The ultra-low-fat diet is a diet that limits fat intake to no more than 10% of total calories. This means that if you’re eating a 2,000-calorie diet, you will consume no more than 200 calories from fat each day.
This type of diet is effective for weight loss, as well as for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is also thought to improve insulin sensitivity.
The ultra-low-fat diet is similar to other low-fat diets, such as the American Heart Association’s recommended diet, which recommends limiting fat intake to 30% of total calories.
How the Ultra-Low-Fat Diet Works
An ultra-low-fat diet permits only 10% of daily calories from dietary fat. High in carbs and often low in protein, the ratio is usually 10% fat, 10% protein, and 80% carbs.
The ultra-low-fat diet is typically plant-based, as a plant-based diet is naturally lower in fat than diets that include animal products.
However, plant-based staples like nuts, avocados, and olive oil are also restricted due to their higher fat content, despite being considered good fats (polyunsaturated fats).
This diet can be helpful for weight loss and can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease. However, certain fats are critical to overall health, and heavily restricting fat may cause problems like flaky skin and hormonal imbalances.
It is advisable to seek professional medical advice before starting a diet that eliminates all fats.
- Dietary fat should make up less than 10% of overall calorie consumption.
- Protein should also make up only around 10% of daily calorie consumption.
- Carbohydrates should be the main focus of the diet.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables that are low in fat, like apples, carrots, and broccoli.
- Avoid animal products like dairy, meat, and eggs because these are high in fat.
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and maintain fullness.
- Eat whole-grain carbohydrates to increase fiber intake.
- Don’t use cooking oils like olive oil; instead, try to bake or steam food without oil.
The Diet Plan
The ultra-low-fat diet should be comprised predominantly of carbohydrates with limited protein and heavily restricted fats.
It is essential to focus on whole grain (complex) carbohydrates to maintain fullness throughout the day. Eat plenty of fresh and dried fruits and vegetables but avoid high-fat produce like avocado.
It is essential to drink plenty of water. Keeping well-hydrated will help to curb cravings throughout the day.
A plant-based diet is lower in fat. Consider including more vegan and vegetarian meals throughout the week. Plant-based proteins are lean, with a lower fat content than meat. Opt for lentils and kidney beans.
When eating out, look for low-fat options like salads. Ask for a low-fat dressing on the side, so you can regulate how much goes on the meal. For desserts, aim for lighter options like fruit and angel food cake.
The ultra-low-fat diet does not have to be expensive, and cutting out a range of fat-heavy products may help save money.
Low-fat options can occasionally have a higher price (compared to full-fat options) in conventional supermarkets, but this can be offset by buying other staples in bulk, like pasta, rice, and flour.
You can also buy fresh produce from local markets to help save money.
Dos and Don’ts
- Eat plenty of wholegrain carbohydrates.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables that are low in fat.
- Avoid animal products.
- Eat animal products, as these are high in fat.
- Forget to drink plenty of water.
- Forget that exercise is a vital part of any weight loss journey.
- Fail to get the proper nutrients because of fat deficiency. Fat can play a crucial role in absorbing essential vitamins.
- Cut out fat entirely. Some fat is needed for healthy body functions.
- Replace fat with sugar, as this will inhibit any weight loss.
Sample Diet Plan
Breakfast: Cinnamon oatmeal made with water or rice milk. Top with berries and other fruits.
Lunch: Chickpea salad with lemon-vinegar dressing and low-fat seasonal vegetables.
Dinner: Gnocchi with broad beans and tomato passata.
Snacks: Fruit like apple and pear, fresh berries, rice cakes.
Health Benefits and Drawbacks
The ultra-low fat diet has been linked to weight loss, especially in overweight people. A person’s BMI (Body Mass Index) is likely to reduce on an ultra-low-fat diet.
Ultra-low-fat diets can help prevent serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes.
Also, the diet is deficient in sodium, which may help lower blood pressure, and has been linked to the prevention of CAD (Coronary artery disease).
When on an ultra low-fat-diet, it can be difficult to:
- Feel satisfied after meals
- Curb food cravings
While fat is a significant source of calories, it also builds up cell membranes, has a vital hormonal role, and aids the body in absorbing vitamins like A, D, E, and K, which are only fat-soluble. If fat intake is not high enough, it is difficult to obtain these nutrients. This can cause health problems, like vitamins A, D, E, and K are vital for overall health.
Also, an ultra-low-fat diet can cause:
Many people find that cutting out all fats from their diet reduces their overall feeling of health and vitality. People often report problems like dry and flaky skin, along with mood and hormonal changes due to the low-fat content of the diet.
This suggests that eliminating fat may have various adverse effects despite potential weight loss benefits. Long term, these side effects can make maintaining the diet difficult.
The Bottom Line: Is the Ultra-Low-Fat Diet a Healthy Way to Lose Weight?
Not all fats are the same. While cutting out saturated fats can be a great way to shed excess weight, over-restricting healthy plant fats can deprive the body of the nutrients it needs to function correctly.
The ultra-low-fat diet has definite health benefits, but these can also be gained through minor adjustments and an overall healthy lifestyle.
The ultra-low-fat diet can make people feel continually hungry, hormonally imbalanced, and moody while depriving the body of critical nutrients.
This diet can be a great source of inspiration for less-drastic adjustments. Reducing fat intake is always a good idea, so long as healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids are not eliminated from the diet.
Meagan Morris is the editor in chief of Celebribody. She's veteran health and wellness editor with over 15 years of experience. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, Yahoo Health, Cosmopolitan, SELF, and Women's Health, among others. She spends most of her time writing, but her favorite part of the day is spent under a barbell doing squats.