What Is Worse: Fat or Carbohydrates?

by Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D., Demand Media
    Too many carbs -- or fat -- will pack on extra pounds.

    Too many carbs -- or fat -- will pack on extra pounds.

    Many weight-loss diets designed to help you shed pounds fast are low in carbs, fat or both. However, giving up either of these nutrients entirely can really drag you down. If you consume carbs and fat in recommended amounts, they are equally beneficial -- and a necessary part of a healthy meal plan. However, eating bad carbs may be more detrimental than eating unhealthy fats when it comes to your disease risks.

    Good vs. Bad Carbs

    Splurging on bad carbs is worse than eating healthy carbs or fats. Choose nutritious carbs, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt in place of added sugars and refined grains. Examples of bad carbs include white bread, white rice, pastries, sweets and sugary drinks.

    Healthy vs. Unhealthy Fats

    Choosing healthy fats in recommended amounts can help reduce your disease risks, while saturated and trans fats can boost your risk for heart disease. Unhealthy saturated fats are found in high-fat meats like bacon and full-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, cream, butter and cheese. Trans fats are also unhealthy when you eat too much of them and are found in stick margarine, shortening, baked goods, french fries and doughnuts, according to the American Heart Association. When possible, replace these fats with healthier, unsaturated varieties found in plant-based oils, fish oils, avocados, olives, hummus, peanut butter, nuts and seeds.

    Disease Risks

    Refined grains and saturated fats are both culprits when it comes to increasing your disease risks. However, a review published in a 2010 edition of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found that although diets high in refined carbohydrates or saturated fat can increase heart disease risks, refined grains may be more damaging to your health than saturated fat. Another study published in a 2010 edition of “Annals of Internal Medicine” found that subjects who followed low-carb diets had fewer heart disease risk factors than subjects who consumed low-fat diets. The bottom line is that while bad carbs may be slightly more harmful than bad fats, both can increase your heart disease risk when you consume them in excess.

    Weight-loss Considerations

    Many diets that claim to help you shed pounds are either low-carb, or low-fat. The good news is that when it comes to losing weight, your total calorie intake is more important than the type of diet you choose. The 2010 study published in “Annals of Internal Medicine” found that subjects lost the same amount of weight and body fat whether they followed a low-fat or low-carb diet. Another study published in a 2009 edition of the journal “Diabetes” reported similar results; subjects lost the same amount of weight whether they consumed a low-carb or low-fat diet. Regardless of the type of diet you choose, finding a reduced-calorie plan you can stick with long-term is the key to weight-loss success.

    About the Author

    Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.

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