What is low carb?
For decades we have heard that fat is harmful to health. And in the meantime, low-fat “dietary” products, often filled with sugar, have occupied most of the supermarket shelves. This was probably a serious mistake that coincided with the onset of the obesity crisis. Although this does not prove causality, it is clear that the message of eating low fat failed to prevent the increase in obesity, and it may have contributed to it.
Most of the studies now show that we shouldn’t fear any of the natural fats. Fat is good for you (here you can see why). In a low-carb diet, the sugar consumption is reduced, and to stay satiated, you may obtain all the amount of fat needed.
By avoiding sugars and starches, glycemia usually stabilizes insulin levels, the fat-storage hormone. This can fasten the fat burning process and help you finally feel satiated with the reduced consumption of the food and extreme weight loss.
Some studies assure that a low carb diet can facilitate weight loss and glycemic control, among other benefits.
Basics: what to eat, what to avoid
In this section, you will learn in detail what you have to eat if you go on a Keto diet, whether you prefer lists of bright graphics guides, exquisite recipes, or a simple introduction guide.
Low-carb diet foods are Natural fats (butter, olive oil); All types of seafood and meat; Cheese, red meat, vegetables, and eggs.
All foods listed below have less than 5% carbohydrates. If you stick to them, it will be relatively easy to maintain a strict diet consuming less than 20 grams of carbohydrates a day.
Eat meat, eggs, fish, vegetables that grow on the surface and natural fats (such as butter).
Avoid foods with sugar or starches (such as pasta, bread, beans, rice, corn, and potatoes).
Eat when you are hungry and even satiate. It can be that easy. It is not necessary to keep count of the consumed calories or weigh every type of food. You do not need low-fat products.
What to eat
- Meat: Of any kind. Pork, beef, game, lamb, poultry, etc.
- Fish and seafood of all types. Salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring are fantastic, and due to a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids, they can provide some health benefits.
- Eggs of all types. Hard, fried, scrambled, omelets, etc. Organic eggs are preferable.
- Natural fats, fat-rich sauces. If while cooking you decide to use butter and cream, this can make food taste better and make you more satiated. Try a Béarnaise or Dutch sauce. If you buy them pre-made, check if they contain starches or vegetable oils in the ingredients. Better yet, prepare them yourself. Coconut or olive oil are also good options. All of them are healthy fats.
- Vegetables that grow on the surface: cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, olives, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, avocado, cucumber, onions, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and other kinds of green leafy vegetables. These vegetables have the least amount of net carbohydrates and can be enjoyed at any level of the carbohydrate restriction you follow. However, if you follow a ketogenic diet (<20 grams of carbohydrates per day), you may need to limit your portion to some types of vegetables, such as peppers or Brussels sprouts.
- Nuts: They are great for pampering (sparingly) instead of eating chips or candy.
- Berries: if you are not very strict or sensitive, you can moderately consume them.
What to drink
What drinks can you drink on a low carb and ketogenic diet? What are the best options and the most frequent mistakes?
Quick answer: water is perfect and has no carbohydrates, just like coffee and tea (without sugar, of course). You can also have a glass of wine from time to time.
Check out the following graphic guide to see the right options and the ones you have to avoid at all costs:
- The figures represent the grams of carbohydrates per serving, that is, what they would give you if you asked for it in a restaurant. The green figures represent decent alternatives for a low carb diet. Keep reading below for more information.
- Adding a lump of sugar to coffee or tea is an extra 4 grams of carbohydrates (not good).
- Although sugary sodas are always a bad choice on a low carb diet, the size does matter. A large soda contains a huge amount of sugar.
- A small soda will get you out of ketosis for a day, a big one, rather for a week.
What to avoid
Sugar is the worst thing you can use. Soft drinks, juices, sweets, chocolate, sports drinks, cakes, buns, rolls, ice cream, breakfast cereals — all the products full of addictive sugar should be avoided.
Flour and wheat products, as well as other refined cereals, even if they bear the “gluten-free” label. Whole grains are also included in this category: in a low carb diet, they are simply less bad. Also potatoes (also sweet potatoes), french fries, corn and popcorn products, rice, etc. Here are the healthy versions of these products:
- Low-carb porridge
- “Pasta” low carb
- Low-carb bread
- Low-carbohydrate «Rice”
- “Mashed potatoes” low carb
Beans also contain a high amount of carbohydrates, so they are not good low carb options. In moderate amounts, some tubers would be acceptable (unless you follow an extremely low carb diet).
