Low-carb diets are in vogue for weight loss, but they can vary quite a bit. Some are strict, others are more permissive. Whether it’s an extreme keto diet or a more flexible eating plan, all involve carbohydrate restrictions. Find the one which suits you best with our guide to low-carb diets.
What’s a Low-Carb Diet?
There is no universal definition of a low carb diet. While some only reduce the proportion of carbs in the diet by omitting sugar and sweets, followers of the ketogenic diet or the Atkins diet limit the carbohydrate intake to a few grams a day.
Besides fats and proteins, carbohydrates are among the main energy-providing nutrients and often make up the majority of the main nutrients in the typical western diet. In a low-carb diet, depending on the design, you consume almost no carbohydrate-containing foods or reduce the consumption more or less.
What to Eat in a Low Carb Diet
No surprise here, but on a low-carbohydrate diet, you don’t eat many grain products like pasta, bread, and other bakery products. Those who are not so strict sometimes eat whole grains. Sweets and sugars, including some fruit sugars, can be pretty much off-limits, too. That means you eat them either less frequently or in smaller quantities. Instead, you draw on protein– and fat-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and cheese. In addition, there are low-sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, salad, and nuts in all variations.
Many swear by the renunciation of carbs to weight loss and keep it off. The lack of carbohydrates forces the body to fall back on its fat reserves. Recent studies have also shown that low-carb could be a healthier diet for us humans. If you exchange carbohydrates for good fats such as olive oil and nuts, you can reduce your heart disease and stroke risk by up to 30 percent. You should also rely on your low carb meals for good sources of protein. The high protein and fat content ensures fast and long satiation and protects the muscle mass. This is important for long-term weight loss, as your muscles can burn a lot of excess energy.
Low-Carb Alternative Foods
We find carbohydrates in many processed foods and many staple foods around the globe are also rich in carbs. However, low-carbohydrate alternatives are now available for almost all “original foods”. For example, you can easily substitute a classic pizza dough made from wheat flour with a low carb pizza dough. Simply choose cream cheese, grated cheese, and eggs instead. Or, you could opt for a more veggie-rich option. Trader Joe’s has a great cauliflower pizza crust that’s lower in carbs, or you can make your own.
A pancake made from ground psyllium seed shells, coconut flour, buttermilk, and egg white also tastes delicious. Low carb flours are, for example, ground psyllium husks, linseed flour, coconut flour, almond flour, soy flour, or chickpea flour. They can be good, but be careful! Their taste and baking behavior can vary greatly from that of the classic carbohydrate-rich original. You should bear this in mind when preparing the flour. You will find numerous low-carbohydrate recipes on the Internet.
We love this recipe for low-carb chicken lettuce wraps!
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos can sub soy sauce
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Chicken and Lettuce Wrap
- 1 medium onion- diced can use red or white
- 2 cloves garlic- minced
- 1 tbsp grated ginger Use freshly-grated if possible. Dry ginger powder works, too.
- 16 oz ground chicken can sub turkey or meat
- 1/2 cup water chestnuts drained and sliced
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- Large leafy lettuce Be sure to separate the leaves for serving! Romaine or iceberg can both work well.
- 4 cups cauliflower rice optional
- Whisk all the sauce ingredients together (rice wine vinegar, hoisin sauce, coconut aminos, and sesame oil. Set aside.
- Start the filling. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.
- Add onions and cook until soft (this should take about 5 minutes.
- Stir in garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
- Add ground chicken and cook until opaque (so the color's white/light brown without any pink) and mostly cooked through, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon.
- Pour in the sauce and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, until sauce reduces slightly and the chicken is cooked through completely.
- Turn off heat and stir in chestnuts and scallions. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon cauliflower rice, if using, and a large scoop (about 1/4 cup) of chicken mixture into the center of each lettuce leaf.
Health Benefits of a Carbohydrate-Reduced Diet
With the publication of the PURE study, a jolt went by the nourishing professional world. While before it always assumed that fats make us fat and increase the emergence of cardiovascular illnesses, there is no such connection according to the PURE study. Surprisingly, high fat intake was instead associated with low mortality. Moreover, the risk of death increased significantly with the number of carbohydrates consumed.
The ketogenic diet also plays a role in managing epilepsy symptoms. But like all other diets, the ketogenic diet requires discipline and stamina. Once people returned to old eating habits, the weight they lost returned. Many people find it difficult to change long-standing habits so drastically.
Different Low Carb Diets
Besides the strict low-carb diets, there are also less strict forms
- The Dukan Diet- this plan involves four phases to improve your health and wellness.
- The LOGI Diet, which stands for Low Glycemic and Insulinemic. The diet is based on the work of metabolism experts at Harvard University.
- Slim in Sleep also is a nutritional concept in which the superfluous pounds are to disappear permanently almost overnight. The program was developed by the German physician Dr. Detlef Pape. This nourishing way is well-known also under the name Insulin Separating Food.
- The American cardiologist and celebrity doctor Arthur Agatston developed the South Beach Diet another low-carb plan.
All these diets use the glycemic index, which reflects the body’s blood sugar and insulin reaction to various foods. Foods with a low glycemic index cause blood sugar levels to rise only slowly. This leads to prolonged satiation and prevents cravings. Furthermore, a high insulin mirror provides for fat storage. So if you only make one dietary change, resist the cravings for midnight snacks! That way, the body falls back on its fat reserves while you’re sleeping.
Who Would Benefit from a Low-Carb Diet?
A low-carb diet can be a great way to reduce your sugar intake and lose weight quickly. Just a couple of weeks of low-carb eating can help with sugar cravings and pave the way for long-term health success. So people who struggle with too much sugar could definitely benefit from a low-carb jumpstart.
Despite those benefits, very strict low-carb diets such as the Atkins or ketogenic diet pose can be difficult to maintain long-term. They can also pose a risk of depleting your body of nutrients if you maintain that type of eating long-term. Lifestyle changes, including a balanced diet and consistent exercise, are better ways to lose weight permanently.
It is also easier to change eating habits permanently in small steps. A high fat and protein content in the diet is still not suitable for everyone. People with pre-existing conditions such as fat metabolism disorders, gout, or kidney diseases should rather exercise. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to discuss dietary changes with your doctor!
What role do carbohydrates play in your diet? Are you fans of carbohydrate-rich foods or have you perhaps already restricted your consumption? Tell us about your experiences with low-carb eating!