General Question

SSS911's avatar

Is fat free food good for you?

Asked by SSS911 (115points) April 13th, 2014

If all the foods you bought for consumption were fat free, would you gain any weight ?

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30 Answers

hearkat's avatar

It depends on the food. Most fruits and vegetables that are fat-free are good for you. Most processed, artificial ingredient laden food products that are labelled as “fat-free” are not. One should not eat absolutely no fats, because some fats are necessary to sustain nervous-system function.

One gains weight by eating more calories than they expend on a consistent basis. It is possible to eat enough low- to no-fat foods that are still high in sugar and other calories that one could gain weight. A diet too high in sugars and simple carbohydrates is particularly harmful because of its effects on insulin.

Science still has a lot to prove where all these issues are concerned, but I firmly believe that eating food that is as close to its natural state is the best way to maximize nutritional gain for caloric load.

PhiNotPi's avatar

“Fat-free” doesn’t matter at all. What does matter is the calorie count, because all energy sources (sugars, fats, starches) go to the same place. They are all broken down into sugars by your digestive system, which are then stored as fat in your cells. So yes, you can still gain weight from fat-free foods, perhaps even more depending on the sugar and starch content.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Fat in food doesn’t make you fat. Common diet misconception. Your body needs fat to survive. What makes you fat is eating more calories than your body is burning.

The problem with fat free or reduced fat versions of normally fat-laden foods is that they often make up for the lack of flavor fat by adding extra sugar and/or sodium.

If I want to get a fat free version of food to save some calories, I always compare the sugar and sodium content to the full-fat version. If there’s no difference, I’ll buy the fat free version. If I can afford the calories in the full-fat version, I opt for that one.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Yes, you will gain weight. If you eat 150 calories per day of “fat free” cookies, you will gain about 15 pounds in a year.
For most people (the 90–95% who are not Type I diabetics), it is the relationship between your calorie intake and your activity level that determines your weight gain or loss. If, based upon your activity level, age, size, etc., you need 2000 calories per day, but eat 2300 per day you will gain about 30 pounds per year. Do that for 5 years and one day you’ll wake up with an extra you under the covers, assuming you don’t change your activity level. To take it off you’ll have to start eating 1700 calories per day for 5 years if you don’t change your activity level.
300 calories is real easy to overeat: an extra bagel with cream cheese, a fancy flavored coffee, etc. Look at the calorie content of some of the foods around your house. You’ll see.
300 extra calories per day is easy to eat. It is much harder to under-eat that much. The best situation is to make corrections early, before you get too out of shape.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Most food that is marketed as low fat has more sugar in it than full fat version. This is bad because your liver will then convert the sugar to LDL cholesterol for you which you don’t want. You also find that the added sugar means that the product ends up with more calories than the normal version (yoghurts are a great example of this). Low fat foods also sometimes have a lot of additives to make the stuff look like the normal version.
Most of the time you’re better off with the normal version and just trying to not eat too much.

JLeslie's avatar

If you were eating too many calories you would become overweight. You need some fat intake, so you wouldn’t want to go completely fat free, but very little is plenty. The body takes extra carbs and protein (extra calories that you eat over what you require) and turns it into fat for storage. Your body can store carbs as glycogen and protein as amino acids, but only so much, and then beyond that it stores all calories as fat.

Seek's avatar

Everyone above me has it.

I will add that if you did switch to a strict extremely low to no fat diet, you would likely see some significant weight loss – in the short term. And that’s mostly due to the fact that friggin’ everything has some kind of fat in it, unless it’s gross sugary processed crap or low calorie natural foods. It’s a starvation diet. However, once you return to a normal diet with normal portions, the weight will return.

I lived with a bum gallbladder for three years and occasionally had to forego all fats for weeks or months at a time in order to avoid pain or hold food down at all. My record is 20 lbs weight loss in a month. I had my surgery over a year ago and my weight has stabilized.

seekingwolf's avatar

A low carb diet that restricts starches and simple carbs is best if you want to lose weight.

I had weight loss surgery and I eat some low fat food, but I always look to make sure that the sugar and sodium content are low. Fat doesn’t matter as much to me as does sugar and carb content.

