates any protein in excess of its needs. Protein intake should come from lean sources of meat and poultry, fish, low-fat dairy and plant-based protein sources such as legumes, nuts and seeds. We also know that low fat diets are hard to stick to and they are unnecessary. Current recommendations allow for more moderate amounts of fat in the diet, with a focus on heart-healthy fats from vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and their oils and avocado.

Dennis J. Glatt, MD
A balanced diet with inclusion of all food groups to ensure balanced nutrition, just in smaller portions, would be the best option for those trying to adhere to lifelong diet changes for weight loss. Eat less and move more . . . the best option for long term successful weight loss and maintenance.
Sarah Worden
Nutrition & Dietetics

When it comes to weight loss, what ultimately is the most important factor is watching calories. While there are many fad diets out there that focus on limiting carbohydrates or fat, further research of these diets will show they are limiting calories. The best way to lose weight is to figure out what the right amount of calories for your body is, working with a Registered Dietitian will help you with this, and then meeting those calorie needs with a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy.

Sharon Palmer
Nutrition & Dietetics

Instead of focusing on low-carb, low-protein, or low-fat--focus on high-nutrient density. Try to eat foods that are packed with nutrients for a relatively small calorie load. These are usually whole foods in their natural form, such as lean meats, poultry, and fish; low-fat dairy, beans, lentils, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. If you eat a diet including moderate portions of these foods at each meal, chances are you're getting a balance of all of the macronutrient groups--fat, carbs, protein--in the correct amounts to provide for weight loss.

Alexandria Hardy
Nutrition & Dietetics
The best approach to weight loss is a balance of calories in and calories out. A balanced, calorie controlled diet that includes both healthy fats (unsaturated) and complex carbohydrates will leave you feeling full and satisfied as you achieve your weight loss goals. Carbohydrates technically have fewer calories/gram than fat (4 kcal/gm versus 9 kcal/gm) but each play a role in keeping the body functioning regularly and neither should be eliminated.
Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics

To lose weight, one must eat the right carbs, the right fats and the right proteins. Focus on high fiber unrefined carbs, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as found in olive oil, macadamia nut oil, flaxseed oil and fish oil as well as nuts such as almonds, cashews and walnuts. These fats provide the body with the fatty acids needed to support metabolism, satiety and overall health. Avoiding trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils) and most saturated fats, except perhaps coconut oil. Unlike most sources of saturated fats, coconut oil contains short and medium chain fatty acids which are readily available to the body to be used for energy.

In comparison, long chain fats as found in meat, dairy, etc. are typically stored in adipose tissue and used for energy when needed. All of these nutrients must be consumed in moderation being conscious of portion size. By combining these things with regular exercise, one should be able to reach their weight loss goals without stressing over any special DIET.

If your goal is losing weight the primary focus should be total caloric intake. It is not a matter of counting carbs or fat. It is a matter of looking at the total caloric picture and fitting into your metabolic life. If you burn 2000 calories a day but eat 2500 calories a day whether that be fat, carbs or protein in almost any combination you are going to gain weight. Inversely if you eat 1500 calories per day with a need of 2000 calories daily in almost any combination of macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein) you are going to lose weight. Set a realistic caloric goal, eat sensibly and you will lose weight.

Weight Watchers®
Many weight-loss plans have used the biologic properties of specific macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, and/or protein) to suggest that better weight losses occur by manipulating the amount of these nutrients than by cutting calories alone. However, most studies provide no clear evidence that one diet is more effective than another. Consuming too many calories, regardless of whether they come from carbohydrate, protein, or fat, is the main cause of weight gain. All excess calories are converted to body fat.

Following the Weight Watchers program is a good start to a lifetime of healthy eating. It has been designed to meet weight-loss objectives, nutritional requirements, and the guidelines of major health organizations that recommend reducing saturated and trans fat intake as an important strategy for improving health.

Weight Watchers offers a comprehensive approach to weight loss that can help you reach your goals.
Suzy Weems
Nutrition & Dietetics

Both of these diet approaches may be good for weight loss. However, a diet that is lower in fat will provide more volume or quantity of food for you to enjoy. Ultimately, weight loss will depend on eating fewer calories than you use through exercise and lifestyle choices. 

Shraddha Chaubey
Nutrition & Dietetics

No, a balanced diet that consist about 50% carb, 30% fat and 20% of protein is usually recommended unless you have a clinical condition that requires modification of these nutrients. Weight loss should occur if you do not exceed your calories needed to maintain your REE (Resting Energy Expenditure) and burn out some calories with routine physical activity as desired. To know your REE contact a registered dietitian in your area.

It depends on your diet history. Most people do better on a low refined carbohydrate diet, 3-5 servings a day of whole grains and avoid as much sugar and fruits as possible. Others do better on a very low saturated fat diet, using limited amounts of vegetable oils and only occasional very lean red meats with a balanced diet. Both diets require a lot of vegetables, 5-7 servings/day. It is a way of life, not just a diet to be followed until the desired weight is lost. Everyone who eats this way enjoys more energy and a zest for life. Think about it!

Cassie Vanderwall
Nutrition & Dietetics

In the low-carb versus low-fat debate low-carb diets when for fast and often un-sustainable weight loss, whereas low-fat diets promote slower weight loss that stays off. However, both of these diets can be changes to promote lifelong health.

