A “low carb diet” is the common term applied to different diets restricting consumption of carbohydrates1. There are many variants of low carbohydrate diets. They all emphasize protein and fat (poultry, eggs, vegetables, fish, etc), and limit carbohydrates (starchy vegetables, grains, etc).
As a rule, such diets are used to lose excessive weight and to prevent or treat various conditions and chronic diseases, like obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, epilepsy2, polycystic ovarian syndrome3, etc.
How Does It Work?
Carbohydrates are found in different products and beverages, like fruits, milk, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, etc. They are the principal fuel source for the body, as in the process of digestion, starches and sugars are decomposed into simple sugars. They are absorbed into the blood where they become glucose4. With the help of the insulin glucose penetrates into the body’s cells. Some part of glucose fuels the body’s activities, and its remains are transformed to fat.
Supporters of the low carb diet say that insulin forestalls breakdown of fat in the body because it lets sugar be used as a source of energy. Thus, if you decrease the consumption of carbohydrates, it will lower the level of insulin, which in turn will make your body burn fat and lose weight.
What Are the Benefits?
Any low carb diet restricts not only carbohydrate consumption but also calorie intake. It means that it really helps to lose weight. If a person shed excessive weight, it will reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some other conditions. A low carbohydrate diet may also improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels. In general, these diets help to acquire healthy eating habits, which is very important too.
Are There Any Health Risks?
Drastic and sudden reduction of carbohydrate intake may result in some health effects, like dizziness, headache, constipation, fatigue, weakness, etc. What is more, if you restrict the consumption of carbohydrate too much it can lead to insufficient fiber and nutritional deficiencies. This causes diarrhea, nausea or constipation. In order to prevent possible side effects, some diets recommend eating supplements or vitamins.
If you get less than twenty grams of carbohydrates per day, it can provoke ketosis5 (mental fatigue, headache, nausea, bad breath).
Some nutritionists believe that eating large amounts of animal protein and fat can increase the risk of cancers and heart disease.
What Foods Should Be Eaten?
Here is a universal guideline for what foods you should eat on a low carb diet:
If losing weight is not your primary goal, you may also eat potato, oats, rice, black beans, lentils, dark chocolate and some other products.
What Foods Should Be Avoided?
If you are on a low carb diet, you must avoid the following foods:
Moreover, you should avoid any other products containing much carbohydrate.
In general, people go on a low carb diet if they need to lose some weight without going really hungry or if they want to change their eating habits. Anyway, if you are going to follow it, first check with a health care provider or your doctor. It is especially important if you have diabetes or any other health conditions.
The term “low carb diet” can be applied to many diets based on restricting the consumption of carbohydrates. So there is no specific plan for this diet, but we can suggest a sample menu that can be used during one week of being on a low carb diet.
In general, eat many vegetables and do not forget to count calories if you need to get rid of excessive weight.
Lucy was a very thin child because she lived overseas where there was no junk food and she did much physical exercises. But then she returned to the United States, acquired unhealthy eating habits and grew into a young chubby woman.
She tried various diets but they did not help her. Finally, her weight became over 155 pounds which was too much for her. Her friend told Lucy about the low carb diet and her personal success with it. Lucy decided to go on this diet too.
She started to count calories (approximately 1200 cals per day). Lucy ate low carb foods, drank much water, and did exercises. The results did not take long to show up. Now Lucy’s weight is 115 pounds and she is going to get down to about 110 pounds.
Because of the excessive weight Norma was constantly tired. It was extremely difficult for her to teach kids in the elementary school during the whole day. She had to do something with it and she decided to try a low carb diet. Norma joined a group of like-minded people and bought a book about the diet. It took her about one year to reach her goal of about 125 pounds and she has been maintaining this weight for several years.
Linda was a tall and thin gild who could eat any foods she wanted without gaining weight. But during her senior year in high school she began to obtain excessive pounds. When she went to college the situation worsened. She became visibly fatter. When Linda graduated, her weight was almost 190 pounds and she decided to go on a low carb diet. This decision has changed her life. Now she weighs less than 165 pounds and she continues to lose weight.
Rachelle went on a low carb diet after her weight had reached about 160 pounds. During high school years she played volleyball and soccer. Sport gave her possibility to eat whatever she wanted and stay fit. But then she started working in a bar. She drank too much and even used drugs. Of course, she began to gain weight.
Rachelle tried several diets but they frustrated her. Finally, she heard about the low carb diet. A co-worker gave her a book about it. It was not easy for her to follow all the recommendations but Rachelle tried to be persistent. Now she is fit again and plans to stay on the low carb diet for the rest of her life.