We often hear about low carb diets and how successful they prove to be in losing weight, but what is considered a low carb diet exactly?
The term “low carb” insinuates a diet low in carbohydrates. The highest carbohydrates are usually found in foods like pasta, potatoes, fruit, bread and rice as well as many fruits. A low carb diet does not typically entail any specific diet nor does it include well-defined steps to losing weight. It is a rather a looser term that varies according to the person using it. Some common features though, include consuming foods that are low in carbohydrates.
The consumption of carbohydrates leads the body to excrete insulin which is the body’s function for energy. As carbohydrates get digested, glucose -the effect of insulin excretion- either gets burned by our body if we need immediate energy or else gets stored as fat! More seriously, after consuming a meal that consists mainly of carbohydrates, the level of insulin in our body goes suddenly up and after a short time suddenly down. This effect causes us to be hungry only after 2 or 4 hours from our last meal, leading us to a vicious circle of being hungry, then eating and finally ending up storing the excess energy as fat.
The main ways to define low carb diets, following the initial question “What Is A Low Carb Diet?, is to clarify whether you are talking about the actual carbohydrate that an adult consumes daily or about the percentage of the calories in a person’s diet that comes from carbohydrates.
The usual amount of calories that are allowed in an adult’s diet is about 50-60%. So any percentage of calories coming from carbohydrates that is below that, can be thought of as low carb.
For the carbs they do consume, the daily total intake is usually limited to anywhere from 60-130 grams, or 240-520 calories. Some low carb diets even go under 60 grams of carbs but these can be dangerous long term. When compared to governmental dietary guidelines, which typically recommend consuming 225-325 grams of carbs per day, you can see how “low” a low carb diet actually is. When the amount of carbs you eat is reduced, theories say that your insulin levels will be better maintained as a result. How so?
When you eat carbs, especially simple carbs, your body breaks them down into sugars that hit your bloodstream immediately. When your body experiences a sugar rush, it signals the release of insulin. Once insulin is released, glucose receives a cue to enter the cells in the body. Glucose is used first and foremost for energy, but when it’s present in excess, it’s stored to be used later or is turned into fat. By reducing the amount of sugars (carbs) you put into your body, your insulin levels have a better chance of being level and not experiencing spikes.
When one reduces carbohydrates over period of time it can lead to ketosis, a condition in which your body uses fat as energy instead of carbs. More commonly referred to as the Keto diet, this is low carb dieting on steroids! This helps to rapidly reduce belly fat which is a common side effect of insulin resistance that come from eating too many carbs.
Are low carb diets safe or can they be dangerous to your health?
These are burning questions for low carb dieters all over the world. Low carb diets came into existence as a solution for maintaining the calorie intake variable in precise levels. How it helps you to lose weight is simple logic. Once the caloric intake drops the body starts to make use of the stored fat to burn as energy, which then leads to weight loss. Of course it will lead to weight loss but will it be a safe process?
The answer is not a simple yes or a no. Even though many weight loss gurus emphasize over and over again that it is perfectly safe long term, nutritionists and the medical community have a different opinion on the matter. The established opinion is that no matter how effective the results are, unless cutting the carbohydrates is done in moderation the side effects will lead to disorders in bodily functions.
For example if you reduce your fat intake without paying attention to the type of fat it might even lead to elevated blood cholesterol levels. You should research and educate yourself to determine what should be included and what shouldn’t be. A properly designed diet plan would include polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats which are considered safe or healthy fats
This methodology applies to all nutrients. Some low carb diets call for you to refrain from fruits and vegetables entirely. Diet plans like these do far more harm than good. A restriction on fruits like banana or watermelon that have a high glycemic level might at least have logic to support it but bananas in turn are a great source of potassium. Limiting all the fruits and vegetables is a baseless advice that will deteriorate your health.
Reduced intake of calcium rich foods could even cause serious conditions like osteoporosis. Women with calcium deficiencies tend to suffer from menstrual issues. Most low carb diet plans also tend to focus more on higher protein intake. Unnecessary amounts of protein makes the kidneys work harder in order to remove the excess waste produced by proteins.
Changes in your lifestyle will require changes in diet plans too. If you start working out or bodybuilding the energy demand of the body is different from what it used to be. Or if you get pregnant changes should come immediately. In cases like these consulting a professional is a must.
There are many factors that can qualify a diet to be low carb. The most popular low carb diets have a range of carbohydrate levels and food choices different from one another. Although they are different, all of them cut out most sugars, starches, and gluten.
The low carb diet you choose should be a blueprint for a lifetime of better eating, not just a hasty weight loss plan to reach your goal. If you can’t see yourself eating the prescribed foods longer than a few days or a week, then chances are it’s not the proper diet for you. To this end, following a somewhat low fat diet with a healthy balance of fat, protein, carbohydrate and other nutrients is beneficial.
If you do resolve to follow a low carb diet, bear in mind that certain dietary fats are associated with reduction of disease. Foods high in unsaturated fats that are free of trans-fatty acids such as olive oil, fish, flax seeds, and nuts are preferred to fats from animal origins.
Another alternative to “strict” low carb dieting would be to give up some of the bad carbohydrate foods high in processed sugar. Sugary snacks, and white bread would be avoided, but foods high in complex carbs such as fruits, potatoes and whole grains, retained.
Whatever plan you do choose should fit right into your lifestyle and allow you to be yourself while still losing weight through inhibiting carbohydrate intake.
Below are links to some popular healthy low carb diets: