Low-Fat Whole Foods Diet


Examples:  Macrobiotic, Mediterranean, Pollan, Pritikin, Weill, Willett.  The health benefits of this diverse family of diets have lots of research behind them.  Discover the ways in which this way of eating might improve your health and find out how it stacks up against other diets.


Post-agricultural whole foods
Low meat, low animal fat, low cholesterol
High fiber
Low refined carbohydrate
Low sodium


Whole plant foods (grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables)
Low-fat dairy products
Plant oils
Small amounts of fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs


Specifically encourages whole foods and discourages modern processed foods and refined carbohydrates, therefore this diet is substantially healthier than the typical diet.

This general dietary pattern has been shown in clinical studies to reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

This dietary pattern has been shown to improve blood sugar control in people who have Type II Diabetes.

There are a few published case reports of people having cured themselves of chronic illnesses such as cancer by adopting this dietary pattern, but there have been no formal clinical studies of these diets in cancer patients.


These diets can be very high in complex carbohydrates (grains, legumes and starchy vegetables), which can pose problems for carbohydrate-sensitive people.

As with vegan diets, HDL cholesterol (so-called “good cholesterol”) falls on these diets.

This diet is low in omega-3 fatty acids and high in omega-6 fatty acids, therefore supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may be prudent.


The philosophy behind these popular diets is that animal foods are unhealthy and plant foods are healthy.  Unfortunately, proponents of these diets do not just discourage animal foods and emphasize plant foods. They also discourage processed foods, refined plant foods (such as refined flours), salt, and sugars, and generally recommend that fat intake be kept very low (as low as 10% of calories, in some cases).

There are numerous studies demonstrating that these diets are healthier than the Standard American Diet (SAD), but because they differ in so many ways from the SAD, it is impossible to say why they are healthier. Is it because they are lower in fat, cholesterol, meat, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, or sodium, and/or because they are higher in fiber or plant foods?

The few studies comparing lower-fat versions of this diet (10 to15% fat) to higher-fat versions (30% fat) do not show significant differences in effectiveness, so the potential health benefits seem to be unrelated to fat content.

To read about other popular diets, visit the Diets page.

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Last Modified: Sep 3, 2015