From Paleo to keto to Whole30, there are lots of trendy diets out there these days—and one thing many of them have in common is that they slash many carbs in favor of healthy fats. At the forefront of the trend is the ketogenic diet—which requires eating more than 75 percent of your daily calories from fat, a little protein, and as few carbs as possible.
Not ready (or just don’t want to) go full-blown keto? You can still reap the benefits of those healthy fats by upping your healthy fat intake to 40 percent or more of your daily calories and cutting down on carbs. Here’s everything you need to know about the ups and downs of eating more fat—and what it looks like in practice.
How Higher-Fat Looks On The Plate
To start making the shift to a higher-fat, lower-carb diet, first nix processed foods with added sugar, like cookies, cake, and soda, says Jeff Stanley, M.D., a physician with Virta Health. Then, you’ll cut out other highly-processed carbs, like bread, pasta, and rice, and sub in low-carb alternatives like zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice.
You might start the day with scrambled eggs, build a salad topped with chicken, sunflower seeds, and an olive oil-based dressing for lunch, and cook some salmon with a side of cheesy or buttery broccoli for dinner. For snacks, you might pick on some nuts or dip veggie sticks in guac.
The Benefits Of Eating More Fat (And Fewer Carbs)
Boosting fat and slashing carbs like this can support weight loss and help regulate blood sugar levels and triglycerides (a type of fat stored in your blood that can up your risk of heart disease), says Amy Gorin, R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition.
Though keto has just recently been blowing up our news-feeds, low-carb, higher-fat diets have been popular for weight loss for years. The Atkins Diet, for example, slashes carbs to ketogenic levels—just 20 grams a day at first—and emphasizes fat and protein. This approach leads to better weight-loss outcomes in obese individuals over time than higher-carb weight-loss diets, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Much of the high-fat research out there looks at purely ketogenic diets, and supports its potential for boosting weight loss, regulating blood sugar and metabolism, and improving cholesterol. On keto, your body enters a state called ‘ketosis,’ in which it uses fat for energy instead of glucose (sugar) from carbs, which primes your body to utilize your body fat, says Stanley, who follows keto himself and often utilizes it for patients with type 2 diabetes or weight-related issues.
You’ll still benefit from a diet that’s in the more doable ‘40 percent calories from fat’ realm, though. “Fat tends to be more satiating,” says Stanley. That means you’ll feel less hungry and may eat fewer calories without even trying. You’ll also likely reap the benefits of more balanced blood sugar and stable energy throughout the day, he says.
When To Pass On A High-Fat Diet
Going low-carb, high-fat offers some pretty appealing benefits, but it’s not necessarily right for everyone. People with type 1 diabetes, for example, should probably steer clear, because high levels of ketones are a risk factor for a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis in which ketones build up in the blood, says Gorin.
Those with kidney issues should also be wary of high-fat diets, since they often tend to be high in protein, she says. Since protein needs to be processed by the kidneys, eating a lot of it may be a burden to already-compromised kidneys.
High-fat diets may also be tricky territory for people with genetically high cholesterol, so Stanley recommends talking to your doc if you fall into this category and want to up your fat intake.
Whip out some knowledge on higher-fat diets with this infographic: