What is low carb?
A low carb diet means that you eat fewer carbohydrates and a higher proportion of fat and protein. If carbs are low enough, this is also known as the keto diet.
Hearing “higher fat” might make you wary, as for decades we’ve been told that fat is detrimental to our health, but in fact, the opposite is true.
Often, “low fat” products which clutter the aisles of supermarkets are full of sugar and artificial substances.
Studies now show that there’s no reason to fear natural fats and there are many benefits to a higher fat, low carb diet.
When you avoid sugar and starches, your blood sugar stabilizes and levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin drop. This increases the fat burning and makes you feel more satiated, therefore reducing food intake and resulting in fat loss.
How low exactly?
The lower your carbohydrate intake, the more powerful the effects on weight and blood sugar appear to be. A strict low carb diet is often called a keto or ketogenic diet.
0 - 20g
20 - 50g
50 - 100g
What to eat
In summary, natural fats, meats, fish & seafood, cheese, eggs and vegetables that grow above the ground.
Eat high quality, minimally processed low carb foods. A good strategy is to eat only low carb foods that were available hundreds and thousands of years ago (what our ancestors would have eaten).
Any type of meat: beef, pork, poultry, lamb, etc. Feel free to eat the fat on the meat as well as the skin on the chicken. You may also want to choose organic or grass-fed meats.
Fish & seafood
Any types of seafood, especially fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring. Avoid fish that has been breaded.
All kinds: boiled, fried, scrambled, etc. Choose organic eggs if possible.
Butter, cream, coconut fat, avocado oil and olive oil are great options and can make your food even more delicious when used for cooking.
Vegetables that grow above the ground are best for the low carb diet.
Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, other kinds of leafy greens, etc.
All dairy products - feel free to choose full fat options like real butter, cream, yogurt, and high-fat cheeses, which can help you stay full and satisfied.
Be careful with regular milk, reduced fat and skim milk, as they contain a lot of milk sugar. Avoid flavored, sugary and low fat products.
Nuts & berries
Low carb nuts like brazil nuts, macadamia and almonds are great for a snack. Berries like raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are also good in moderation, especially with whipped cream.
Still or sparkling water. Coffee and tea, black or with added milk or cream.
What to avoid
In summary, avoid high carb foods.
Avoid all sugar - candy, chocolate, cakes, pastries, ice cream, cereal, soft drinks, juice. You may also want to avoid artificial sweeteners as they often maintain sugar cravings.
On occasion, dark chocolate (above 70% cocoa) may be okay.
Flour, wheat, products or other refined cereal grains, even if labeled as “gluten free”.
This means bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, porridge, muesli, granola, crackers, etc.
Beans and lentils are also relatively high in carbs, so they’re no good low carb options. Moderate amounts of certain root vegetables may be okay unless you’re eating extremely low carb.
Avoid beer, which is basically liquid bread and full of rapidly absorbed carbs.
On occasion, dry wine, champagne, whisky, brandy, vodka and cocktails without sugar may be okay, but keep in mind that this may slow weight loss.
While berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are fine in small to moderate amounts, be careful with other fruit.
They’re fairly high in carbs and sugar, so consider them are nature’s candy - good for a special treat, but not something to consume daily on a low carb diet.
There are many benefits of a low carb diet, as it can be seen as a more natural way of eating.
Many people start eating fewer carbs in order to lose weight. Studies have shown that low carb diets are often more effective than other diets, as low carb makes it easier to lose weight due to less cravings and better satiety.
According to new science, a low carb diet may even result in burning more calories than other diets.
Reducing sugar cravings
Do you struggle to stay away from sugary foods, or carbs in general? Often, eating such foods in moderation is not enough, as it just keeps the addiction going.
A low carb diet can often reduce or even eliminate cravings for sweets.
A happier gut
A low carb diet may help settle your gut, reducing symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea and cramps. Often, other digestive issues like indigestion and reflux improve too.
These improvements can happen within the first few days of starting the diet!
Low carb diets can help reduce or even normalize blood sugar, and thus potentially reverse type 2 diabetes.
It may also be helpful in managing type 1 diabetes.
Other benefits include:
- Reduced hunger
- Improved mental clarity and mental health
- Lower risk of diseases like heart disease and Alzheimer’s
- Improvement in acne- Managing epilepsy
The most common short-term side effect is called the induction or keto flu. It’s what makes people feel poorly for a few days due to the body adapting to the new diet, and switching from burning carbs and sugar to burning fat for energy.
The common symptoms are headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and irritability. Within a week, these symptoms are usually gone.
You can minimize the induction flu by drinking more water and putting more salt on your food. Drinking a cup of broth one or two times a day may also make you feel much better.
Another side effect may be muscle cramps (eat more salt), and constipation (eat more leafy greens to increase your fiber intake).