A low-carb diet means cutting down on your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with more proteins and healthy fats in your diet. These carbs are mainly present in sweet food sources, pasta, bread and other starch-rich foods. So rather than eating carbs, you centre around protein-rich food sources and vegetables. Several studies suggest the benefits of a low carb diet on the human body. For example, a study shows that low-carb diets can help reduce weight and improve overall health. Therefore, many nutritionists and dieticians suggest following a low carb diet as a weight control plan.
A low carb diet is also gaining popularity because there’s typically no compelling reason to count calories or utilise specific healthy foods while following it. Instead, you can eat whole food sources that make for a total, nutritious, and filling diet. With a low carb diet, you get these without any harmful carbohydrates adding to health issues.
Before moving to the details of a low carb diet, let us understand a challenge that most people face while switching to a healthier food intake. First, most people switch their weekly food menus without consulting a certified professional that gives them vital information like the portion sizes, ingredients, the not-to-do list, and the problems you can face once you get on this diet. These issues may include the increasing hunger that’ll push you towards binge eating. However, it is valid only when we make extreme changes without the guidance of a nutrition expert.
This article focuses on helping you understand the basics of a low carb diet that you can follow to make it work for you. The most important thing is keeping it simple and looking over the basics.
Low Carb Diet: Why Should You Choose it?
A low carb diet is a scientifically proven diet that brings in several benefits to people who follow it under the guidance of an expert nutritionist or dietician. But, before we jump to the foods, let us understand what a low carb diet does to your body. Here are a few of its benefits.
As per a study, a low-carb dietary approach helps bring down insulin. It is an essential chemical that delivers an anabolic, fat-putting away state. In addition, it helps improve cardiometabolic work and instigates weight loss. While bringing down carbs from the eating routine, the macronutrient admission of fat and protein increases to make up for the loss of sugar from the body. As a result, it also helps you lose weight. Insulin reduction plays a vital role in preventing and managing type-2 diabetes.
According to a study, fats and protein increase satiety and have less concomitant hypoglycemia. Therefore, it can cause a calorie deficiency. Low-carb diets can also create a higher metabolic consumption than a high carb diet. As a result, it helps you lose weight faster.
A high carbohydrate concentration in your diet can add to cardiovascular issues. Carbs are essentially tiny fat particles that move through the circulation system. A higher level could prompt blockage in the veins, confining the bloodstream towards your heart and building heart failure risk. As a result, a low carb diet helps keep your heart healthy and prevent heart health issues.
What Amount of Carbs Make a Low Carb Diet?
Any diet that contains less than 130 grams of carbs per day is considered a low carb diet. It can go down up to 20 grams of carbs per day. The fewer the carbs, the more effective your diet is for weight loss and type-2 diabetes. However, it does not mean that you should directly jump to cutting down your carbs altogether. Eating fewer carbs also makes your diet restrictive and challenging to follow. Hence, it is best to choose a low carb diet plan that you can follow. You should choose a plan as per your goals, body type, and what you can sustain.
Low Carb Diets to Choose From
Although people in different parts of the world follow different low-carb diets, it is essential to understand the benefits and potential drawbacks before choosing them. Some of the most popular low carb diets are:
1. A Basic Low-Carb Diet
No rule characterises a low-carb diet. In any case, consuming around 50 to 100 grams of carbs a day is viewed as an essential low-carb diet. It tends to be more because everything revolves around eating fewer carbs. It gives you the slack to pick what carbs you need to incorporate into your diet. For example, you can include organic products, vegetables, dairy, grains, nuts, and seeds.
For some people, it is better than being on a strict plan that lets you know what you have to eat and when. Such diets are best for somebody who doesn’t want to feel restricted and invest the energy counting exact grams of carbs. However, when you are on a low carb diet, you just need to ensure that you eat the right foods and keep the carb intake as low as possible.
2. The Ketogenic, or ‘Keto’ Diet
It is probably the most strict low-carb diet since it restricts you from eating food varieties that, by and large, fall under 50 grams of carbs each day. However, a few specialists prescribe going to under 30 or 20 grams. The vast majority need to remain under 30 grams, yet a few dynamic people can go a piece higher. When on a ketogenic diet, you’ll be eating a lot of fat, up to 80% of your eating routine.
