The low carb diet

Contents

What can you eat on a low-carb diet?

Many people find following a low-carb diet challenging, particularly at the beginning of the diet. The following low-carb diet tips might help people stick to their diet and may help them lose weight successfully.

1. Knowing what foods are low-carb

Low-carb foods include:

  • lean meats, such as sirloin, chicken breast, or pork
  • fish
  • eggs
  • leafy green vegetables
  • cauliflower and broccoli
  • nuts and seeds, including nut butter
  • oils, such as coconut oil, olive oil, and rapeseed oil
  • some fruit, such as apples, blueberries, and strawberries
  • unsweetened dairy products including plain whole milk and plain Greek yogurt

2. Know the carb counts and serving sizes of foods

Most low carb diets only allow for 20 to 50 grams (g) of carbohydrates per day. Because of this, it is essential that people following low-carb diets choose foods that have a lower carb count but a high nutritional value per serving.

The foods in the quantities listed below all contain approximately 15 g of carbs:

  • 1 tennis ball sized apple or orange
  • 1 cup of berries
  • 1 cup of melon cubes
  • ½ medium banana
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins
  • 8 ounces of milk
  • 6 ounces of plain yogurt
  • ½ cup corn
  • ½ cup peas
  • ½ cup beans or legumes
  • 1 small baked potato
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/3 cup of cooked rice

While the foods listed above all contain roughly equal amounts of carbohydrates, they are not all nutritionally equivalent. The dairy products on the list contain protein and vital nutrients, such as Vitamin D and calcium in addition to the carbohydrate content.

The fruit and vegetables also contain essential vitamins and minerals. Choosing whole-grain varieties of bread and rice will provide more nutrients than white varieties, even though the carb content is similar.

3. Make a meal plan

Share on PinterestA meal plan can help a person organise their food for the forthcoming week.

A meal plan can help make things easier.

Anyone trying to follow a low-carb diet could try mapping out their week and plan all meals before heading to the grocery store.

Planning meals in advance can help people stick to the diet.

Knowing what they are going to eat for lunch and dinner can help a person avoid making unhealthful food choices, such as stopping at a fast food restaurant.

4. Meal prep

Planning is one thing, but preparing meals ahead of time can also help. Meal prep can help a person:

  • avoid making unhealthful food choices
  • save time during busier times of the week
  • save money

Some people like to prepare a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches ahead of time and store the meals in containers, so they are convenient and ready to go. It is possible to freeze some meals too, meaning people can prepare even more food in advance.

Having lots of pre-prepared meals on hand can help people avoid choosing less healthful options.

Popular low-carb meals to prepare in advance include:

  • egg muffins
  • Greek yogurt bowls
  • protein pancakes
  • chicken lettuce wraps
  • protein and vegetable stir fry with no rice

5. Carry low-carb snacks

Low-carb snack options for between meals include:

  • hard boiled eggs
  • unsweetened yogurt
  • baby or regular carrots
  • handful of nuts
  • cheese

It is essential to regulate portion size of any snacks to avoid overeating.

6. Consider carb cycling

Carb cycling involves eating very low-carb foods for a set amount of days, followed by one day of eating higher carb meals. This helps the body avoid fat-burning plateaus that can develop after weeks of low-carb dieting.

Carb cycling is not for everyone, and anyone considering it should talk to their doctor or nutritionist first.

7. Not all carbs are created equal

Carbs come in different forms.

Simple carbs consist of easy to digest sugars. Refined and processed carbs, such as white sugar and white flour, are simple carbs.

People who are starting on a low-carb diet need to think about reducing their intake of refined and processed carbs. Avoiding these carbs will be beneficial for reaching an ideal weight and for health in general.

However, not all simple carbs are created equal. Fruits include fructose, which is a simple carb, but eating fruit is recommended in a low-carb diet, as it is loaded with nutrients and is a whole-food source of carbs.

Complex carbs take longer to digest than simple carbs, as they need to be broken down into a simpler form. Complex carbs are found in more nutrient-rich foods, such as beans, whole-grains, and fiber-rich fruits, such as bananas.

Complex carbs also have the added benefit of making a person feel full faster, which might prevent them from overeating. Complex carbs also make people feel full for longer, which might help them avoid snacking between meals.

8. Be aware of alternatives

Share on PinterestLettuce leaf tacos are a recommended low-carb alternative.

Substituting high-carb foods for low-carb or no-carb foods can help reduce carb intake.