Try a low-carb diet that encourages sources of whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruit and limits carbs from refined grains (white flour) and added sugar (sweets, juice and soda-pop).

Try a low-fat diet that encourages healthy oils from fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines) and nuts/seeds (almonds, walnuts), but limits solid fats from beef, pork, skin on poultry and fried foods.

The best dietary lifestyle is one that promotes all foods in moderation, and more importantly one that you can follow for a lifetime!

Molly Morgan
Nutrition & Dietetics

The bottom-line is when selecting an eating routine is to choose a plan that is right for you! Any eating routine that reduces calorie intake will help you lose weight overtime, in my opinion I believe it's more of a matter which will work for you and your life. Then focus on creating a consistent eating routine and working in exercise to boost calorie burn and build lean body mass (which burns calories even when you're sitting still). Did you notice? I don't like the word DIET; the reason is it tends to suggest that it's something you start and stop rather than a lifestyle change that you'll stick with overtime.  

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Successful weight loss is based on many different factors including lifestyle, genetics as well as diet. A healthful diet to lose weight generally speaking should include some carbohydrate at most meals from whole grains such as a slice of whole wheat bread, or one half cup of brown rice, along with a small piece or one half cup of whole fruit, and as many vegetables as possible. Include some healthy fats at each meal such as olive oil, or those naturally contained in foods such as avocados or dairy products.
Martha O'Gorman
Nutrition & Dietetics

Weight loss occurs when calorie intake is less than calorie expenditure. So it depends on what calories are chosen to  replace the "carbs" or "fats". Diet books and programs freely use the terms "low-carb", "low-fat", or "high-protein". I find that becomes frustrating for consumers when the resulting message is a focus only on what to avoid.  Yes fat has more calories per volume. But if we buy, prepare, and eat natural foods then we have a combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Long term successful weight loss occurs with balance and variety in our food choices. A meal can be rich in flavor (herbs, spice, and plant based oils) as well a volume (grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables). This combination satisfies the palate and provides the best long-term control.

Nadine Pazder
Nutrition & Dietetics

It is really all about calories. Your goal is to cut 500 calories per day from what you are eating now. After 7 days, this 3500 calorie deficit is the equivalent of one pound of body fat. What's even better, is you can create this same deficit by only cutting back 250 calories from your food and by burning 250 calories in physical activity.

You don't ever want to eliminate too much carbohydrate from your diet since this is the preferred fuel for muscles, nerves and vital organs including your brain. Focus on getting your carbs from whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Too little fat in your diet and you risk a deficiency of vitamins A, D, E and K since these nutrients are carried in fats. Choose healthier fats like oils, seeds, olives, avocado and nuts while limiting solid fats and animal fats. But go easy on the amounts since these calories add up quickly.

Rebecca Scritchfield
Nutrition & Dietetics

Low carb but I suggest 135 grams of carbs per day, mostly from fruit, milk, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potato. You should not do this if you are involved in endurance sports. You want "consistent" carbs at each meal. For example, 50 grams of carbs at breakfast lunch and dinner. Snacks, if hungry, between meals that are high in protein and fat like seeds and nuts. Don't expect perfection every day with these eating patterns as we also have to satisfy cravings in a healthy and balanced way.

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
I would eat a high quality diet (I call it being a Qualitarian) instead because it means you get to consume carbs, fat, protein (as well as those delicious non-starchy vegetables) as long as you portion control - and you will lose weight AND gain energy+optimal health. What's the secret? By choosing the best quality whole foods (I recommend organic especially for the things you eat and drink most often like milk, yogurt, cheese, cereal, fruits etc) you give your body what it recognizes and knows how to use most efficiently. Choose one serving each of a carb,fat,protein + unlimited healthy vegetables (what are these? what's a serving? see my nutrition plan worksheet at at each eating occasion - these should happen about every 3 hours
Jim White
Nutrition & Dietetics
Ideally, when you have a weight loss goal your diet should consist of low-fats, low-sugar, and low-sodium. These three basic components will help you to adjust toward a healthier diet. 
Alberta Scruggs
Nutrition & Dietetics

You should remember - It's the total amount of kcalories consumed that will determine whether you make a caloric deficit to lose desired weight.

The phrase "everything in moderation" means exactly that. You want to eat the recommended daily amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein), because each have specific functions. For example, glucose is needed for energy throughout the body, particularly for the brain (130 gram a day). Protein is needed to support the structure of cells / tissue and to act as enzymes. Fat is needed for hormone production as well as an insulator for important organs like the kidneys and mammory glands.

Carbohydrates and fat provide 4 kcalories per gram. Whereas, fat provides 9 kcalories per gram. You need all three for a well-balanced and wholesome meal. With direction from a dietitian, he or she can fit all macronutrients/ micronutrients in to a meal plan that will promote weight loss.

It's the lowering of calories that helps you lose weight. 

Harvard and Louisiana State University, a two-year federally-financed study included 811 men and women, which showed that cutting calories works, regardless of whether you're emphasizing protein, carbohydrates, or fat.

I recommends you to eat a variety of healthy low calorie foods to lose weight. There are many negative effects (such as gianing the weight back and more) by neglecting even just one of your macronutrients especially card.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
It is often speculated which popular diet is better for losing weight - low-carb or low-fat.

In this video, Dr. Oz and Dr. Arthur Agatston reveal the diet that results in weight loss and better heart health.

Continue Learning about Weight Loss Diets

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.