The low carb diet plan in general has gotten a lot of attention throughout the years as being one of the most effective ways to lose weight and keep it off. But is this diet really as effective as it is said to be, and is it easy for people? Body fat, weight loss, fad diets, and no carbohydrates get the attention of millions worldwide, but why? So what is a low carb diet? While it might seem like a no brainer, a low carbohydrate diet takes away any food items that are high in sugar, like pasta, bread, and starch and replaces it with more nutrient dense foods. It also takes away foods you wouldn’t think of like certain fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy grains like quinoa.
According to Women’s Health Magazine,
“Though you probably know potatoes and bananas are packed with the carbohydrates, over 20 grams of the macronutrient are also found in a serving of grapes, apples, pears, and cauliflower. Plus, dried fruits, such as apricots, cranberries, and raisins, have a whopping 80 grams per serving.”
Starting this low carbohydrate diet is not easy for anyone, unless they are genetically predisposed to it. The feelings of taking away certain carbs from your diet can be seen across many different diets like the Atkins Diet and the Paleo Diet. There will be feelings of withdrawal, and it might not be a realistic diet you can stay on forever. Most people doing the low carb diet cut out over 20% of their calories just by taking away carbohydrates, and some an even higher percentage.
Because this diet is more difficult to follow, you will need to continually check food items to make sure that carbohydrates are not hiding in them. For example, low carb diet foods can be tricky, yogurt and almond milk both have a good amount of carbohydrates in them, so be aware before you purchase and consume. Some foods that appear “healthy” and probably are healthy to a point might not be approved on this specific diet plan. There are different varieties of the low carb diet, some ranging from 100 carbohydrates per day downto zero (which is very tough!). Just because you switch to a low carbohydrate diet does not guarantee you will lose weight either. The more protein and fat you consume, the better for your health, but if you take in more than you burn you will ultimately gain weight.
Low Carb Diet Claims
Because there are a variety of different low carb diets that are trending, there are not set claims to dive into. This type of diet has been said to help lower your blood pressure, help with brain health, cure epilepsy, and even help offset the start of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the most popular and best low carb diets you might be familiar with are: The Ketogenic Diet, Paleo Diet, The Atkins Diet, Eco-Atkins, Zero Carb, and Low Carb Mediterranean Diet.
Each of these diets claims to tackle the obesity and weight gain epidemic that plagues our country. Many times weight is gained through low fat foods which are consequently high in sugar, which thus causes weight gain. I can see how these claims are made when you take away the carbs and sugar and replace them with healthy fats and foods that nourish the brain. Losing weight does not have to be difficult or expensive, you just need to know how to eat and exercise as well as supplement to get your best self.
When you are going through a low carbohydrate diet, you are putting your body into a state of ketosis. Just to be clear,
“Ketosis is a completely natural phenomenon that has nothing but positive effects and it is NOT to be confused with ketoacidosis, which only happens in uncontrolled diabetes.”
Each of the low carbohydrate diets listed above promote some form of ketogenic state in the body, because that is where fat is burned and weight is lost.
According to Nutrition Insight,
“The low-carbohydrate trend continues to rise in popularity. In the US, launches of food products described as “low carbohydrate” rose 3% from 2015 to 2016, and 1.4% in the UK. However, recent trends have shown how consumers are more tuned into the types of carbohydrates they are consuming, and optimizing them for weight loss.”
In a nutshell, the low carb, high fat diet has caught the eyes of many people. Taking away all carbohydrates might not be necessary for weight loss, but taking away the right carbohydrates might be crucial. As stated above, carbohydrates can come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, which means that they can even come in the form of fruits and vegetables. Cutting away the bad carbohydrates with empty calories is a good start to losing weight and getting healthier overall. Each low carb diet has different criteria as to how many carbs are allowed and which types are allowed.
Type Of Food Allowed On The Low Carb Diet
There are so many great low carb recipes to take advantage of, but what about the individual list of approved foods? Let’s start with different fats and oils that are allowed on many low carb diets. Please be mindful, each serving size will vary depending on which diet you are choosing and how much weight you are looking to lose. This list is general, but it will give you an idea of the types of foods allowed on the diet program but not all of the foods that will be approved.
- Avocado oil, almond oil, butter, duck fat, ghee butter, macadamia nuts, macadamia oil, mayonnaise, olives, olive oil, peanut butter, seed and most nut oils, as well as dark chocolate over 85%.
Proteins are also a great source of calories in regards to what you will be allowed to eat each day. Be mindful that not all seafood is going to be approved such as breaded seafood, imitation crab, and high mercury count fish that are not wild caught.
- Beef, lamb, veal, goat, wild game, and preferably grass fed meat. Pork, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, pheasant, salmon, anchovies, calamari, flounder, halibut, mahi-mahi, and tuna. Whole eggs, shellfish, and clean protein powders.
Fresh vegetables are also going to be a great deal of calories when going through a low carbohydrate diet. Not all vegetables are approved, like corn, potatoes, and winter squash because they are naturally higher in carbohydrates.
- Any leafy green vegetable, alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, avocado, beet greens, bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cucumber, kale, leeks, onions, scallions, shallots, spinach, turnips, and summer squash (just to name a few).
Different nuts and seeds are also approved on most of the different low carb diets, as well as sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit. Also, there are certain dairy items allowed depending on which diet program you go on like plain Greek yogurt, goat milk, and ricotta cheese. There are a variety of guidelines, serving sizes, and timelines to follow depending on which diet you go with, but for the most part they have similar rules and goals.
