Everything you need to know about a low fat diet

The low fat diet is a fairly common diet type where most of the standard recommendations out there guide the general population towards a low-fat plan. Diet, however, is not a one size fits all approach and at that is why with DNAFit you can find out if a low-fat diet is in fact for you. This article unpacks what a low fat diet is, the various different types of fats as well as an example of a low fat diet plan.

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What is a low fat diet?

Typically, a low-fat diet is a high carbohydrate, low fat and moderate protein type plan. DNAFit will recommend a low-fat diet if you present with a high to very high sensitivity towards saturated fats, in conjunction with a low to very low sensitivity towards carbohydrates. This means that 55 - 60% of your calories can be derived from carbohydrates, 20% from protein and the remaining 20 - 25% from fats. 

The importance with a low-fat diet is to differentiate between the types of fats since the fat sensitivity specifically links to saturated fats. With a high sensitivity to fats you are more likely so see weight gain and increases in cholesterol levels when your saturated fat intake exceeds 6% of your daily caloric intake. With this in mind fats can either be unsaturated, saturated or trans. 


What are the different types of fats?

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are considered “heart healthy” and can be further divided into mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.  Where mon-unsaturated fats include avocado, olives, nuts and nut butters. Of the daily total calories, monounsaturated fats should make up a 15% or more. Poly-unsaturated fats on the other hand are subdivided into omega 3’s (walnuts, flaxseeds and pink / oily fish) and omega 6’s (vegetable oils and seeds) - these are essential fatty acids and should make up more than 12% of your total calories.

Keep in mind omega 3’s assist in reducing inflammation, whereas omega 6’s are pro-inflammatory and shouldn’t be included in excess. Omega 6’s are acquired through a variety of sources, and as a result it is important to make a concerted effort to include more Omega 3’s. According to your omega 3 need, as indicated by DNAFit, between 1.6g – 3g per day could be required.


Saturated fats

Saturated fat are non-essential fats. Animal fats (red meat, skin of poultry, full fat dairy products, eggs, cream, butter, ghee and lard), tropical oils (coconut products, coconut oil and palm kernel oil), and hidden saturated fats (milk powders, tea and coffee creamers, ice-cream) are all sources and should be kept to a minimum. As mentioned previously, with a high saturated fat sensitivity, these fats should be limited to 6% of your daily calories or less.

Trans fats

Trans fats are created during the process of hydrogenating and heating oil’s and are also non-essential. These fats should be limited to 1% or less of total calories, regardless of fat sensitivity. Examples of trans fats are hydrogenated fats (hard / brick margarine) and any foods prepared in these fats (baked goods, pastries, chips, crisps), as well as heating oils to very high temperatures (frying, deep frying, roasting, grilling etc.).


An example of the low fat diet in action

Choose foods with a lower fat content: lean meat and poultry, fish and pulses. Fruit, vegetables and pulses of all kinds can be eaten freely, so this way of eating can be perfect for vegans. Select low fat alternatives such as skimmed milk, cottage cheese and yoghurt wherever possible. 

Grains including rice, oats and wheat can be eaten and will help satisfy hunger. This is because you will be avoiding all fats, including butter, oils, mayonnaise and rich salad dressings. Creamy sauces, cheese and fatty cuts of meat should also be avoided.

An example of a 1500 – 1800 kcal low fat diet for a day would include the following:



Peanut butter, Baked Apple and Chia Seed Oats 

  • ½ - 1 cups cooked rolled oats
  • 1 diced and baked apple
  • 2 tablespoons sugar free peanut butter
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons chia seeds



  • 1 cup home-made popcorn 
  • 1 medium low GI fruit (orange / pear / peach)



Pumpernickel baked chicken salad open sandwich 

  • 2 – 3 slices pumpernickel / rye kernel bread
  • 2 cups diced tomato, cucumber and onion
  • 60 – 90g baked chicken 
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise drizzled over the chicken
  • 1 teaspoon low fat margarine to spread on the bread (optional)



  • 2 – 3 high fibre crackers
  • ¼ cup dried fruit (cranberries / raisins / apricots)



Baked Mackerel Roast Vegetables and Bulgur Wheat Salad

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • ½ cup roasted pumpkin
  • 1 cup baked zucchini, red peppers, onion
  • 90 – 120g baked mackerel
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil used for cooking


A low fat diet and your health

Now that we have addressed the most important component of a low-fat diet, remember to still be healthful in your carbohydrate and protein choices. If you refer to our article, Understanding carbohydrates, a low carb diet and the ketogenic diet plan, you will see that majority of your carbohydrates should be unrefined sources (fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes), as well as the low GI options.

Where with a low to very low sensitivity towards carbohydrates up to 10% of your daily calories can still be derived from refined carbohydrates. In terms of protein and since most animal protein contains saturated fats it is important try to opt for the leaner and skin free option, or optimise on your fish, as well as plant protein sources like nuts, seeds and legumes.

Whereas it was previously believed that a low carb diet was the answer for people wanting to lose weight and live healthier, the NIH study found the opposite: Subjects on a low-fat but relatively high-sugar diet achieved more fat loss than those on an equal-calorie, low-carb and low-sugar diet.

Unlike observational studies that can’t strictly control the behavior of subjects, the new experiment was carried out in a metabolic ward. In other words, researchers could measure every calorie consumed and burned by subjects. The research followed 19 obese adults on either a high-carb/low-fat or a low-carb/high-fat diet during six days of living in the ward.

After six days, the high-carb group lost an average of 89 grams of fat a day, compared to 53 grams per day for the low-carb group. The low-carb group lost more body weight—4.07 pounds versus 2.86—probably as a result of increased water loss at the beginning of a low-carb diet. But, fat loss is a more important goal than weight loss.

DNAFit will give you insight into how your body responds genetically to saturated fats and carbohydrates, as well as other micronutrients. This helps you understand what healthy nutrition looks like for you. Discovering your unique profile can guide your dietary choices to find food sources that your body needs, and also foods that you should avoid. Therefore, you will find a diet tailored exactly to you and with that knowledge will be able to reach your goals faster.

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