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Should I Try Cutting Carbs, Fat or Sugar for Weight Loss?

May 18, 2023

If you’ve been searching for a quick and easy option for weight loss, you’ve probably considered cutting carbs. Or…should you cut sugar? Fat?

According to Shannon Haynes, RD, a registered dietitian at Backus Hospital, the best food group to cut – surprise – is none of them.

Here are three popular “cut” diets and why you might want to rethink them, according to Haynes.

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Cutting carbs

Atkins, keto, paleo – the list goes on and on.

“Recently, carb-free diets have come back into the forefront. But we need carbs. They’re the best fuel for our brain and our muscles, they’re a source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. You don’t want to get rid of them,” says Haynes.

But that said, there’s always room for improvement.

“I do agree that most Americans eat too many carbs overall, but that doesn’t mean cutting them is the best option for weight loss,” she cautions.

Instead, try replacing refined, low-fiber carbs with wholegrain, high-fiber ones. This means avoiding white flour and refined grains, in favor of options like:

  • Whole grains
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Legumes
  • Oats

> Related: 5 Tips to Start Your Weight Loss Journey Off Strong

Cutting fats

Just like with carbs, Haynes is less worried about cutting fats and more concerned with incorporating the right fats.

“The research is finding that we don’t want to get rid of fat – fat is useful. Some of our most important vitamins come from fat, plus it helps us feel full. The trick is finding the good fats,” she notes.

If you’re looking for ways to add healthy fats to your diet, Haynes offers these sources:

  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil

“This is where the Mediterranean diet really excels – instead of no fats, it focuses on healthy fats.”

Cutting sugars

When it comes to sugar, your cravings might be trying to tell you something.

“If you find yourself craving sugar at night, it might be because you aren’t eating enough during the day. This is where it’s helpful to talk to a dietitian. They can show you where you struggling and you can adjust.”

Haynes suggests following a consistent regimen during the week, with more flexibility on the weekends. If you meal prep throughout the week, you can afford the occasional treat on weekends.

“Just don’t try to give it up entirely. Learn how to enjoy it in moderation – if you try to cut sugar out completely, you’ll just want it more,” she cautions.

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The wrong diet can be disastrous for your metabolism or eating habits

Even if you see some success in the short term, the long-term effects of extreme dieting could be devastating for your metabolism.

“There is some research that shows that when people do these plans, the body ultimately gets trained and adjusts. It starts to save calories,” says Haynes. “The less yo-yo dieting that you do, the better off you are.”

On top of increasing your cravings, this type of dieting also increases your risk of developing disordered eating habits. Even seemingly harmless calorie counting could become an obsession, Haynes warns.

Cut habits, not food groups

Ultimately, if you want to lose weight, cutting out a certain type of food probably isn’t going to help – but cutting out a bad habit might.

“The most successful way for people to lose weight and be healthier overall is to focus on healthy habits, whether they’re creating new habits or ditching old ones. You can work with a dietitian or health coach, but start slowly and pick one habit to go for.”