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Does low-carb, low-fat mean it’s healthy?

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People who are watching their waistlines might be inclined to look for food items labeled low-fat or low-carb.

But according to a recent study, the amount of fat and carbs in a meal doesn’t matter much if the quality of the food is poor.

Cleveland Clinic’s Camille Skoda, a registered dietician, did not take part in the study but said when it comes to our health, we’re better off choosing healthy, whole foods.

“The study found those who were eating healthy low-carb and low-fat diets actually had less mortality rates than those who were eating the unhealthy counterparts,” she said.

Researchers looked at data on 37,233 U.S. adults who participated in a national nutrition survey.

Results showed that, overall, low-carb and low-fat diets were not linked to better health outcomes.

However, when participants ate less low-quality carbs and less low-quality fats, and higher amounts of plant proteins and unsaturated fats, they had lower mortality rates.

Skoda said we have to remember that not all calories are created equal. For example, 200 calories of candy isn’t the same as eating 200 calories of fruit.

She said it’s important to know the numbers on food labels are only telling us part of the story.

“The biggest and most important thing is that what you’re actually eating and the quality of what you’re eating - the quality of your food is much more important than just the numbers,” said Skoda. “Obviously you want to have the right amounts of fat, the right amounts of protein and carbohydrates, but the actual quality of those foods is going to drive the best outcomes.”

Skoda recommends keeping our diets as simple as possible. Focus on eating whole foods, plant-based foods and foods with high-nutrient value such as colorful fruits and vegetables.

Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA Internal Medicine.