The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind The Low Carb Diet
Like the ketogenic diet, the low carb diet has been in conversation as helping cure and relieve children’s epilepsy, and this has been going on for many years now. It first caught fire in 500 BC, and was meant to mimic the body’s metabolism in a fasting state. Since the 1920’s, there have been many different physicians and studies to promote this type of low carb, high fat diet as the cure to similar diagnoses like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a study found on NCBI regarding the ketogenic diet, which is very similar to the low carb diet,
“By the end of the twentieth century this therapy was available in only a small number of children’s hospitals. Over the past 15 years, there has been an explosion in the use, and scientific interest in the KD. This review traces the history of one of the most effective treatments for childhood epilepsy.”
Other studies done on the high protein, low carb diet were interesting to say the least, because this diet has been in the spotlight a lot for both good and bad reasons. More people have debated about the good and bad of the carbohydrate versus the fat and protein throughout the diet. The reason they are studying it is because we have an epidemic of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and different diseases to battle that stem from poor diets. Some people just want simple answers, like does the low carb diet work for weight loss? In a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine, they took 63 participants who were obese. They were either assigned a low carb, high protein; high fat, low calorie; or high carbohydrate, low fat diet.
“Subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet had lost more weight than subjects on the conventional diet at 3 months 3.7 percent of body weight; and 6 months 5.6 percent of body weight, but the difference at 12 months was not significant.”
This is just one study of many that shows the positive effects of a low carb diet for those seeking weight loss. There was another study done regarding low fat diets versus low carbohydrate diets, because although mistaken as the same thing, they are vastly different.
In this study, there were a total of 132 participants who were severely obese and in need of some health changes. Some of the folks were assigned to be on a low carb diet, while others were assigned a low fat diet. Only 79 folks completed the study at the end of the 6 month testing period. The results were quite prevalent showing that the low carbohydrate diet was much more effective overall for weight loss than the low fat diet was. The low carb group lost an average of 12 pounds, while the low fat group only lost an average of 4 pounds. The people on the low carb diet also felt better as their insulin levels, triglyceride levels, and blood glucose levels were in more healthy ranges.
Of the many other studies done on the effectiveness of the low carbohydrate diet and how it can better your health more quickly than low fat diets, the list is endless. Instead of pinning two different ways of eating against each other, what about a study done on just the fact that the low carbohydrate diet can make you feel healthier overall in both diabetic and non-diabetic participants? There was an interesting study done by The Wiley Online Library that set out to prove that a low carbohydrate diet was more effective than healthy eating, especially in those who had diabetes, but also in those who didn’t have diabetes.
The results? There were 13 type 2 diabetics and there were 13 non-diabetics who were each randomly selected to either a low carb diet or to follow the recommended diet for diabetics by the UK nutritional board. Out of all of the participants, 22 of the 26 completed the 3 month study and they found that the diet was equally effective in both diabetics and non-diabetics for weight loss. The key with the study was that both types of people lost weight and they felt better overall. Average weight loss was around 15.2 pounds, which is great for a three month time period.
As you can tell, there are many different studies out there that prove the low carbohydrate diet is effective for weight loss, especially when it is paired up against low fat diets. It has been in the spotlight and tagged as being unhealthy due to the amount of fats you typically have to eat on diets like the ketogenic diet and the Mediterranean diet. Healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados are foods that are approved, but they do have a heavier caloric content, so you have to be a bit careful not to overdo it if you main goal is to lose weight.
Word On The Street About The Low Carb Diet
This really depends on which diet specifically you are looking into, however, there are many opinions circulating out there about weight loss and this style of diet. Overall, this style diet was labeled a fad, but that label quickly sweltered and fizzled. There are many out there to review, which is why I wanted to add in a few reviews from different low carb diets like Atkins and the Ketogenic diet. The people who have gone through these different diet programs all have different goals and journeys, which is what makes the reviews interesting to evaluate. First, I wanted to look at the Atkins diet, as this diet got heat for not allowing enough carbs for healthy body function. There is a lot of protein involved and eggs are one of the main foods to eat!
Gracie (2013, 4 star),
“This is the original original Atkins diet. I think it’s a good reference, given all the “new” and “modified” Atkins plans out there. And then you can determine for yourself which plan to follow or how to take bits and pieces from all of them that best suits and works for you.”
Gloria (2013, 4 star),
“The book is well written and explains the role that carbohydrates play in weight gain. I am still in the process of studying the program and will probably wait until after the Holidays to begin this kind of program in order to assure the greatest amount of success. In the meantime I am being very careful about the number of carbs that I consume on a daily basis.”
In other news, there are some naysayers out there who think restrictive diets are not the way to go, and that they actually encourage eating disorders among certain people. As we know, this is a very extreme scenario, but I wanted to point it out anyways.
Abbey from Abbey’s kitchen said in reference to the Keto diet lifestyle,
“ANY diet, especially one that is as devastatingly restrictive as the keto diet, is likely to encourages disordered eating behaviors. I’ve written about my own experience with, and this is a pretty scary reminder of how UNHEALTHY that world can be. I’m a big believer that everything – especially carbs – can be enjoyed in moderation and the best diet is just whatever eating pattern you find most pleasurable that also meets your body’s unique needs.”
The Bottom Line: Is The Low Carb Diet Worth A Try?
Yes. This style of diet is not for everyone, but there are definitely both positives and negatives to going on the diet. It has been said to help treat epilepsy in younger children, as well as help people with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels and feel healthier overall. A good point, aside from the healthy way of eating, is the fact that the low carb diet does do some heavy restricting regarding carbohydrates. When a person is so restricted, it might leave them feeling deprived, wanting more carbohydrates than ever before. This style of diet could either backfire on someone or make them healthier overall. This diet regulates what you eat, and it allows healthy proteins and fats into your diet. If you wish to stay with it long term, it could help weight loss too.