JLeslie's avatar

@seekingwolf I never understand when people say fat doesn’t matter. Your not the only one to say it. Fat goes directly to fat when not utilized at the time of consumption. Carbs and proteins have very specific functions in the body and your body has to use fats to do those functions it is not as efficient and can cause problems when done long term. I understand watching carbs, I am not saying eat all the bread, pasta and potatoes your heart desires, but if someone is eating healthy carbs in proper caloric quantities, when they “overeat” in a meal, which pretty much we all do, we don’t graze all day, we store calories and use them, the carbs are stored as glycogen, and the extra protein as amino acids, and as long as we have that storage room available it doesn’t get stored as fat. Fats go directly to fat when we “overeat.” More fat in the blood and more fat in the tissues.

I think the American diet is just so full of empty carbs, carbs with very little nutrition, and with simple carbs rather than complex carbs that it is a serious problem for us as a country, but so is our fat intake. It is much much higher than it should be.

Have you lost weight just trading carbs for fat? Same calorie intake but eating more fat? That never makes sense to me. I guess maybe it works for some people though. When I eat high fat meals a few days in a row I gain weight and I feel terrible. I feel like I have tons of fats floating in my blood, and actually my blood tests prove it. But, I have bad genes for lipids.

tedibear's avatar

Let’s not forget that with a no-fat diet, you don’t get the benefits of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Smitha's avatar

Just because the label says it’s “fat-free” doesn’t mean it’s low in calories or that it’s good for your health. “Fat-free” foods are often very high in simple and refined carbs,because such products won’t have much taste, and in order to improve the ‘taste and feel’ of the food the food manufacturers add high fructose corn syrup, processed sweeteners, preservatives,flour, thickeners etc into the products. That may boost the calorie content.

GloPro's avatar

If it is fat free but includes fat substitutes, like Olestra, then I think you should stick to eating the fatty versions. Everything in moderation.

seekingwolf's avatar


I never said that fat didn’t matter at all. Just that it doesn’t matter to me as much as carb consumption.

My surgery makes it so I can’t overeat in one sitting and I only eat about 750 calories a day. So I could never eat tons of fat or even get close to the “average” amount of fat that most Americans eat, but still, I care way, way more about restricting my carbs than restricting my fat.

I’ve lost 60 lb by doing what I’m doing, so I know I’m doing something right for myself. I don’t sit there and eat fatty fried foods or things that are cooked in butter, for example. But I do eat fish, which has fat in it, and other proteins which have some fat in it. I don’t sweat it. Carbs are what make me gain. I have insulin resistance (it may be gone by now, I don’t know) so simple carbs are not good for me.

I think the type of fat really matters a lot. Fried foods = no. Tons of butter = no. Tons of full fat milk = no. Avocados, fish, fat in moderation = yes.

GloPro's avatar

750 calories a day?!? That’s starvation!

livelaughlove21's avatar


Facts about fat (the macro-nutrient), fat (the stuff piling up on your waistline), and carbs…
– Fat is a structurally integral part of every single cell membrane in our bodies.
– Fats are required in order to properly digest and assimilate those all-important fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K. Conveniently, many foods containing these vitamins also come with the fat required to digest them. For example, the fat in egg yolks allows the body to access the vitamins A and D it’s so abundant in.
– Fats are required for the adequate use of protein.
– Fats are a source of energy, and a nice consistent, smooth burning energy at that. They also slow food absorption, which helps with energy regulation as well.
– Fats are key players in managing inflammation in your body. Some fats help your body inflame when necessary, other fats help your body anti-inflame.

When you eat something sweet, your blood sugar levels increase too quickly, and your pancreas secretes the hormone insulin to take the excess sugar out of your blood. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. It stores that extra sugar first as glycogen, and then as triglycerides (fat) once glycogen stores are full.

Sugar mobilizes insulin; fat does not. In fact, the fat in a sweet treat will actually help to slow down that sugar spike, and thus reduce the insulin surge, mitigating some of the ill-effects of the sweet. This is why the whole fat-free dessert thing is such a bad idea. Not only are you mobilizing a ton of insulin, you’re also removing the one thing in there that could slow that process down.