Some low-carb substitutions include:

  • lettuce leaves instead of taco shells
  • portobello mushroom caps instead of buns
  • baked butternut squash fries
  • eggplant lasagna
  • cauliflower pizza crust
  • spaghetti squash instead of noodles
  • zucchini ribbons instead of pasta

9. Exercise appropriately

Exercise is an important part of overall health. People should avoid a sedentary lifestyle but refrain from excessive exercising.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults do moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week for a minimum 10 minutes at a time for moderate health benefits. For optimal health benefits, the CDC recommend 300 minutes of exercise. The CDC also suggest that people lift weights or do other strength training exercises to improve overall health.

Those on low-carb diets may want to avoid long periods of intense activity such as distance running. This is because people who are doing a form of exercise that requires extra endurance, such as marathon training, will need extra carbohydrates to fuel their bodies.

10. Use common sense

People should know about potential health risks before starting a low-carb diet.

Short-term health risks caused by a low-carb diet may include:

  • cramping
  • constipation
  • palpitations
  • high cholesterol
  • headaches
  • brain fog
  • lack of energy
  • nausea
  • bad breath
  • rash
  • reduced athletic performance

Long-term health risks caused by a low-carb diet may include:

  • nutritional deficiencies
  • loss of bone density
  • gastrointestinal problems

Some people should not follow a low-carb diet unless instructed to do so by a doctor. These groups of people include those with kidney disease and teenagers.

Not everyone will benefit from, or should even consider, a low-carb diet. Anyone thinking about doing a low-carb diet should speak with a doctor before starting.

Atkins 40: The Easy & Effective Low Carb Diet Plan

Atkins 40 is an easy low carb diet plan based on portion control and eating 40g net carbs per day. If you have less than 40 pounds to lose, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or want a wider variety of food choices from the first day of your diet, Atkins 40 could be a great fit for you. With Atkins 40 you can enjoy a range of food that you choose from. From protein and veggies to pasta and potatoes, there is an extensive list of food to plan your meals around while still losing weight and feeling satisfied.

How the Atkins 40® Diet Plan Works

Start the Atkins 40 program by eating 40 grams of net carbs, 4 to 6-ounce servings of protein and 2 to 4 servings of fat per day. As you approach your weight loss goals, start to increase your carbohydrate portion size. By offering flexible eating options and a variety of food choices, it is simple to follow and easy to lose weight on Atkins 40 from day one. Your daily carbs can come from all food groups and you can choose to eat anything from the Acceptable Foods list below. With Atkins, you have the opportunity to customize your diet plan to achieve your weight loss goals in no time.

Net carbs represent the total carbohydrate content of the food minus the fiber content and sugar alcohols, if any. The net carbs calculation reflects the grams of carbohydrate that significantly impact your blood sugar level and therefore are the only carbs you need spread out between three meals and two snacks in a day.

  • How to Calculate Atkins Net Carbs

Acceptable Foods to Eat on the Atkins 40 Diet

Foundation Vegetables – Atkins 40

Full of fiber and nutrients, veggies are one of the best sources of carbohydrates. About 1/3 of your net carbs will come from these foundational vegetables. Choose 6 to 8 servings per day from the list below.

