The low-down on low-carb diets

plate full of fruits

Have you realized that you can’t eat everything that you used to when you were younger without gaining weight? 

Have you discovered that maybe your metabolism is slowing down and you may need to start thinking about curtailing your binges and start snacking and eating smarter?

In your search to finding an answer to these questions, you may have come across advertisements of unsolicited advice suggesting different solutions to help you find clarity. Aside from the obvious (get more exercise), one solution may have stood out amongst them all….

GO ON A DIET! Not just any diet, a low carb diet.

How can a low-carb diet help you lose weight and maintain that weight loss? 

We are going to be looking at how low-carb diets work, and why you should try it.

 

What is a low-carb diet? 

A low-carb diet is a diet that restricts the amount of carbohydrates you take in per day. Included in these are the carbs that are found in starchy vegetables like potatoes, grains like bread, sugar and sugary products like candy and cakes, and high starchy fruits like bananas. Most low-carb diets put more of an emphasis on eating fats and protein. 

There are several kinds of low-carb diets: 

  • Keto diet
  • Paleo diet
  • Atkins diet

 

Although these diets operate differently, they are generally similar in their adherence to carb restriction as to their main premise behind each one. The major reason why people follow a low-carb diet is to lose weight. Some of these diets go beyond weight loss by decreasing the chances of developing diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart-related problems as well.

Aside from changing their food intake, dieters are often encouraged to exercise frequently and change their lifestyle habits. So, if you want to lose weight and know that it could happen faster if you change your eating habits, a low-carb diet may be just the thing for you!  

 

Not all carbs are the same

Carbohydrates are macronutrients that can be broken down to produce energy in our bodies. They are the body’s major fuel source. During digestion, complex carbs are broken down into simple sugars that can be readily absorbed by the bloodstream as blood sugars. 

There are two types of carbohydrates- simple and complex. You can further group them into simple natural (fructose in fruits), simple refined (regular sugar), complex natural (beans or whole grains), and complex refined (white flour and soda) carbohydrates. 

Some examples of good carbohydrates sources include certain beans, whole grains, seeds, milk, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. Natural carbohydrates are full of fiber which helps prevent colon cancer and promote weight control. Natural carbohydrates also get absorbed slowly into our bloodstream, which means they have a low glycemic index and do not cause a quick spike in blood sugars. 

There are also bad carbs that are usually processed or refined. Refined foods are grains that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. Examples of such foods include pizza, pasta, white bread, cake, candy, cookies, and sweetened sodas and juices. The body digests these foods quickly and has a high glycemic index which causes a quick unhealthy spike in blood sugar levels shortly after they are eaten. When the blood sugar level rises, it triggers the release of insulin that enables glucose to infiltrate your body’s cells. Some of this glucose is used as fuel by the body for running day-to-day activities. The excess is then stored in the muscles and liver and later transformed to fat. 

 

What kinds of foods can I eat on a low-carb diet? 

There is a popular misconception people have about low-carb diets. Many people believe that these diets cut out too many foods and then they won’t be able to eat enough to feel satisfied. This is most likely because we are too dependent on carbohydrates. Once carbs are eliminated, you’re left with an emphasis on protein sources like meat, fish, poultry, and eggs.  Most low-carb diets permit small amounts of grains, low starch vegetables, and some fruits like berries because of their low sugar content. 

On a low-carb diet, you are encouraged to eat between 20 to 50 grams of carbs, depending on which diet you try. That amount is equivalent to about 80 to 220 calories. Some of these diets completely exclude carbs during the initial stage and then increase them gradually over time. 

There has been, however, a lot of controversy about carbs. Most dietary associations recommend that carbs should consist of about 45 to 60 percent of our daily calorie intake. So, for instance, if you consume about 1000 calories daily, 450 to 600 calories should come from carbs. People who have seen great weight loss and positive changes in their lives fight what the dietary associations claim since they have seen such health benefits from cutting their carbs to way below the recommended daily amount.

 

Results of low-carb diets:

Weight Loss

One of the main results in eating a low carb diet is that the tendency overeat reduces and that they are satiated for a longer period of time. Many who are on high-protein / low-carb diets claim that the protein and fats that they are eating in lieu of eating carbs keep them fuller for longer periods during the day.

For you to lose weight, you have to limit the number of calories consumed and increase the consistency and frequency of your physical activities. So, to lose between 1 to 1.5 pounds (which is about 0.5 to 0.72 kg) a week, you have to decrease your calorie intake by 500 to 720 calories. 

Even though some may claim that low-carb diets create short-term weight loss, there has been a lot of research about how living a low carb lifestyle lasts a long time, when eating the way that the diet intended. If there are more cheat days than diet days, there will be little weight loss if not weight gain after any period of time. Sticking to it increases one’s belief that it will work, thus creating a long term weight loss.

 

Reduced chances of getting sick

Aside from weight loss, low-carb diets have numerous health benefits. It helps to prevent serious health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and several cardiovascular diseases. Another great point to know is that low-carb diets improve HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels better than moderate-carb diets. This not only is attributed to the fact that you’re eating low carb, but also due to the type of foods you are eating which are healthier food choices such as lean protein, unprocessed carbs, and healthy fats. (see list of good carbs in another blog

As always, If you want to start your journey to weight loss and healthy eating, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before making any major changes in your lifestyle and diet.