The digestion of fats triggers your satiation mechanism. This is why low-fat diets are doomed to fail and such an exercise in fierce willpower. Your body is never satisfied without fat, despite the number of calories (one more reason why calories aren’t the be all and end all).

This means: eating fat makes you fuller sooner and longer. Eating sugar leads to a sugar crash which makes you hungrier sooner and in a position to crave more sugar. A vicious cycle indeed.

And, of course, sugar is a carb. This is why high fat/low carb diets lead to weight loss. Fats are good, as long as they’re good fats. Saturated and trans fats – not so good. Unsaturated fat – very good. Low fat foods are typically high in carbs. Eating low fat AND low carb is pretty difficult, if not impossible, without starving oneself.

Main Source
Another one

No, those are not links to studies, but you can Google this and find everything you need if you’re still not convinced.

I don’t eat low-carb and I don’t eat low-fat. I eat about 45% carbs, 30% protein, and 25% fat. The recommended intake is 50% carbs, 25% protein, and 25% fat. So, I just lowered my carb intake in order to increase my protein intake because I lift weights (not 10 lb weights, the ones that actually make a difference). I’m much more concerned if I go over my carb limit than I am if I go over my fat limit. When I eat foods high in good fats, I’m more satisfied after the meal than I would be if I ate something high in carbs – carbs lead me (and many others) to just eat more carbs, increasing my caloric intake by quite a bit. Now, carbs are super important before a workout and they give you energy for sure, but more fat and less carbs is definitely better than less fat and more carbs as far as weight management goes.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@GloPro I’m not sure what surgery @seekingwolf is referring to, but after bariatric surgery, patients’ calorie intake is crazy low per doctor’s orders, and because their stomachs are now so tiny that you can’t fit much in there.

seekingwolf's avatar


Yeah, I had bariatric surgery. Calorie intake after such a surgery is normal and expected. I’ll probably never get much over 1000 a day. oh well. My doctor thinks my current intake is great. I had 90% of my stomach permanetly removed.

I just ate 1 small hardboiled egg and about ¼ cup of grapes and I’m quite full.


Wonderful post. I agree very much. Simple carbs or too many carbs spike your blood sugar and actually make you gain weight and put on fat.

JLeslie's avatar

@seekingwolf Any average adult who eats 750 calories a day will lose weight. Doesn’t matter what they eat.

@livelaughlove21 I said in my first answer some fats are necessary. I am not in favor of trying to acheive a zero fat diet. Americans tend to eat way way too much fat. We also eat too much everything. Too many calores period. I was just watching a show that spoke of some very interesting studies that really demonstrate how the biggest problem that has contributed to weight gain is portion size which obviously adds on calories. They looked at physical activitiy in children, and they did not find significant differences compared to years ago, what was very different was portion size, and generally the amount of food a child eats in a day. Same with adults eating larger portions. I do agree. I know how much I used to eat and how much I eat now and the biggest change is how much I eat not what I eat. If anything I ate more sugary junk food and drank coca cola all day when I was younger, which I don’t do now.

I think excessive sugar is bad, I am not saying it doesn’t matter and I think it does tax our system regarding insulin etc, but if someone only eats a small piece of cake it isn’t that much sugar when you compare it to what Americans generally eat now which is a huge piece of cake. Better to eat no cake, no doubt, but most Americans have no clue about moderation and normal portions anymore. It’s all distorted now. I’m old enough to remember being shocked by portion sizes when places like Cheesecake Factory came to my town. Or, TGI Fridays. Now I am used to it. The studies I mentioned above proved that people eat more if more is in front of them.

It’s still a fact we store carbs as glycogen. That isn’t something I made up. We just are almost never half empty in our stores, no room for the extra 400 calories of carbs that person just ate for lunch. When I say extra, I mean they might have consumed 500, but their body is immediately putting some of the carbs to use. I do think the refined sugars cause insulin spikes in more extremes than we were meant to handle on a daily basis.

