If you’re following a healthy, balanced diet, restricting your fat intake is generally unnecessary.
However, under certain circumstances, limiting the fat in your diet may be beneficial.
For example, low-fat diets are recommended if you’re recovering from gallbladder surgery or have gallbladder or pancreas disease (1, 2, 3).
Low-fat diets may also prevent heartburn, cut weight and improve cholesterol.
Here are 13 low-fat foods that are good for your health.
Leafy greens contain virtually no fat and are loaded with beneficial minerals and vitamins, including calcium, potassium, folate and vitamins A and K.
They’re especially rich in certain plant compounds shown to reduce inflammation in your body (4, 5).
Not surprisingly, studies suggest that diets high in leafy greens may protect against certain conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (6, 7).
Common leafy greens include:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Romaine lettuce
Fresh leafy greens can be added to salads or smoothies. You can also try steaming or sautéing them with your favorite herbs and spices for a wholesome side dish.
Summary Leafy greens contain virtually no fat and plenty of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Research suggests that diets rich in leafy greens may prevent conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Fruits are an excellent option if you’re looking for a sweet, low-fat snack. Almost all fruits are low in fat and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
They’re also particularly rich in plant compounds. In fact, many of these beneficial plant compounds are responsible for fruits’ vibrant colors.
In addition, certain plant compounds are known to be potent antioxidants.
In your body, antioxidants guard against harmful, unstable molecules known as free radicals. Cellular damage from free radicals is linked to aging, heart disease, arthritis, cancer and other conditions (5, 8).
Fortunately, many studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce free radical damage due to their high antioxidant content (9, 10).
Fruits can be enjoyed fresh, dried or cooked. Try adding them to smoothies and salads or eating them with various dips.
Summary Fruits are sweet, low-fat foods loaded with antioxidants, which protect your cells against free radical damage.
Legumes — also known as pulses — are a class of vegetable that includes beans, peas and lentils.
They’re low in fat and contain no cholesterol. What’s more, they’re high in fiber, protein, B vitamins and essential minerals, such as magnesium, zinc and iron (11, 12).
Due to their highly nutritious profile, beans and legumes offer several health benefits.
Research shows that they may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as manage blood sugar levels (12, 13).
Additionally, regular consumption of beans and legumes may aid weight loss, as the high amounts of fiber can keep you feeling fuller longer (13).
Summary Beans and legumes are low in fat and packed with protein and fiber. Research shows that diets high in beans and legumes may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as aid weight loss and blood sugar management.
The sweet potato is a hearty, low-fat root vegetable. One medium sweet potato contains only 1.4 grams of fat (14).
Besides being low in fat, sweet potatoes provide vitamin A, vitamin C and several B vitamins. They’re also rich in minerals, such as potassium and manganese (15).
Their bright orange color is due to high amounts of beta-carotene, a plant pigment known to protect against the cell damage caused by free radicals (16).
Beta-carotene appears particularly beneficial for your eyes. Studies suggest that diets high in beta-carotene are associated with a reduced risk of eye conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (17, 18).
Summary The sweet potato is a low-fat root vegetable packed with vitamins A and C. It’s also high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant which may reduce your risk of certain eye conditions.
Tart cherries, also known as sour or Montmorency cherries, are a fat-free fruit rich in anti-inflammatory compounds known as polyphenols (19, 20).
Tart cherries may be beneficial for physically active individuals. Studies suggest that tart cherry juice reduces muscle inflammation and soreness after strenuous exercise (21).
It may also be beneficial for reducing symptoms of arthritis. In one study, drinking tart cherry juice daily decreased blood levels of inflammatory markers in women with osteoarthritis — the most common form of arthritis (22).
Summary Tart cherries and their juice are fat-free and rich in plant compounds called polyphenols. This fruit may reduce muscle soreness related to exercise, thus offering particular benefits for physically active individuals.
Cruciferous vegetables are a robust source of nutrients, including fiber, folate, other minerals, as well as vitamins C, E and K (23).
Some common cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
All of these vegetables have virtually no fat, making them an excellent addition to a low-fat diet.
Alongside their nutrients, cruciferous vegetables provide sulfur-containing substances known as glucosinolates, which are responsible for the vegetables’ bitter flavor (24).
Glucosinolates have demonstrated anti-cancer effects in test-tube and animal studies (23).
Many observational studies in humans also link high consumption of cruciferous vegetables to a reduced risk of several cancers, including bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung and stomach cancer (24, 25, 26, 27).
Keep in mind that cooking methods can affect the number of glucosinolates available in cruciferous vegetables. You may absorb the most glucosinolates if you eat these vegetables raw, steamed or sauteed instead of boiled (24, 28).
Summary Cruciferous vegetables are low in fat and high in sulfur-containing substances known as glucosinolates, which may have anti-cancer effects.
Mushrooms are a delicious, fat-free food with many purported health benefits.
