A low-carb diet is a diet that limits the intake of high-carb foods such as bread, pasta, and grains.
They also limit other sugary, processed foods.
Instead, the diet is high in protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables.
It's also shown to improve blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It's a benefactor to your metabolism altogether.
What Is a Low Carb Diet?
The word "low-carb diet" implies a diet that limits carbohydrate intakes.
It's a diet low in carbs.
Quite literally, it is what it sounds like.
In a low carb diet meal plan, you are likely to eat anywhere from 20 to 150 grams of carbs a day.
That's about an apple to 3 cups of rice.
It's different across different types of low carb diets.
Each diet comes with its own set of restrictions and rules on what carbs and how much of them to eat.
It even restricts legumes such as beans, soy, lentils, and peanuts.
Even some fruits are off limits.
But it's one diet that has no restrictions on the amount of carbs you can eat. If your carb choices are Paleo, you can eat them.
By removing starchy carbs altogether, they stay lean on carbs.
That's the Paleo way of going low carbs.
Another popular low-carb diet is the Atkins diet.
The Atkins takes a different approach.
Their selection of carbs is much broader and catered to general ideas of healthy eating.
You can say they are more inclusive in that sense but restrictive in the amount.
To begin, the diet has four phases.
In phase 1, you can only eat up to 20 grams of carbs a day.
In phase 2, 3, and 4, the amount of carbs increases.
The exact amount of carbs allowed in those later phases depends on your own level of carb tolerance.
On Atkins, it's this individual carb tolerance that's the decider in how low your carbs should be.
These are just two of the most popular ones, but there are many more out there.
Many other diets also adapt the concept of low-carbs, which adds more to the variety.
The ketogenic diet is one example. It's a high-fat diet with a very low carb count and a moderate amount of protein.
The whole idea of this low carb and high diet is to enter the body into a state of Ketosis, which promotes weight loss.
Here's a list of some other popular low-carb diets:
- Mediterranean Diet
- South Beach Diet
- Dukan Diet
While each diet differs in its food choices and portions, the common ground is that it's low in carbs.
And that reduced carbs are usually offset by moderate to high proteins and fats.
Why a Low-Carb Diet?
Low carb diets got their popularity for their health benefits.
It also leads to weight loss and fat loss, per research.
So why does a low-carb diet work so well?
To understand why low carbs, let's take a look at what it is.
Only then, you can see its benefits.
What Are Carbs?
Here is the carbs 101.
Carbs are short for carbohydrates.
They're one of the three macronutrients: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Carbs are the body's main source of energy.
You can also think that most things you eat are carbs.
That's because they are everywhere. Carbs are in everything from fruits, grains, and to vegetables.
They are even in some dairy products like milk and yogurt.
Carbs are essential for proper functioning of the body.
So it's not entirely a health villain.
They supply the body with glucose it needs for energy so it can function the way it should.
It's quite essential, actually.
But when you look at carbs, you need to know two types exist.
- Simple Carbs
- Complex carbs
Simple carbs are called simple sugars.
They are naturally found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Processed foods like candy, table sugar, syrups, and soft drinks are all simple carbs.
They give a sweet taste to your food.
When you eat simple carbs, they get broken down and absorbed quickly to provide energy.
Due to their fast absorption, they tend to raise blood glucose levels quite fast.
Though, ones found naturally in fruits are ok. Or any other real foods. Because food in its original form like fruits come with tons nutrients.
The problem is with the ones found in processed foods such as bread, pasta, cookies, and creamers etc..
Before they arrive at your table, they go through rigorous processing.
During the process, they get stripped of nutrients and left with empty calories.
So they have little to no nutritional values.
Not only that, they get injected with harmful preservatives so they can last longer.
Many low-carb diets limit carbs to avoid the intake of processed foods.
Instead, they'll focus on eating whole foods in their most natural state.
Complex carbs are found in foods such as beans, lentils, whole grains, and vegetables. Just like simple carbs, complex carbs also turn to glucose (blood sugar) in the body to be used as energy.
The difference is in how long they take to digest and break down.
And complex carbs generally take longer to break down.
They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that benefit your health.
When going low carbs, it's essential to choose complex carbs over simple ones.
That way, you can take in essential vitamins carbs offer without spiking your blood sugar.
It reduces the intake of empty calories, which is also a plus.
Why You Still Need Carbs
As a start, not all carbs are bad
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients and as important as proteins and fats.
It has essential functions and offers vitamins unique to carbs.
Your body not only depends on them for energy but also prefers them as its primary fuel source.
After carbs get broken down, it turns to energy and fuels everything you do from sleeping to working out.
In fact, your brain too runs on glucose.
Without them, you won't be able to think or function properly.
The problem is not the carb itself.
But it's the highly processed refined carbohydrates people tend to eat in excess.
In essence, it's the carb choices and its excess portions that impair our health.
And the modern Western diet is full of unhealthy refined carbs.
A diet rich in them has long been associated with many health issues.
Such as cholesterol, high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
This combination of health risks makes the perfect formula for developing diabetes. This is also true in otherwise healthy people.
Luckily, by reducing the intake of refined carbs, you can also reverse the health risks.
And this is why a low-carb diet is so beneficial.
Another major benefit of a low-carb diet is it reduces your dependency on carbs for energy.
Not enough carbs force the body to use another fuel source, which is fat and protein.
This is the idea behind the keto diet.
You create a state where your body uses fat for energy rather than carbs.
This is also the idea behind many other low carb diets.
Limit your carb intakes, so that the body will look to stored fat to fuel itself.
But it's not all carbs you need to cut back.
What you need to reduce is the amount of unhealthy carbs from our diets.
And instead, replace them with whole grains, non-starchy veggies, and low-glycemic fruits.