These restrictions come with their benefits too. Although a Ketogenic diet is strict, it helps you with several benefits. For example, a Keto diet helps manage weight. In addition, a study shows that following a Keto diet for six months showed transient decreases in blood pressure, triglycerides, and glycosylated haemoglobin. It also increases HDL and helps lose weight. However, more studies are needed to prove its effectiveness in the long term.
3. The Atkins Diet
While following an Atkins diet, you start with an extremely low, ketogenic-like diet and afterwards, bit by bit, re-add carb sources, similar to vegetables and organic products. However, some experts believe that a downside of such a diet is adding back so many carbs as it will make you put on weight. As a result, you will later think that the eating regimen isn’t working. So, for example, you still shouldn’t eat bread when on a low carb diet.
4. A Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet
Although it sounds like Keto, you eat more carbs and less fat during a low-carb, high-fat diet. Your carb intake could make up around 25% of your calories, while fat records for 60% of it. However, there is something to be happy about when thinking of this diet. While the Keto diet is severe to such an extent that it’s hard for some people to adhere to it, a more liberal carb count, that is, 100 to 150 grams of carbs a day is “more reasonable”.
However, contradictory studies show that while low-carb, high-fat eating regimens assist individuals with weight loss, the drawn-out medical advantages or dangers are obscure. Hence, it is best to consult your healthcare professional or an expert nutritionist before choosing this diet.
5. Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet
As the name suggests, it combines a low-carb and Mediterranean diet. Many people feel that it is the best eating regimen to follow, as it offers the Mediterranean and low-carb diet advantages. The advantages of a Mediterranean eating routine are immense, as exploration shows that this way of eating is related to a lower chance of creating or passing on from cardiovascular illness. In addition, this diet keeps you away from unwanted weight gain. Research suggests that a low-carb Mediterranean diet can favour long term weight loss.
6. Zero-Carb Diet
Assuming you check out the web, you’ll see that many individuals believe that a zero-carb diet eating routine includes eating just meat and fat. However, a diet where you eat just meat is comparative. The drawback of such a diet is that it can be exceptionally high in saturated fat. In addition, it contains no fibre, something that helps to process your food. It also has no vegetables or organic products, which give essential nutrients, minerals, and cell reinforcements.
Considering that specialists prescribe conversing with a healthcare professional before going on a ketogenic diet, which is a substantially more severe structure, you should counsel a clinical expert before endeavouring the zero-carb diet.
Low Carb Diet: Foods You Should Consume
Although you need to ensure that you opt for a low-carb diet after understanding the fundamentals of the diet, you can easily do so by understanding what to eat and what to avoid. For example, a low carb diet allows you to consume meat, fish, eggs, veggies growing above the ground and natural fats like butter. At the same time, you should avoid sugar and starchy foods like pasta, bread etc. A day-by-day restriction of 0.7 to 2 ounces or 20 to 57 grams of carbs is standard with a low-carb diet. These measures of carbs give you about 80 to 240 calories.
Here is a list of foods you can consume on a low carb diet:
There is an elementary rule that can help you choose low-carb vegetables. Every vegetable that grows above the ground is a low carb vegetable. Hence, you can eat them while following a low-carb diet. In contrast, any vegetable that grows below the ground (underground) contains high carbohydrates. Therefore, it is best to avoid these vegetables, especially potatoes. Below is the list of vegetables you can consume with their carbohydrate content per 100 grams.
Note: Net carbs = Digestible carbs, i.e. Total Carbs minus Fibre. The number of carbs given below is for uncooked vegetables. (As per USDA)
- Spinach: 1 g
- Lettuce: 2 g
- Asparagus: 2 g
- Cucumber: 3 g
- Avocado: 2 g
- Olives: 3 g
- Tomatoes: 3 g
- Zucchini: 3 g
- Kale: 3 g
- Cabbage: 3 g
- Cauliflower: 3 g
- Broccoli: 4 g
- Beans: 4 g
- Red/Yellow/Green Pepper: 3-5 g
If you consume them in moderation, berries can be an excellent addition to your low-carb diet. To make them taste better and satisfy your sugar craving, you can eat them with whipped cream. However, you should refrain from consuming blueberries as they are high in carbs. Some of the best berries to consume in a low-carb diet with their carbohydrate content are given below.
- Raspberry: 5 g
- Blackberry: 5 g
- Strawberry: 6 g
A myth that all nuts are high in carbs restricts many people from consuming nuts during a low-carb diet. However, it is not apt for all nuts. For example, you can consume the following low-carb nuts.