Foundation Vegetables Serving Size Net Carbs Alfalfa sprouts (raw) 1/2 cup 0 Chicory greens (raw) 1/2 cup .1 Endive (raw) 1/2 cup .1 Escarole (raw) 1/2 cup .1 Olives, green 5, each .1 Watercress (raw) 1/2 cup .1 Arugula (raw) 1/2 cup .2 Radishes (raw) 1, each .2 Spinach (raw) 1/2 cup .2 Bok choy (cooked) 1/2 cup .4 Lettuce, average (raw) 1/2 cup .5 Turnip greens (cooked) 1/2 cup .6 Heart of palm 1 each .7 Olives, black 5, each .7 Radicchio (raw) 1/2 cup .7 Button mushroom (raw) 1/2 cup .8 Artichoke (marinated) 1, each 1 Celery (raw) 1 stalk 1 Collard greens (cooked) 1/2 cup 1 Pickle, dill 1, each 1 Spinach (cooked) 1/2 cup 1 Broccoli rabe (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.2 Sauerkraut (drained) 1/2 cup 1.2 Avocado, Haas 1/2 fruit 1.3 Daikon radish, grated (raw) 1/2 cup 1.4 Red/white onion, chopped (raw) 2 TBSP 1.5 Zucchini (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.5 Cucumber, sliced (raw) 1/2 cup 1.6 Cauliflower (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.7 Beet greens (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.8 Broccoli (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.8 Fennel (raw) 1/2 cup 1.8 Okra (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.8 Rhubarb (raw) 1/2 cup 1.8 Swiss chard (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.8 Asparagus (cooked) 6 stalks 1.9 Broccolini (cooked) 3, each 1.9 Bell pepper, green, chopped (raw) 1/2 cup 2.2 Sprouts, mung bean (raw) 1/2 cup 2.2 Eggplant (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.3 Kale (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.4 Scallion, chopped (raw) 1/2 cup 2.4 Turnip (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.4 Tomato, small (raw) 1, each 2.5 Jicama (raw) 1/2 cup 2.6 Portobello mushroom (cooked) 1, each 2.6 Yellow squash (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.6 Cabbage (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.7 Green beans (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.9 Bell pepper, red, chopped (raw) 1/2 cup 3 Leeks (cooked) 2 TBSP 3.4 Shallot, chopped (raw) 2 TBSP 3.4 Brussel sprouts (cooked) 1/2 cup 3.5 Spaghetti squash (cooked) 1/2 cup 4 Cherry tomato 10, each 4.6 Kohlrabi (cooked) 1/2 cup 4.6 Pumpkin, mashed (cooked) 1/2 cup 4.7 Garlic (minced, raw) 2 TBSP 5.3 Snow peas (cooked) 1/2 cup 5.4 Tomato (cooked) 1/2 cup 8.6 My Plans and Groups ” Access free tools today!

Planning Meals on Atkins 40 Diet

Atkins 40 offers you the flexibility to eat a wider variety of foods from the start. View a two week sample meal plan to get an idea of what your new low carb lifestyle could look like.

THE keto diet is constantly being touted as the regime for weight loss.

But it’s also no surprise that not everyone is a massive fan of the zero-carb plan.

4 If you want to lose weight in a more sustainable way, it might be worth giving “the hybrid diet” a goCredit: Getty – Contributor

Keto may be effective at burning fat but it’s very restrictive and can be unrealistic for people who actually like eating carbs and who struggle to get enough fibre.

That’s why experts have come up with a compromise – switching between keto and a low-carb.

But wait a minute…isn’t keto low-carb itself? What’s the difference? And why might going between the two diets be the best weight loss plan?

According to Patrick Holford and Jerome Burne, authors of The Hybrid Diet: Your Body Thrives On Two Fuels, there’s growing evidence to support the idea of switching between keto and low-carb might be the ideal weight loss.

Keto is no carb

Keto involves eating no more than 30g of carbs a day plus a high amount of good fats.

If done correctly, it should be full of green, leafy veg and unprocessed foods.

While cutting out carbs, on keto you increase how much meat, dairy, avocado, nuts and oil you eat.

It works by persuading the body to start burning its own fat supplies – putting the body into a state called ketosis – rather than burn the carbs in your diet.

But low-carb is about the type of carbs you eat

A low-carb diet, on the other hand, involves having a much greater range of carbohydrate foods but without the generous portion of fats that you get with keto.

Patrick and Jerome claim: “Both diets come with health benefits, including weight loss and an improvement of diabetic markers.

“But switching between them may boost these results – and make them more sustainable.”

Their Hybrid Diet works by switching from an intense week of the keto diet, to three weeks of the less-restrictive low-carb diet – and they say, that’s what makes it more sustainable.

Switching between the two diets means that you can eat both carbs and fats – both of which we need for fuel.

4 Oats aren’t keto friendly but they are low-GL, which means that you could eat them on the low-carb weeksCredit: Alamy

Not all carbs are created equal

While for three weeks a month you are allowed to eat 150g or more carbs, you can’t just eat any old carbs.

Writing in the Mail, Jerome explained there are good carbs and bad carbs, when it comes to weight loss.

In this case, the low-carb diet is designed around the glycaemic load (GL) rating.

Glycaemic load measures the total amount of carbs in a food.

It is similar to the better-known glycaemic index (GI), which focuses solely on how much sugar is in a food.

Both GL and GI rate foods on how fast they are broken down by the body, and how they affect blood sugar levels.

Foods are classified as high, medium pr low GL/GI – with foods rated low, being better for weight loss.

Lower GL or GI foods, like lentils and veg, break down more slowly in the body, and so release sugar into the blood stream at a more stable rate – leaving you feeling fuller for longer.

High GL or GI foods, like white bread and pasta, cause sudden spikes in sugar levels.