Fruits: raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are acceptable in small and moderate quantities, try to be careful consuming other types of fruits. They are quite high in carbohydrates and sugar, so they can increase blood sugar, slow down the loss of weight and possibly worsen metabolic problems.
Who should NOT do a strict low-carb diet?
The “low carb” products such as chocolate or maybe pasta should arise questions. Unfortunately, these products do not have good results and have prevented many people from losing weight. They usually contain many carbohydrates when you get to see beyond creative marketing.
There are companies that use deceive people with their advertising regarding these “low carb” products, which are full of polyalcohols, wheat, and other sweeteners.
If you can, avoid margarine. It is an industrial vegetable and seed oil in the solid-state. Why consume an imitation of butter when it is definitely tastier and healthier to use the real butter? Large amounts of omega-6 fat are present in margarine and some studies link it to inflammation.
Health benefits of a low-carb diet
Why would you want to eat fewer carbohydrates? There are many different advantages that science has proven and clinical experience has supported, such as these:
Most people start eating low carb to lose weight. Several studies have explained that low carb diets are more effective than other diets for weight loss. Eating low carb makes the weight loss so much easier without starving and without having to count the calories.
According to new scientific research, the low carb diet can even cause more calories to burn than other diets.
However, the reason why many people continue to eat low carb is more often the potential health effects, such as those shown below.
Low carb diets can help normalize blood glucose and therefore offer the possibilities to correct type diabetes.
Eating low carb can make your stomach more relaxed, with less (or no) gas, less cramping, less pain, less diarrhea, etc. Indigestion, reflux and other digestive problems can also sometimes improve.
For some people this is the main advantage, in addition, only the first days or the first week after starting are needed to notice it.
Do you find it hard to refrain from sweet foods even if you try to eat them in “moderation”? It happens to a lot of people.
Frequently, the low carb diet reduces cravings for sweets and sometimes eliminates them completely.
Side effects on a low-carb diet
If you stop eating sugar and starch at once (we recommend it), it is possible to notice some side effects while the body adapts. For some people, these side effects may be mild, while for other people there is a more difficult transition. They usually last no longer than for just a week, and you can minimize them using many options.
Another option is to decrease the carbohydrate intake slowly, over several weeks, to minimize the side effects. But probably the best option for most people is to follow the motto of Nike — «Just do it». Often, by eliminating most of the sugar and starch it is possible to lose some kilos in just a few days. The majority may be liquid, but it is great for motivation.
Without a doubt, the most frequent side effect is induced by influenza. It is what makes people feel quite bad during the first two or three days (up to a week) after starting to eat a few carbohydrates.
These are the usual symptoms:
These side effects remit quickly when the body adapts and begins to burn more fat. Usually, in a week they disappear.
The main reason is that carbohydrate-rich foods can increase fluid retention in the body. By stopping eating carbohydrate-rich foods, you will lose excessive fluid through the kidneys. This can cause a lack of salt and dehydration for some time until the body adapts to it, causing the aforementioned symptoms.
It is possible to minimize the induced flu by drinking more liquid and increasing the salt intake for a short time. Besides, you can drink a cup of broth once or twice a day. This usually causes induced flu to be only mild or not even suffer.
If people return to their old eating habits after the low carb diet, will they regain weight quickly?
Trying a low carb diet, you can lose weight faster when compared to any other diet. So it is quite predictable that if you return to your old eating habits, you will gain more weight. Compared to leaving other diets this is the worst decision.
There is no evidence that could prove that eating low carb can cause carbohydrate intolerance.
What if I don’t wanna lose weight anymore?
You have several options:
- Eat frequently, it should be no less than 3 times a day, take enough protein, and do weights to gain muscle.
- Eat a little more carbohydrates (such as fruits with the low glycemic index, etc.) to gain a little more fat.
In short, you don’t really have to switch from a low carb diet if you think you wanna stop losing weight. The body will regulate itself when it feels you have your perfect weight.