- Brazil Nuts: 4 g per 100 g
- Macadamia: 5 g per 100 g
- Pecan: 4 g per 100 g
Although the carbohydrate count given is for 100 grams of nuts, you should consume them in moderation. A standard serving of nuts that you should consume is approximately 30 grams.
4. Snack on the Eggs
A simple rule to consume snacks on a low carb diet is eating no snacks. When on a low carb diet, it is best to refrain from consuming snacks. However, if you are on a moderately low-carb diet, you can consume healthy fats or high proteins. Hence, the best food to consume besides the ones mentioned above is eggs. One hundred grams of eggs contain only one gram of carbs. You can eat all kinds of eggs, including boiled, fried, scrambled, omelettes, etc. However, it is best to choose pasture-raised eggs, if possible.
Dairy isn’t out of the list if you have a low carb diet. Instead, go for Greek yoghurt, which has a higher protein content than standard yoghurt. One 6-ounce packet offers 17 grams of protein and just 6 grams of carbs, in addition to calcium that keeps your bones strong. However, it’s a low-carb decision, provided that you go plain. Organic product mixes pack a couple of teaspoons of added sugar. Some of the best dairy products to consume on a low-carb diet with their nutritional values are:
- Butter/Ghee: 0 g
- Soft Ripened Cheese: 0.5 g
- Hardened Cheese (Cheddar, Swiss): 1-3 g
- Semi-Soft Cheese (Mozzarella, Havarti etc.): 3 g
- Plain Greek Yoghurt: 3 g
- Heavy Cream: 3 g
6. Sauces and Add-Ons
Several commercial sauces and add-ons contain hidden sugar and carbohydrates. Hence, it is essential to be careful about the consumption of these products. That is because it can hamper your disciplined low-carb diet. However, below is a list of foods that you can consume.
- Olive Oil: 1 g
- Coconut Oil: 0 g
- Mayonnaise: 1 g
- Mustard Sauce: 2 g
- Soy Sauce: 4 g
- Tabasco/Hot Sauce/ Tomato Ketchup: 2 g
- Aioli: 2 g
- Vinaigrette: 3 g
7. Meat, Fish and Seafood
When on a low-carb diet, you can eat any form of meat. For example, it is safe to consume chicken, lamb, pork etc. In addition, you can feel free to eat the fat in the meat and skin on the chicken. If you can afford it, consider organic or grass-fed meats. Although information about their significant health benefits is controversial, scientific findings are still preliminary. But, you can still make them a part of your low-carb diet.
You can also consider almost all types of fish in your diet. For example, fatty fish like herrings, salmon, sardines, mackerel etc., are excellent. They also have health benefits due to high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Tofu or soy milk, soymilk is a decent decision when you want more than adequate protein for little carbs—a 3.5-ounce serving of extra-firm tofu packs 10 grams of protein and just 2 grams of carbs. One cup of soymilk has 7 grams of protein and just 4 grams of carbs. Ensure you’re drinking unsweetened soymilk.
9. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter derives from a vegetable, similar to beans. So they genuinely have 7 grams of carbs per serving. Two tablespoons of peanut butter have 7 grams of protein and 16 grams of healthy fats. Unfortunately, many brands flavour it with sugar, including honey and maple syrup. To restrict sugar and carbs, pick those made with just peanuts. Other nut spreads, similar to almond margarine, cashew spread and pistachio margarine, are also good decisions.
Water is an essential liquid that should be an inseparable part of your low-carb diet. Therefore, you should consume an adequate amount of water to make your low-carb diet more effective. In addition, you can sip black coffee or tea. However, you need to ensure that you add least or no milk.
Foods You Should Avoid in a Low Carb Diet
1. Bread and Grains
Bread is a staple food in many societies. It comes in different structures, including rolls, bagels, and flatbreads, like tortillas. Nonetheless, these are high in carbs. It is valid for grains, those produced using refined flour.
Even though carb counts fluctuate, here are the average counts for commonly used bread:
- White bread: 14 grams of carbs
- Entire wheat bread: 17 grams of carbs
- Flour tortilla: 36 grams of carbs
- Bagel: 29 grams of carbs
Therefore, eating a sandwich, burrito, or bagel could put you close or over your day-by-day carb limit. Most grains, including rice, wheat, and oats, are also high in carbs and should be restricted or avoided on a low-carb diet.