The problem with the glycaemic index is lots of fruit is considered high GI because of the sugar content – yet they are an important part of a healthy diet.

“On the GL diet, you can have 150 or more grams of carbs but it still keeps blood sugar level healthy,” Jermone said.

“This is because not all carbs are created equal. Those rated low GL slowly release sugar into the blood, keeping it stable so you can safely eat more.

“For example, half a small serving of cornflakes has a high GL rating — the same as two bowls of porridge.”

What foods have a low Gi and low GL rating?

GL gives you a more accurate picture of a food’s real-life impact on your blood sugar.

Watermelon, for example, has a high glycaemic index of 80.

But because the fruit contains very little carbohydrate, its glycaemic load is only 5.

Food with high GL and GI

  • White bread
  • Bran flakes
  • Overcooked pasta
  • Sticky white race
  • White potatoes and mashed potato

Food with low GL and GI

A diet that ‘actually makes sense’

Nutritionist Resource Member Sonal Shah told The Sun that the Hybrid Diet “actually makes sense and the health benefits look impressive”.

She said focusing on carbs that are low-GL rather than low-GI, “makes a big difference”.

“This is a more accurate way to eat carbs,” she said. “The GI only provides half the information, which is how fast a carb is broken down.

“The key is to prevent fluctuating blood sugar highs and lows, and improve how insulin works.

“Insulin is the hormone that’s responsible for weight gain and type 2 diabetes.”

Sonal said she agrees with the new book, and the idea that switching between keto and a low-GL diet can help reverse type 2 diabetes, boost weight loss and tackle inflammation and energy levels.

She added: “It is also easy for those avoiding meat or dairy products to follow with substitutes and tips provided so no one goes hungry and it does not feel like a restrictive diet as it leaves you feeling full and satisfied.”

4 Both keto and low carb involve filling up on green leafy vegCredit: Getty – Contributor Holly is amazed with her 1st 6lbs weightloss following a vegan keto diet

‘One diet is hard enough – let alone switching between two’

Not everyone is convinced by the idea of the Hybrid Diet.

Elspeth Waters is another nutritionist and Nutritionist Resource expert, and she’s not a fan of keto in any form.

She told The Sun that the idea of switching between two diets is “overly complex” and hard for most people to stick to.

And she said while keto might help you lose weight at first, there’s not enough research on the long-term effects of eating that much fat, especially animal fat, and protein.

(Ketosis) is hugely taxing for the body as a whole and makes the body significantly more acidic than it should be – a state which promotes disease

Elspeth Water

“Simply calculating how many calories people are consuming from fat, protein and carbohydrates gives no consideration to what people are actually eating,” she said.

She warned focusing on high fat and protein foods means many people on keto miss out on fibre and key antioxidants.

“That is hugely concerning, as these two components are essential for health and vitality,” Elspeth said.

Moreover, she said our bodies need glucose from carbs to function properly.

“This state is hugely taxing for the body as a whole, especially the adrenal glands, which produce our stress hormones and are already over-taxed because of the increasing number of stresses and strains we live with currently.

4 Being totally carb-free can put the body under immense stressCredit: Getty – Contributor

“Ketosis also makes the body significantly more acidic than it should be – a state which promotes disease.”

She said that any weight loss from plans like keto tends to be short-lived and that for long-term health and wellbeing, we need to make sure that we are eating lots of good quality carbs from fruit and veg.

In fact, fruit and veg contain fat and protein and Elspeth claims that that’s all we need.

She said: “When you fuel the body with a low-fat, plant-based diet, the liver is able to let go of the fat and toxins it has been holding onto and we are able to shed weight from all over the body – particularly the fat around the belly.”

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If you do want to give keto a go, this hybrid approach is probably an easier option.

There are definite benefits to eating carbs and you may be better off filling up on fruit, veg and whole grains rather than swerving off carbs altogether.

Apart from anything else, it’ll help you avoid the so-called “keto crotch” that comes from going carb-free.

Porn star Jenna Jameson shows off weight loss after a year on the keto diet

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10 Popular Low-Carb Diets, and Their Pros and Cons

When is a low-carb diet not just a low-carb diet? When there’s a different name to it. And with the popularity of low-carb living for weight loss and health benefits, many people are turning to the diet in all its various forms. Because most Americans eat more than 200 grams (g) of carbohydrates per day, says Kelly Schmidt, RD, LDN, a nutrition consultant in Columbus, Ohio, dipping lower than that is going to be, in a form, a lower-carb diet, she notes.

RELATED: Which Is Better for Health and Weight Loss: Low-Carb or Low-Fat?

