Low Carb Diets

An african-american woman cooking steak on the barbecue grill. A low carb diet is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s an eating strategy that limits the carbohydrates you eat in a day. You’re here because you can live without mountains of pasta, rice, potatoes and bread at every meal or a piece of pie for dessert. You don’t have a candy bar in your desk drawer right now (and it’s not because you’ve already eaten it). You’d rather eat smaller amounts of high quality carbs and fill the rest of your plate with lean proteins and healthy fats.

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that make up our foods (carbs, fats and proteins). They can be found in foods such as starchy vegetables, grains and fruits.

Since you’ll be reducing your carbohydrate intake, this means that you’ll need to boost your fat and protein. How you’ll be doing that depends on the specific low carb diet you’ll be following as there are many different options from which to choose. Each one has its own take on the amount of carbs you can eat in a given day and how you balance the rest of your nutrition.

The idea behind a low carb diet is that you force your body to use energy in a different way, encouraging it to use stored fats as one of your energy sources, allowing you to lose weight more quickly.

Though there are certain risk factors associated with this process, such as in the case of people who have type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, you have indicated that these are not among your health concerns. Still, before making any major changes to the way you eat, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor, particularly if you have any health conditions. That way, you can know with confidence that you’re on the right track and that it will be safe for you.

Understanding Carbohydrates

As you begin your low carb diet, you’ll need to build a bit of an understanding of carbohydrates. This will help you to make better food choices every day. The first thing you should know about carbs is that they’re not all created equal. For one thing, there are two primary types of carbohydrate: simple and complex. Among the simple carbs are the refined form (such as table sugar) and the natural form (such as fructose in fruits and lactose in milk). Among the complex carbs are the refined form (such as white flour) and the natural form (such as beans and whole grains).

Foods with carbsThe types of foods in which you’ll usually find the most carbs are:

Legumes (such as beans, peas and lentils)

Foods to avoid on a low carb dietThat said, processed foods are typically chock full of refined carbohydrates – both simple and complex – as white sugar and white flour make their way into a huge proportion of packaged foods. White bread, pasta, baked goods (cookies, muffins, cakes), candy and sweetened beverages such as many juices and sodas all have a high content of refined carbs.

How Your Body Uses Carbs

Once you know what carbs are, it’s helpful to understand how your body uses them. Essentially, carbohydrates are the top energy source for your body. They’re the fastest macronutrient your digestive system can process and offer you nearly instant energy. Complex carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. From there, they’re absorbed directly into your bloodstream as glucose (otherwise known as blood sugar). Natural complex carbs are usually digested more slowly than refined ones as they are usually found in foods containing more fiber. In this way, they benefit your body in ways other than basic fuel. They’re filling, too.

When blood sugar levels rise, your pancreas starts to secrete insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells throughout your body to absorb the glucose so it can be used to power all their various functions. In this way, it provides the fuel for absolutely everything you do from breathing to running that first half marathon. If there’s any unused glucose left over, it’s sent to your liver, muscles and other cells so it will be available when needed, or it’s converted into body fat for more long term storage.

Following A Low Carb Diet

When you’re following a low carb diet, it means you reduce your blood glucose and, therefore, your insulin levels. Because that easy energy isn’t available, your body has to look elsewhere to fuel its functions and activities. This causes it to start using the body fat that has been stored and, as a result, weight loss.

Now that you have all that information swimming around in your brain, you’re likely thinking that it’s all well and good, but what will you be eating until you reach your weight loss goal? That depends on the low carb diet you’ve selected.

That said, the majority of low carb diets usually limit the amount of grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, breads, pastas and sweets. Sometimes nuts and seeds make it to that list, too. How much of each of those foods is allowed is dictated by the specific diet you’ve selected.

Overall, a low carb diet is usually defined as being an eating strategy in which you don’t eat any more than 2 ounces (60 grams) of carbohydrates every day. That represents around 250 of your total daily calories. For most of us, this represents a massive change in what we eat each day as the majority of us consume far more carbohydrates than this type of diet allows.

While some diets will have you stick to that restriction over the longer term, others begin very low but will then allow you to gradually increase your carb intake over time so that you won’t shock your system and rapidly regain the weight once you start eating a more macronutrient-balanced diet again after achieving your goal. By then, you’ll have earned that dinner roll and it will taste great.

Low Carb Diet Reviews

Review: Dukan Diet

Review: Dukan Diet

The Dukan Diet is a weight loss strategy based on increased protein consumption as well as following four stages of food and lifestyle changes. It became exceptionally popular when many A-list celebrities started following it, including Kate Middleton when she was...

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Review: Ketogenic Diet

Review: Ketogenic Diet

The Ketogenic Diet, also known as the Keto Diet, is an eating strategy for weight loss that is not dissimilar to the Atkins Diet and other very low carb diets. The goal of this plan is to achieve a state of ketosis in the body, which is a state in which the metabolism...

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Review: Atkins Diet

Review: Atkins Diet

At this point, there are very few people who haven’t heard of the Atkins Diet.  It was the first major fad to place low carb dieting into the spotlight.  Though it was first created in 1972, it wasn’t until over twenty years later that it truly reached its peak....

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Review: The New Atkins Diet

Review: The New Atkins Diet

The New Atkins Diet is an updated version of the diet that became explosively popular in the late 90’s and into the 21st century. Since the original was starting to show wear and many people who had been following had discovered its flaws, this new version promised...

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