Cutting The Carbs - Should You Do It?
Low-Carb Diets - The Myths And The Science
Low carb diet is a diet that limits the intake of carbohydrates, primarily found in sugary foods, pasta, and bread. Instead of eating carbs, one focuses on protein-rich whole foods and vegetables.
Studies show that low-carb diets can result in noticeable weight loss and improved health markers. These diets have been in common use for decades and are recommended by many doctors. Best yet, there’s usually no need to count calories or use special products. All you need to do is eat whole foods that make for a complete, nutritious, and filling diet.
The Benefits Of A Low-Carb Diet
A low-carb diet is generally used for weight loss. Some low-carb diets may have health benefits beyond weight loss, such as lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The tricky thing about ‘low carb’ is that there isn’t an agreed consensus on what ‘low carb’ actually means. Most dietary guidelines recommend that carbohydrate contributes between 45–65 percent of your energy intake, which is a pretty big range. This is generally considered a moderate or balanced carbohydrate intake. In many research studies, a low carbohydrate diet generally offers between 20–45 percent of its total energy from carbohydrates, which is also a pretty big range.
So, because the definition of a low-carb diet depends on the proportion of energy that it contributes, the amount of carbohydrates you can consume on a low-carbohydrate diet is very dependent on your energy needs.
Weight loss is the prime reason people go on low-carb diets. Then there's the added benefit of reduced sugar cravings. Since carbs turn to sugar in the body, eating fewer carbs can reduce sugar cravings and helps with weight loss.
Still, Nothing Beats A Well Balanced Diet
But simply cutting carbs does not guarantee you'll lose weight. Balanced meals are important to ensure you're getting the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and feel satisfied. Following a low-carb eating plan does not always result in weight loss. No matter what eating plan you're following, you need to make sure that you're taking in a diet that provides enough nutrients-protein, fat, carbs, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to keep your body properly fueled. And, of course, make sure that you're not taking in excess calories that could ultimately lead to weight gain. Read: overdoing it on burgers and cheese.
Keto diets typically include 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day. This diet gained attention in the early 20th century when physicians discovered the beneficial effects of carb restriction on the symptoms of epilepsy in children, therefore, these diets were used for the treatment of epilepsy. However, when people started realizing that low-carb diets could also help with weight loss, their popularity increased drastically.
The goal of the keto diet is to induce ketosis. Typically, the body prefers carbs as its main fuel source, but when there aren’t enough carbs available, the body is forced to burn stored fat for energy. Ketosis is the name of this fat-burning process.
It’s important to note that a keto diet designed for an individual living with epilepsy is quite different from one designed for someone who does not have the condition. Most notably, individuals with epilepsy are routinely advised to go on a more restrictive, very high-fat diet so their body goes into ketosis quickly.
Established in 1972 by Dr. Robert Atkins’ book Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, this diet is based on the idea that a low-carb intake—as opposed to the conventional low-calorie diet—is superior for weight loss. Today, there are variations of the Atkins diet, ranging from 20 to 100 grams of carbs per day. Typically, the Atkins diet is less restrictive when it comes to fruits and vegetables, which may make it a good choice for increased consumption of vitamins and minerals.
Proponents of the paleo diet claim that the foods eaten by hunter-gatherer groups from the Paleolithic era are best for human health. The diet contains about 25% carbs and excludes all grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, and processed foods.
Different people may react differently to low-carb diets. Just because a certain low-carb diet works for one person really well, doesn’t mean it will work the same way for another person—a distinction often due to genetics. Additionally, individuals living with extra weight and obesity may find that it takes them longer to reach the state of ketosis than individuals who are not living with those conditions.
All in all, the efficacy of low-carb diets remains in question, especially in broader contexts. However, there are certain situations—such as when an individual is looking to lose weight or ease symptoms of type 2 diabetes in a short period of time without restricting calories—in which it may be beneficial. If you or someone you know is interested in following a low-carb diet, it’s always recommended to talk with your doctor or a nutritionist first to see if the pros and cons of this particular eating plan are best for your personal health history.