And while there are many different types, from the ketogenic diet to the Dukan diet, the name isn’t the biggest thing that matters. “You can put a label on the type of low-carb diet you want to do, but the bottom line — and one reason low-carb diets can be so successful — is you should focus on eating more real food than not,” adds Schmidt.

Here’s a look at 10 popular low-carb plans, plus how to know if one is right for you:

1. A Basic Low-Carb Diet

There’s no official guideline that defines a low-carb diet, says Schmidt. But generally speaking, consuming about 50 to 100 g of carbs a day is considered a basic low-carb diet, she says. That said, it can be more — it’s all about eating fewer carbs than is normal for you. The perk of this plan is it’s individualized, allowing you to eat the amount that best meets your body’s needs. It also gives you leeway to choose what carbs you want to include (fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) rather than being on a plan that tells you what you need to eat and when. It’s best for someone who likes that freedom, and doesn’t want to spend the time counting grams of carbs.

2. The Ketogenic, or ‘Keto’ Diet

This is one of the strictest ways to do a low-carb diet because it limits you to under 50 g of carbs per day, though some experts recommend going to less than 30 or 20 g, says Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE, a low-carb dietitian who’s based in Orange County, California. (Specifically, she says most people need to stay under 30 g, but some active folks can go a bit higher.) You’ll also be eating a significant amount of fat — up to 80 percent of your diet.

A keto diet shifts your body’s fuel-burning engine from one that relies on carbs for energy to one that incinerates fat. A big benefit here is that you may lose a significant amount of weight quickly, and that can be initially motivating to see those results so quickly. The downside is that it’s a very limiting diet — you’re eating mostly sources of fat, plus a little protein, and some nonstarchy veggies — so it’s difficult to keep up, and it’s typically intended as a short-term diet, not a lifelong change.

RELATED: What to Eat and Avoid on the Ketogenic Diet

3. A Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet

This sounds similar to keto, but on this plan, you generally eat more carbs (so your body won’t be in the fat-burning state of ketosis, as it is during keto) and less fat. Carbs might comprise about 25 percent of your calories, while fat makes up over 60 percent.

Many people do this for performance benefits during a workout, as it is thought to teach your body to use fat for fuel, which can provide a longer-lasting form of energy during extended bouts of endurance activities. That said, whether it really does boost performance is still up in the air, reported a study published in November 2015 in the journal Sports Medicine. If you’re an athlete interested in this style of eating, your best bet is to consult with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition to see what’s right for you.

4. The Atkins Diet

When it comes to the low-carb craze, the Atkins diet started it all. “Dr. Atkins saw very early on that cutting back on carbs and allowing unlimited protein and fat had such a big impact on appetite and insulin levels,” says Spritzler.

On this plan, you start with a very-low, ketogenic-like intake and then gradually add back in carb sources, like vegetables and fruit. Spritzler notes that one common error is adding back in too many carbs, gaining weight, and then thinking the diet isn’t working. For instance, when you’re in maintenance mode, you probably shouldn’t be eating bread.

That said, this diet also features prepackaged foods and snacks, which are going to be processed fare, regardless of the label “low carb.” The best way to do this diet is to stick to eating whole foods, says Spritzler.

One note: This diet differs from the Eco-Atkins Diet, a diet ranked 22 of 40 in the 2018 US News & World Report Best Diets. The “eco” twist is that it focuses on plant-based proteins and unsaturated fats with a greater carb allowance; you’ll likely eliminate most animal products and saturated fats.

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Keto and Atkins?

5. Low-Carb Paleo

The caveman-eating style focuses on eating fat and protein with fewer carbs. That said, just because you cut out grains, legumes, beans, sweets, and dairy doesn’t make it automatically low carb, as you can still eat starchy veggies and fruits, which can add up. “A paleo diet can contain a number of carbs ranging from keto to normal carb levels,” says Spritzler. The benefit of a paleo eating plan is it emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, she says. It can feel meat-heavy if you normally prefer a more plant-based diet. To make sure it stays low-carb, focus on vegetables that fall naturally lower on the carb spectrum, like cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers.

6. Whole30

The Whole30 is another diet (which bills itself as more of a program) that’s not specifically designed to be low in carbs. For 30 days (no cheating!), you’re asked to eat meat, seafood, veggies, fruits, and fats and stay away from added sugar of any kind — alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy.