Many natural products are high in carbs and may not be reasonable for a low-carb diet. An average serving of fruit is 1 cup or 120 grams. For example, an apple contains 21 grams of carbs. Dried fruits have added sugar, so they are not suitable for a low carb intake.
- Banana: 27 grams of carbs
- Raisins 1 ounce: 22 grams of carbs
- Dates (2): 36 grams of carbs
- Mango: 28 grams of carbs
Berries are lower in sugar and higher in fibre than different organic products. Subsequently, modest quantities – around 1/2 cup – can be consumed even on a highly low-carb abstain from food.
Numerous vegetables are incredibly high in fibre, which can help in weight reduction and glucose control. Notwithstanding, some high-starch vegetables contain more absorbable carbs than fibre. It will help if you restrict them to a low-carb diet. In addition, on the off chance that you’re following an exceptionally low-carb diet, your most ideal decision is to stay away from these vegetables by and large:
- 1 cup corn: 41 grams of carbs
- Potato: 37 grams of carbs
- Yam/Sweet potato: 24 grams of carbs
- 1 cup cooked beets: 16 grams of carbs
4. Other Foods
Other foods that you should stay from are– pasta, cereal, beer, sweet yoghurt, packaged juice, and fat-free salad dressings. You should also avoid beans and legumes, honey or any other kind of sugar, chips and crackers, gluten-free bakery goods, and milk if you plan to have a low-carb diet.
Low Carb Diet: Some Important Tips:
- The best way to start this diet is by reducing sweet drinks and junk food. Instead, try having homemade food if you strictly follow the diet.
- Start reducing portions and adding a new thing to your meals. It will keep you interested in creating new dishes.
- Exercise as much as you can, at least 1 hour every day or start an activity like cycling, walking, and running and stick with it along with the diet.
- Liquids are essential whether you are on a diet or not. Stay hydrated. Have at least eight glasses of water every day.
- Try not to skip any meals if you don’t feel hungry or in case of a craving – have a low carb fruit or something like Greek yoghurt that will keep you full temporarily.
The main reason why people change diets is to maintain or prevent illnesses, whether it is bad cholesterol, breast cancer, and obesity. The cause of most diseases is due to fat stored in the body over time. You can manage this fat with a proper diet. In addition, you can feel energised and bright after switching to a low carb diet. A low-carb diet is also said to lower your depression and anxiety levels. Therefore, choosing health over comfort should be your first step towards a happier life.
To conclude, stick to a simple rule. You should eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied. It can be that simple. A low-carb diet lets you stay away from the hassle of counting calories or weighing your food. Furthermore, it is best to take expert guidance before choosing a diet.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Can I eat fried foods on a low carb diet?
A. Fried foods are not a low carb choice. It always contains some carbs on top of fat that you’ll get on frying the food. However, you can go for heart-healthy cooking oils like olive and canola.
Q. How many carbs to eat on a low carb diet?
A. A day-by-day restriction of 0.7 to 2 ounces or 20 to 57 grams of carbs is typical with a low-carb diet. These measures of sugar give 80 to 240 calories. However, some diets restrict carbs first and then support the gradual increase.
Q. Can a low carb diet cause depression?
A. It can cause mood swings. These are part of a process as you’re not getting enough carbs to generate the energy your body needs. If you maintain your diet, this should resolve within weeks.
Q. Is a low-carb diet good for weight loss?
A. Yes, it is the best option for losing weight. Keep your diet, water intake and exercise in check, and you should witness results within six weeks. It reduces appetite without the need to count your calorie intake.
Q. What carbs should I avoid to lose belly fat?
A. Avoid junk food at any cost. You should also avoid any kind of comforting sweet dishes. These contain a high level of stubborn carbs that stick to your lower belly area and are hard to get rid of.
Q. How much weight can you lose on a low-carb diet in 2 weeks?
A. You can lose 3 pounds in one week. That makes it 6 pounds in two. With a regular diet and exercise, you can also lose up to 7-12 pounds in 2 weeks.
Q. How long should you stay on a low carb diet?
A. 6 months is the most suitable period. After six months, you can start adding more carbs to your diet. Also, you’ll be able to manage them better after this period.
Q. Are there any side effects to a low-carb diet?
A. There are some side effects due to instant reduction in carb intake. Some side effects include irritation, dizziness, mood swings, and sometimes headaches. However, they are all temporary.