What is a Low-Carb diet?
Eating low-carb is considered one of the fastest ways to lose weight, control blood sugar, and reduce the likelihood of developing many common conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and obesity among others. Americans eat an average of 250 g of carbohydrates per day, and as the rates of weight related health conditions continue to rise in the U.S. many people are seeking out a low-carb diet to improve important health markers and overall life expectancy. As you may have guessed, a low-carb diet restricts carbohydrates to low to moderate consumption. A low-carb diet is also likely to include a moderate increase in protein to increase satiety and preserve muscle mass which increases fat burning.
What are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates have a bad reputation, but they aren’t inherently bad for you when eaten moderately. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel to support its energy needs. In fact, you can think of a carbohydrate as a unit of energy. You may have heard that bodybuilders, professional athletes, and weight trainers utilize carbs to sustain energy and build muscle.
When it comes to weight gain, carbohydrates consumed in excess but not burned off via physical activity or exercise convert to sugar and ultimately become stored body fat. Symptoms of a high-carb diet are: weight gain, abdominal fat, high triglycerides, metabolic syndrome, and poor blood sugar control.
What is the difference between Low-Carb and Keto?
A ketogenic diet drastically reduces carb and sugar consumption to less than 20 g of carbs per day in order to bring about ketosis. Ketones produced by the liver burns fat reserves rather than extra carbs as the body’s energy supply. Keto diets may restrict some carbs that are otherwise considered healthy, such as fruits and certain vegetables. On the other hand, low-carb diets normally allow for a bit higher carb consumption (between 30-100 g per day), but is still low enough to avoid blood sugar spikes, weight gain, inflammation, and other diet related conditions. A low-carb diet may also restrict certain carbs (refined or simple), while leaving plenty of room for complex carbs and fruits that may contain natural sugars.
A short list of foods generally avoided on a Low-Carb Diet:
- White Bread
- White Pasta
- White Rice
- French Fries
- Corn syrups
- Fried Foods
Foods allowed on Low-Carb:
- Colorful vegetables and leafy greens
- Beans and legumes
- Lean protein and fatty fish
- Brown rice
- Whole grains
What is the glycemic index?
When carbohydrates are ingested, the body breaks them down into glucose. The glycemic index is a ranking assigned to foods based on how much they impact one’s blood glucose level. On a scale of 1-100, foods that rank highly on the glycemic index (70 or more) tend to cause blood sugar spikes which increases the need for the body to produce insulin. Eating a diet high in these high-ranking carbs can put you at risk for many common conditions.
Foods that rank lower on the glycemic index can keep blood sugar levels normal, and diet-related inflammation to a minimum. These typically include healthy carbs such as those found in vegetables, nuts and seeds, which also provide a great deal of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Is a Low-Carb diet healthy for all?
A balanced diet is always the key to maintaining good health. Success on a low-carb diet depends on your level of physical activity, as well as the quality of foods you consume. Carbohydrates are foods that our body uses to maintain energy levels and increase stamina and endurance, so for athletes or those who engage in moderate to high intensity workouts throughout the week, they might not want to decrease their carb intake.
However, for those who engage in low to moderate bouts of physical activity or those who have mainly sedentary lifestyles, a high-carb diet isn’t ideal since excess carb storage is likely.
How can a Low-Carb diet help treat obesity?
High carbohydrate intake is considered a contributing factor to the rise in obesity rates over the past few decades due to the increased accessibility and affordability of carb-laden foods. In fact, the average American consumes a diet of over 40 percent carbohydrates. Research shows that since carbohydrates provide the major source of energy in the diet, the type and amount of carbohydrates consumed plays a significant role in weight control.The good news is that low-carb diets tend to produce weight loss very quickly, with the majority seeing results within weeks. Reducing carbs will ensure that the body begins to burn off excess fat storage, and is often used by medical practitioners when treating obese patients. Reducing carbs can quickly lower blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other health markers often associated with obesity.
Research is being conducted on the associations between excess energy intake versus weight gain, and have discovered that certain types of carbs may impact obesity rates than others. This depends on the amount of dietary fiber provided by the carbs, being that fiber dense carbs may increase satiety and reduce weight gain risks.
Obese patients can definitely benefit from a low-carb diet, but are strongly advised to consult with a certified medical professional to ensure that the diet is administered safely. This is particularly true for those with diabetes or kidney disease, as dietary changes can cause further complications in those cases. Additionally, a doctor-supervised program can help you avoid the carb and sugar binges that may occur on this diet and can sabotage or even setback weight loss progress.
How do I maintain a Healthy Low-Carb diet?
Consume complex carbs – Carbs are needed for energy as well as muscle growth, but rather than consuming simple carbs, individuals on a diabetic diet should aim for more complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa and rye bread. Complex carbs contain necessary b-vitamins, minerals and fibers that provide the body with essential nutrients.
Eat a small to moderate amount of carbs during each meal – Carbs or sugar can be reduced to a minimum each day. For those with high levels of physical activity, keeping a fair amount of carbs in the diet may be important for energy and muscle repair. For diabetics, sticking to a low-carb diet may bring blood glucose levels too low.
Increased vegetable consumption – Eating 1-2 vegetable servings per meal is one of the most important aspects of keeping blood sugar under control. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are dense in fiber and nutrients which go a long way toward keeping hunger at bay, as well as optimally balancing your diet. Eating vegetables each day will also help you prevent additional complications that may result from being diabetic, such as: cardiovascular issues, weight gain, high cholesterol, kidney failure, etc.
Eat smaller meals throughout the day – Eating smaller portions spread out over the day is not only great for the metabolism, but it helps to keep those blood sugar levels regulated. Be sure not to skip meals and run the risk of those levels dropping too low.
Reduce carb cravings – High-carb foods are accessible and cheap, making it very difficult for most people to avoid them. Carbs and high-sugar foods also trigger obesity-causing habits such as overeating, and food addiction. Medications such as Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN) can help you fight carb cravings and reduce instances of excessive snacking.