It can be a radical approach for someone who’s used to eating the standard American diet — which is low in fruits and veggies, and high in added sugar and fat — and it may help you lose weight, says Spritzler, adding that the freedom to eat as many carbs as you want may makes it a poor fit for people with type 2 diabetes. Because this is designed as a short-term (30-day) challenge, it’s supposed to be tough. You have to weigh your stick-to-it-iveness before you start, and then plan out what you’re going to do after the 30 days is up.

RELATED: The Best and Worst Low-Carb Snacks for People With Type 2 Diabetes

7. Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet

This one wins big points for health from Spritzler. “I personally feel this is the ideal diet to follow, as it delivers all the benefits of both a Mediterranean and low-carb diet,” she says.

The difference from other low-carb diets is that you’re going to swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats — a plus if you have type 2 diabetes, which leaves you more at risk for heart disease, or if you have a personal or family history of heart disease yourself. That means rather than butter, cheese, and cream, you’re eating olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and avocado as your main sources of fat.

The big pro to this diet is that it’s very heart-friendly; the con is that for some people, the lure of a low-carb diet is often the ability to eat highly palatable foods, like bacon and cheese. Research analyzing the benefit of a low-carb Mediterranean diet on diabetes, such as one study published in July 2014 in the journal Diabetes Care, have advised participants to keep carbohydrates to no more than 50 percent of their daily calories and get at least 30 percent of their calories from fat, focusing on vegetables and whole grains as carb sources.

8. Dukan Diet

On this diet, you’ll be led through four phases. First, you’ll focus on foods high in protein, and then add vegetables back in, followed by gradually introducing more carb-containing foods foods, like fruit and whole-grain bread, plus an allowance of two celebration meals per week. In the final phase, you’ll aim to maintain your weight loss results by eating foods from all food groups, supplementing with oat bran, and fitting in fitness daily.

According to US News & World Report, the Dukan Diet is ranked 39 of 40 in terms of best diets overall — that’s pretty low. Why? There are a lot of rules to follow and you have to eat a lot of protein, something their panel of experts say can compromise health.

RELATED: U.S. News’ Best Health and Weight Loss Diets for 2018

9. The South Beach Diet

Unlike some of the other types of low-carb diets, which focus on health benefits, this one bills itself as a pure weight loss diet. While you focus more on lean protein and healthy fats, the Mayo Clinic notes, the South Beach Diet isn’t necessarily a strict low-carb diet. In fact, you eat “good carbs” — especially after the first phase.

On the diet, you can get frozen and ready-to-eat South Beach Diet meals, along with some meals you make on your own. They also encourage you to buy South Beach Diet–branded snacks. The upside is that they’ll tell you what to eat all day and there’s little cooking involved (great if you hate your kitchen); the downside is that you have to buy your food through them, and the choices can become limiting. Plus, when you’re buying packaged foods, you’re not getting the full nutritional benefit you would from eating whole foods.

10. Zero-Carb Diet

If you look around the web, you’ll see that many people have taken on the challenge of a zero-carb diet, which involves eating only meat and fat. The downside of this diet is that it can be exceptionally high in saturated fat and contains no fiber, something that helps digestion, and no vegetables or fruit, which provide critical vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Considering that experts recommend talking to your doctor even before going on a ketogenic diet — and this is a much more severe form — you need to consult a medical professional before attempting the zero-carb diet!

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Good and Bad Carbs?

For more advice on following a low-carbohydrate diet, check out Diabetes Daily’s article “How to Do Very Low Carb, Very Easily”!

The newly-formed group of low-carb diet advocates pointed to a “large and growing body of scientific research”​ that demonstrates how carbohydrate restriction is a safe and effective dietary strategy to prevent “and even reverse”​ chronic diet-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

According to the 2014 meta analysis​​ cited by LCAN, among 59 eligible articles reporting 48 unique randomized trials (including 7,286 individuals) and compared with no diet, the largest weight loss was associated with low-carbohydrate diets.

Currently, the DGA​​ does not include a low-carb diet plan. Members of LCAN have said that current dietary guidelines do not apply to most Americans and that a variety of dietary options should be presented to Americans.

“One size does not fit all. If there is anything we’ve learned over the last four years, it’s that the low-carb approach should be a viable option,”​ said Dr. Eric Westman, Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University.

LCAN plans to launch a grassroots campaign in the coming months to urge leaders at USDA and HHS to ensure that a properly defined low-carb diet is included in the DGA to provide a dietary option for the majority of Americans who suffer from diet-related, chronic diseases.