Interestingly, they don’t fall into any of the traditional food groups — they’re neither a fruit nor vegetable, grain or animal product.
In fact, mushrooms are fungi used widely as food and medicine for centuries (29).
Common edible types of mushroom include:
- White button
Nutrients in mushrooms vary by type — but all contain potassium, fiber and various B vitamins and minerals. Certain types also pack a significant amount of vitamin D (29).
What’s more, mushrooms are the highest food source of ergothioneine, an antioxidant reported to have potent anti-inflammatory effects (30, 31).
Research suggests that mushrooms may strengthen your immune system and safeguard against certain cancers (29, 32).
Summary Mushrooms are fungi that contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, plus a unique, anti-inflammatory compound called ergothioneine. They may have immune-enhancing and cancer-fighting effects.
Garlic’s bold flavor and aroma make it a popular ingredient. What’s more, it has very few calories and almost no fat (33).
Throughout history, garlic has been used for medicinal purposes (34).
Research shows that garlic may enhance your immune system and help prevent the common cold when consumed regularly (35).
Some studies also link the active compounds in garlic to reduced blood pressure and cholesterol, though high amounts of garlic or concentrated supplements are needed to have an effect (36).
Summary Garlic is commonly used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. Research suggests that the active compounds in garlic may help enhance your immune system and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.
Ancient grains are loosely defined as grains that have gone mostly unaltered for the past several hundred years, unlike more modern grains, such as wheat and corn (37).
Some popular ancient grains include:
Though each grain has a unique nutritional profile, they’re all low in fat and packed with nutrients, such as protein, fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, phosphorus and iron.
It’s well known that whole grains — including ancient grains — are beneficial for your health.
For one, the high fiber content in ancient grains supports healthy digestion, keeps you feeling fuller longer and may help manage diabetes (38, 39, 40).
Diets rich in whole grains are also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke (41, 42).
Summary Ancient grains offer a powerhouse of nutrients, including protein, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E and essential minerals. They may manage diabetes, reduce your risk of heart disease, promote fullness and support a healthy digestive tract.
White, lean fish includes haddock, cod, perch and pollock.
These types of fish are low in fat, contain very few calories and are an excellent source of high-quality protein.
One 3-ounce (85-gram) cooked serving of white fish contains around 1 gram of fat, 70–100 calories and a whopping 16–20 grams of protein (43, 44, 45, 46).
These fish also provide several essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, phosphorus, selenium and niacin.
Due to their mild flavors, white fish pair well with bold seasonings. They’re delicious in fish tacos or blackened, baked or broiled.
Summary White, lean fish are an excellent low-fat source of high-quality protein. They also contain high amounts of vitamin B12, phosphorus, selenium and niacin.
Chicken breast is a popular, low-fat food that provides an impressive amount of high-quality protein in just one serving.
The breast is the leanest part of a chicken. A 3-ounce (85-grams) serving of roasted, skinless chicken breast contains only 3 grams of fat but provides 26 grams of protein (47).
Aside from protein, chicken offers large amounts of niacin, vitamin B6, selenium and phosphorus (47).
Summary The breast is the leanest part of the chicken and provides an impressive amount of protein per serving. Each serving also offers high amounts of niacin, vitamin B6, selenium and phosphorus.
Low-fat dairy includes skim or fat-free milk and low-fat varieties of yogurt and cottage cheese.
In general, dairy products are considered excellent sources of protein, several minerals, and the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, B6 and B12 (48).
Fortified milk is particularly rich in calcium and vitamin D — two nutrients essential for bone health (49).
Additionally, some yogurts contain probiotics, which are bacteria beneficial for your gut health. Be sure to check for live and active cultures on the product label (48).
Bear in mind that fortified soy milk and soy yogurt are also low in fat and offer similar benefits to dairy milk and yogurt.
Summary Fortified low-fat milk is an abundant source of vitamin D and calcium, which are essential for bone health. Additionally, some low-fat yogurts contain probiotics that boost your gut health.
While whole eggs are not considered a low-fat food, egg whites are.
That’s because the fat and cholesterol in eggs are concentrated in the yolks.
In fact, the white from one large egg contains 0 grams of fat, while a whole large egg including the yolk packs 5 grams of fat (49, 50).
Egg whites are also low in calories and a good source of high-quality protein, making them an ideal option to curb fat and calories from your diet.
Summary Egg whites are a low-fat alternative to whole eggs since fat and cholesterol is concentrated in the yolks. The whites are virtually fat-free and provide ample amounts of protein.
You may be interested in a low-fat diet for personal or medical reasons.
For instance, low-fat diets may be recommended for digestive issues, weight loss and conditions involving your liver, gallbladder or pancreas.
Each item on the list above is low in fat and calories and may provide many unique, science-backed health benefits.
If you’re interested in reducing your fat intake, consider incorporating these foods into your diet.