GloPro's avatar

It’s so interesting the study showed children aren’t moving less and exercising less. I would not have expected that, with schools cutting gym programs, technology advances, increases in violent crime, etc.

JLeslie's avatar

@GloPro I don’t remember the year the study was done, it was not extremely recent, I should have mentioned that. It’s good you wrote a response so I could clarify. I would say it was at least ten years old. The person who conducted the study was being interviewed, she said they had all sorts of surprises during the studies they did. She also said at the time of the studies the results were kind of pushed aside.

In my experience very young kids are still running around, riding bikes, taking dance class, doing sports, etc. I don’t know how well they accounted for socioeconomic differences. In some economic groups maybe there is more change in exercise than others. I keep hearing recess is being deleted from schools and PE, but the elementary schools I know of seem to still have recess. I don’t know what year that begins to change? Or, if elementary schools actually have less recess now and I am wrong in my information and perception.

GloPro's avatar

@JLeslie What I have seen is that all “accessory” educational programs (art, exercise, music) are being combined. There is an allocated time slot for one of the three every day, but they rotate. In my opinion kids need exercise every single day, and not all parents ensure that.
I can remember my last period teacher in 7th grade always allocated Fridays as exercise days for us. It was an English class. She got it.

seekingwolf's avatar

I keep hearing that kids from lower socio-economic groups don’t get to exercise as much. Their schools tend to be poorer and have slashed school sports, but the fact that they come from bad neighborhoods plays a part. They are less likely to go out and play when there is sketchy stuff going on (drug deals, shootings, gang activity). Can you blame them? I sure can’t. It must be so scary and depressing living in those places.

You are right. Americans eat too much in general. Fat, sugar, etc. Look at the restaurant portions. One portion is enough to feed 3 people. It’s so messed up.

JLeslie's avatar

@GloPro @seekingwolf If there is a socioeconomic influence, the question is has it changed from 30 years ago?

When I was growing up (I’m 46) we rotated gym, art, and music in elementary school. We had recess almost every day in the very young grades. I don’t remember in 5th and 6th if we went to recess every day. In Jr. High we had PE for one period in 7th and 8th. I think in high school we only needed to take a year of PE? I don’t remember. Auggie might remember better than me.

seekingwolf's avatar


I’ve read statistics that schools in general, but particularly those in poorer areas that are also under performing, are cutting back on recess time to spend more time in the classroom. I had recess when I was younger but I’m surprised to hear that many area schools don’t anymore, or if they do have it, it’s 15 min or less.

Music and art are also being cut out of the curriculum at many schools, because of lack of funds and wanting to keep kids in the classroom longer so they can do better on standardized tests.

A lot has changed in 30 years. Or even just the past 10 years.

GloPro's avatar

I chose to take an athletic elective every semester in high school. Some didn’t. Freshman PE was all that was required.

In 30 years, certainly it has changed. At 13 I used to bike or walk by myself about 3 miles to the closest grocery store, use a pay phone to call my mom, and then head straight back home. Mom would turn me out to play outside for a couple of hours daily on my 11 acre property at the ripe old age of 10. I would never do that today.

Seek's avatar

Re: Recess in Elementary level schooling:

In New York city schools we had recess for 45 minutes after lunch every day. In Florida county schools there was no recess, but we had a 40 minute gym class three times a week.

Years: 1989 – 1994

JLeslie's avatar

When I was in jr high and high school I walked home and then watched TV for hours. At one point I did take tennis for a few months twice a week.

Elementary was different, we played outside. I also took ballet once or twice a week.

In the summers we swam and hung out in the pool, that was probably the bulk of my physical activity in the summer age 12+

SSS911's avatar

So many knowledgable people out there. I look so forward to reading replies. I did pick up a little knowledge on brain power. I’ve read that your “brain” uses 20% of all your calorie intake. Seems impossible but research says its true. So keep thinking and burning those calories.

Seek's avatar

^ I have to do it somehow. It’s not like I’m going to start exercising.

* shudder *

zainety's avatar

Most fat free foods if eaten properly you can lose weight but always remember to much of a good thing is a bad thing.

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