What does a low-carb diet look like in practice?​

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) clarified with FoodNavigator-USA that both the USDA and HHS have not defined a “low carb diet,”​ nor is it defined in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM, formerly known as IOM) establishes nutrient recommendations, including the AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range) for carbohydrates, which is set at 45-65% of daily caloric intake.

Understanding carbohydrates, a low carb diet and the ketogenic diet plan

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet plan suggests that only 5 – 10% of your daily calories come from unrefined carbohydrates. It’s a high-fat (65 – 70%), moderate protein (25 – 30%), low carbohydrate diet. The keto diet forces your body to burn fat instead of carbs for energy.

Is the ketogenic diet a healthy low carb diet?

The ketogenic diet may sound like a silver bullet for weight loss – but it’s actually extremely dangerous for your health. Following a ketogenic diet plan for extended periods of time can cause all sorts of health complications such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and serious dehydration.

Like any restrictive eating plan, the ketogenic diet quickly becomes difficult to maintain. Eating large amounts of fat like this can result in nausea, vomiting and digestive problems (from lack of fibre). While you may lose weight rapidly, you’ll gain it back as soon as you return to regular eating patterns. This is because the ketogenic diet “reprograms” your body’s ability to process carbs. When you eliminate an entire food group for a long period of time, your body doesn’t know what to do with these nutrients when you add them back in to your diet.

Now, let’s take a look at the healthier option: a low carb diet plan.

What is a low carb diet?

A low carb diet plan suggests that 25 – 40% of your daily calories come from unrefined carbohydrates. As you can see this is in no way is a ketogenic plan and does not eliminate carbohydrates (which we don’t recommend). The emphasis, in a low carb diet, is on choosing the correct type of carbohydrates and controlling your portion sizes.

The diagram below gives you an example of your plate composition on a low carb diet.

To understand why your body needs carbohydrates, let’s take a look at what they are and what they do.

What are carbohydrates (carbs)?

Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients (the others are fats and protein). Carbs are the fibres, sugars and starches found in fruit and vegetables, grains and dairy products. Despite what you may have heard, carbs are a necessary part of your diet for optimal health.

Why are carbohydrates important?

Carbohydrates are important for two reasons: they provide us with energy and are our main source of fibre. Sufficient fiber intake is vital to maintain a healthy digestive system.

Carbs provide four calories of energy per gram. There are two types of carbohydrates: unrefined and refined.

What are unrefined carbohydrates?

Unrefined carbohydrates (or complex carbs) are unprocessed and still contain naturally occurring fibre. They take longer to break down, releasing energy at a slow, constant rate – causing a slower increase in blood sugar levels.

They’re almost always the better choice of carbs.

Examples of unrefined carbohydrates include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Grains (like brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat)

What are refined carbohydrates?

Refined carbohydrates (or simple carbs) are processed to a point where the majority, if not all, of the natural fibre is removed. As a result, refined carbs are metabolised and absorbed very quickly. It’s these that you’ll want to avoid.

Refined carbs cause a rapid rise in blood sugar – which is good if you’re about to do strenuous exercise, but not great if you’re sitting at the office or watching TV.

Examples of refined carbohydrates include:

  • Fruit juice
  • Sugar and sweets
  • Breakfast cereals
  • White bread

Unrefined and refined carbohydrates can be further subdivided into fibrous, starchy and sugary carbohydrates.

Fibrous carbohydrates

Fibrous carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your diet. These are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and are typically unrefined. Fibre is important for gut health. It also slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels – this is a good thing.

Starchy carbohydrates

Starchy carbohydrates can be either refined or unrefined. This depends on the processing it went through and if whole ingredients were used. Try to choose the whole grain option when it comes to flour, breads, pasta, and so on, and only include them occasionally. Limit or avoid the processed version of these starches (white bread, white pasta, French fries and most junk foods), they can behave as sugar.

Sugary carbohydrates

Sugary carbohydrates are digested, absorbed and metabolised very quickly. They cause rapid spikes in glucose and insulin levels. These carbohydrates can be referred to as refined carbs. Refined carbs include added sugars (soft drinks, baked goods, chocolates and sweets), as well as honey (including natural honey), syrups and fruit juices. These should ideally be limited to 6-8% of your total calories or avoided entirely (depending on your carbohydrate sensitivity).

Not all unrefined and refined carbohydrates are made equal

Certain unrefined carbohydrates have the ability to behave as refined carbohydrates and vice versa. This is where the glycaemic index and glycaemic load come in. This further addresses the quality and quantity of carbohydrates the carbs you choose.

What is the glycaemic index score?

