Low-carb diets mean that you eat fewer carbohydrates and a higher proportion of protein and fat. Studies show that low carb diets can result in weight loss and improved health markers. These diets have been in common use for decades and are recommended by many doctors.
What are Low-car Diets?
Low-carb diets restrict carbohydrates – such as those found in grains, starchy vegetables and fruits – and emphasize foods high in protein and fat. Many types of low-carb diets exist. Each diet has different restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates you can eat.
Low-carb diets are commonly used for weight loss. Some low-carb diets may have health benefits beyond weight loss, such as a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Why You might Follow a Low-carb Diet?
You might choose to follow a low-carb diet because you:
- Want a diet that restricts certain carbs to help you lose weight
- Want to change your overall eating habits
- Enjoy the types and amounts of foods featured in low-carb diets
Who Should NOT Do a Strict Low Carb Diet?
Most people can safely start a low carb diet. But in these three situations you may need some preparation or adaptation:
- Are you taking medication for diabetes, e.g. insulin?
- Are you taking medication for high blood pressure?
- Are you currently breastfeeding?
If you’re not in any of these groups and don’t have other severe chronic medical conditions — such as advanced liver or kidney failure — you’re good to go!
Typical foods for a Low-carb Diet
In general, a low-carb diet focuses on protein and some non-starchy vegetables. Low-carb diets generally restrict grains, legumes, fruits, breads, sweets, pasta and starchy vegetables, and sometimes nuts and seeds. However, some low-carb diet plans allow small amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
A typical approach to a low-carb diet is to limit carbohydrates to 0.7 to 2 ounces (20 to 57 grams) per day. These amounts of carbohydrates provide 80 to 240 calories. Some low-carb diets limit carbohydrates significantly at the beginning of the diet and then gradually increase the amount of carbohydrates allowed.
In contrast, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily caloric intake. Thus, if you consume 2,000 calories per day, carbohydrates would account for 900 to 1,300 calories per day.
Health Benefits of Low-carb Diets
Why would you consider eating fewer carbohydrates? There are many potential benefits that have been scientifically proven and supported by clinical experience, such as these:
Most people start eating fewer carbs to lose weight. Studies have shown that low carb diets are at least as effective — if not more effective — than other diets. According to recent studies, a low carb diet can even result in burning more calories than other diets
Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
A low-carbohydrate diet can help reduce or even normalize blood sugar, potentially reversing type 2 diabetes. As the American Diabetes Association points out, any degree of carbohydrate reduction may be an effective tool for blood sugar control.
A Grateful Gut
Low-carb may help address a grumpy gut and often reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping and pain. Indigestion, reflux and other digestive problems can sometimes be improved as well. For some people, this is the best part of the low-carb diet, which usually occurs in the first few days or first week of starting the diet.
Reduce Sugar Cravings
Are you struggling to stay away from sweet foods, even though you try to eat them in “moderation?” Many people do. A low carb diet can often reduce and sometimes even eliminate cravings for sweets.
A sudden and drastic reduction in carbs can cause temporary side effects, such as:
- Muscle cramps
Severe carb restriction can cause your body to break fat down into ketones for energy. This is called ketosis. Ketosis can cause side effects such as bad breath, headache, fatigue and weakness.
It is not clear what long-term health risks may be associated with low-carbohydrate diets. By limiting carbohydrates over time, they may lead to vitamin or mineral deficiencies and gastrointestinal disorders.
Some health experts believe that if you eat a lot of animal-sourced fat and protein, your risk of heart disease or certain cancers may actually increase.
If you choose to follow a low-carb diet, pay attention to the fats and proteins you choose. Limit foods that contain saturated and trans fats, such as meat and high-fat dairy products, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
Low-carb diets, with both benefits and risks, have become a popular diet for those who want to lose weight. But in view of the risks listed above, check with your doctor before starting any weight-loss diet, especially if you have any health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.