And many studies have found that people on this type of diets to be the healthiest. They have healthy bodyweight and lower risk of many modern day diseases.
So without any further ado, here 5 undeniable health benefits of a low carb diet.
1. Reduce Your Appetite and Curbs Hunger
A low carb diet can help you lose weight in many ways.
First, it suppresses your hunger and appetite.
As a result, it reduces your total daily calories.
In fact, hunger is one of the most prominent reasons why dieting fails.
With a low-carb diet, it's an automatic reduction in appetite in most cases.
According to American Family Physician, most people experience less cravings and appetite on a low carb diet.
Another study cited a similar finding. Their testers saw a less food cravings towards carbs on a low carb diet and low-fat diet plan (6).
Richness in protein is said to be a contributing factor.
The bottom line is a low-carb diet is an effective way to cut your appetite and suppress hunger.
2. Lose Weight and Burn Fat
And the whole intention of low-carb diets is that.
Going low in carbs helps keep insulin under control, which forces the body to use the stored fat for energy.
This is known as ketosis.—A metabolic state caused by low carbohydrate intake.
The Ketogenetic diet along with other low carb diets put your body in ketosis by depriving carbs.
With a low carb diet, your body becomes very effective as using fat as fuel.
You'll not only lose weight but also burn body fat.
To enter the state of ketosis, your daily intake of net carbs should be between 20 to 50 grams per day.
According to one study, low carb diets produce more weight loss results than low-fat diets (10).
Another study shows you can even lose 2-3 times more weight being on a low carb diet than going low in fat (11).
With a low-carb diet, dieters are able to add back in healthier carbs after they reach their goal weight.
This is the approach of Atkins Diet.
The bottom line here is a low-carb diet has shown to be effective in losing weight and burning fat. Reducing calories from your carb intake have been quite beneficial for weight loss.
3. Beat the Belly Bloat
Certain carbs such as bread, pasta, and candy cause stomach problems.
It can even trigger bloat.
With a low-carb diet, people experience far less of those issues including constipation.
That's because processed foods contain added sugar and salt that cause inflammation. By cutting out processed foods, you are also minimizing triggers.
Low-carb diets are instead based on healthier, complex carbs. They are plentiful in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
And they are also rich in dietary fiber. It's a nutrient known to improve digestive health and decreases bloating.
4. Lose Your Belly Fat
Having too much of unwanted body fat is dangerous in general. But having belly fat is more alarming than fat in other areas like your thighs and arms.
The deep layer of belly fat called visceral fat. It is, in fact, the most dangerous fat in the body.
It's linked to everything from heart disease to type 2 diabetes.
To reduce the risk, if you have visceral fat, it's best to get rid of it.
A low-carb diet is an effective way to reduce belly fat.
There is scientific evidence for it as well.
According to one study, low-fat diets are more effective than low-fat diets to beat belly fat (12).
Moreover, with a low-carb diet, the fat loss comes from the abdominal cavity.
Not only you get to burn fat with a low-carb diet, you get to target belly fat.
5. Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes's main problem is rooted in high blood sugar.
And that sugar in the blood usually comes from carbs.
By reducing carb intake, it helps you manage your blood sugar levels.
For that purpose, many have tried low-carb diets and reversed their type 2 diabetes.
By reducing the amount of sugar goes into the blood sugar, insulin level can be better managed.
This also removes the risk of developing insulin resistance that may lead to type 2 diabetes.
In other words, a low-carb diet help prevents the development of diabetes.
Studies show prominent results.
In one study, a low-carb diet leads to lower needs for glucose-lowering medication. It was visible in a majority of participants with type 2 diabetes (13).
* Please consult with your doctor before changing your diet or medication. This is information purposes only.
The bottom line is a low carb diet has shown to be effective in lowering blood sugar levels. It’s also a very effective way to manage type 2 diabetes.
6. Manage High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure known as hypertension can put you at a higher risk for various health issues.
Heart diseases, stroke, and kidney failure, to name a few.
Low-carb diets are proven effective in lowering blood pressure. In some cases, it has been shown to even normalize blood pressure completely.
According to a study done by Duke University, Keto diet may help improve glycemic. It may also help reduce the need for type 2 diabetes medication (14).
The lead researcher Dr. William recommends is a proponent of a diet low in carbohydrates. He states it can combat weight issues to high blood pressure.
He also points that you can try a diet instead of medication and get the same weight loss results with fewer cost. And even potentially fewer side effects.
In that 146 obese or overweight patient study, those who ate a low-carb diet lost an average of 9.5 % of their body weight.
This result was better than those who ate a low-fat diet and modified their blood pressure medication.
The low-carb diet group also dropped 5.9 points in a blood pressure reading. The other group saw an increase of 1.5 points in the other group.
The bottom line is that a low-carb diet not only helps with weight loss, it's shown to help manage blood pressure as well.
7. Good for Some Brain Disorders
It's true our brain runs on glucose.
But limiting carbs intake will not have negative impacts on your brain at all.
Part of the brain needs glucose to run and keep functioning.
But when carbs run low, your liver is able to produce glucose out of protein for the brain use.
The brain can also burn ketones for energy when needed.
This is the real intention behind the "ketogenic diet". It started as a way to treat epilepsy in children.
And research has found it successful.
On one test, a majority of children on the ketogenic diet saw a greater than 50% reduction in seizures (15).
16% even became seizure free.
The bottom line is a low-carb diet like keto diet is now being studied for other brain disorders. Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are amongst the group.
Take Home Message
A Low-carb diet has many health benefits including weight loss and reducing the risk of many diseases such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Lastly, the whole intention of a low carb diet is to minimize unhealthy carb foods and increase healthy carbs such as whole grain, fruits, and vegetables.