Glycaemic Index (GI) score refers to the carbohydrate quality (how quickly the carbohydrate is released into your bloodstream two to three hours after eating). The GI could be classed as either low, intermediate or high. The lower the GI, the slower the release of the carbohydrate and the greater the feeling of satiety (fullness). Low GI foods reduce cravings and provide better sustained energy levels.

  • Low GI carbohydrates are broken down slowly during digestion and release gradually into the bloodstream. They maintain blood sugar levels after eating. These are ideally unrefined and should make up majority of your carbohydrate intake. Low GI score: 0-55.
  • Intermediate GI carbohydrates are broken down moderately during digestion and release moderately into the bloodstream. They keep sugar levels moderately steady after eating. These can be included occasionally. Intermediate GI score: 56-69.
  • High GI carbohydrates are broken down rapidly during digestion and release quickly into the bloodstream. They cause rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels after eating. They behave as refined carbohydrates and should be limited. Low GI score: 70-100.

What is the glycaemic load score?

Glycaemic Load (GL) score looks at the quality and quantity of carbs (the overall of effect of a carbohydrate serving on blood sugar levels). The GL describes the GI, as well as the serving size of a particular carbohydrate.

GL is calculated by multiplying the GI by the amount of carbohydrate in grams provided by a serving, then dividing the total by 100. As with the GI, the higher the GL, the greater the elevation in blood sugar levels. GL would be considered high with GL of 20 or more, intermediate with GL of 11 – 19, and low with a GL less than or equal to 10. Unlike the GI the GL is cumulative and as a result, the maximum glycaemic load for the day should add up to a score of 70 – 80.

Why are some people more sensitive to carbohydrates than others?

Some people are genetically predisposed to being sensitive to carbohydrates. This means that their bodies don’t tolerate or process refined carbohydrates very well. Carbs impact your insulin responsiveness. Insulin is a peptide hormone which helps your body turn carbohydrates into energy. It’s also involved in fat storage. Insulin resistance (caused by high levels of insulin) can lead to weight gain, as well as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

So, what exactly should you be eating on a low carb diet plan?

The majority of your carbohydrates should be unrefined and low GI. Focus on including fibrous carbohydrates daily, starchy carbohydrates occasionally and limit sugary carbohydrates. In other words, include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Your daily caloric intake will vary according to your age, weight, height, gender, physical activity level and weight loss goals. Fats should make up 35 – 40% of your daily calories and protein 20 – 25% of your calories. Try to stick to unsaturated fats (avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, fish, oils and nut butters), as well as choosing lean protein (chicken, fish, etc.) options where possible. Saturated fats (like coconut oil or butter) can lead to weight gain and other negative health effect when eaten in excess.

A healthy low carb diet sample menu

We’ve compiled a sample menu for a 1500 – 1800 kcal diet. If your health goal is to lose weight, this may need to be reduced slightly to around 1250 kcal per day.

BREAKFAST

Oat and Berry Smoothie

½ – 1 cup(s) oat bran with ½ cup blueberries and 125ml (1/2 cup) low fat Greek yoghurt blended together

MID-MORNING SNACK

Fruit

1 medium, low GI fruit (apple / kiwi / plum)

LUNCH

Roasted Butternut and Chickpea Chicken Salad

¼ – ½ cup chickpeas with ¼ – ½ cup roasted butternut

60g (2oz) – 90g (3oz) baked chicken strips

2 cups salad greens (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, green pepper)

3 teaspoons olive oil as a dressing

AFTERNOON SNACK

Fruit and nuts

¼ cup dried fruit

60g (2oz) mixed nuts

SUPPER

Baked salmon with baby / new potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower

3 – 6 boiled medium baby potatoes

90g (3oz) – 100g (4oz) oven baked salmon

2 cups steamed broccoli and cauliflower

3 teaspoons olive oil drizzled over potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower

Healthy nutrition requires a balanced diet. That means nothing in excess (not even the good stuff). No matter how healthy blueberries or bananas are, for example, eating too many of them at the expense of other nutrients, will throw your body off balance and create health complications.

We recommend losing weight the healthy way. Not only is a balanced diet less restrictive (therefore easier to follow), it’s more sustainable – so you’ll enjoy long-term benefits long after you’ve lost those extra ten pounds.

, The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Weight Loss, for some easily-actionable tips from our fitness and nutrition experts.

We’re always here to help and guide you. If you have a question about health, fitness or DNA testing, send it to [email protected] and our experts will help you find the answer.

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