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The Truth About Low-Carb Diets

Low-carb diets can and typically do work, though they are often misunderstood. But what does reducing carb actually entail? We are recognizing common low-carb myths then shining a light on the truth!


From the Atkins diet to a ketogenic diet, low-carb diets are mostly started in hopes to shed weight. But not just lose weight, but keep it off once and for all.

Individuals tend to misperceive carbohydrates as all the same, with their intake only leading to weight gain. People also tend to disregard the fact carbohydrate is much more than the sugar found in sweet treats and pasties.

So, what does reducing carb actually entail? We are recognizing common low-carb myths then shining a light on the truth!

Low-Carb Diet Myths

1. Low-carb diets deprive the body and brain of energy and nutrients.

2. All low-carb diets lead to heart disease.

3. Only water weight is lost without true fat loss.

4. Low-carb diets are difficult to stick to.

5. Physical performance will always plummet on a low-carb diet.

So, then, what are low-carb diets? We are debunking carbohydrate myths and shining light on the truth!

The Truth About Low-Carb Diets

1. Following a low-carb diet may decrease hunger, particularly by encouraging more fiber, protein, and healthy fat in the diet. These nutrients are helpful for inducing satiety. Feeling full for longer makes it easier to stick to.

2. Low-carb diets drop initial water weight in the short-term, yes. But it can also lead to long-term weight maintenance! Researchers also found for every 10 percent decrease in carbs, an additional 52 more calories were burned each day.

3. They support improvements in many markers of metabolic health. These include HDL and LDL cholesterols, triglycerides, and blood sugars in people with diabetes.

4. Low-carb diets can help improve blood pressure levels. Keeping blood pressure within a normal range lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke.

5. Followers of a low-carb diet may experience an improved mood. Such elevations may be linked to weight loss and blood sugar stabilization.

6. Low-carb diets benefit a number of people. However, sticking to a low-carb diet may not be for everyone. (And that is okay!)

Understanding a Low-Carb Diet

First off, carbohydrate is one of the three core macronutrients along with protein and fat. Despite the source, each macronutrient is responsible for supplying the body with energy or calories.

Carbohydrates tend to be the body's primary energy source and quickly utilized by the brain and muscles. If carbs are not used for immediate use, they are stored in the muscles or liver during periods of starvation. Carbs in excess can also lead to weight gain.

Carbs are further broken down into "simple" and "complex” types. Dietary fiber is another form of carbohydrate. They offer varying modes of digestion and absorption related to their chemical structure.

Simple Carbs

Simple carbs contain one or two sugar molecule(s) and are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Simple sugars are found mostly in candies and soft drinks, though also sourced from nutritious produce and dairy products.

Complex Carbs

Complex carbs, also known as polysaccharides or starches, are generally digested and absorbed more slowly than simple carbs. Whole grains, beans and legumes, and starchy vegetables are complex carb sources. The gentle absorption helps keep blood sugar levels sustained and consistent, whereas simple carbs transfer quick energy that spikes blood sugars.

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is a plant component that cannot be absorbed or digested within the body. Instead of being used for energy, fiber remains mostly intact and travels down the digestive tract.

Despite the differences between carbohydrates, the American population as a whole is eating too much of them. Specifically, 60 percent of carbohydrate intake is from simple sugars often sourced from sweet pastries and desserts. The excessive intake may be addictive, lead to weight gain, and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

But remember, carbohydrate is also in fiber-rich and nutrient-dense foods. That being said, some carbohydrates hold higher precedence than others related to their nutritional profile. They also comprise most of the low-carb diet.

Low-Carb Diet

Low-carb diet plans often include 20 percent of total calories coming from carbohydrate. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet plan, this results in 100 grams of carbohydrate per day. Some low-carb diet plans limit carbs to 20 grams per day.

This is vastly different from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation at 225 to 325 grams of carb daily. These values are also based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The thought behind reducing the body's primary fuel source may seem unnecessary, but the rationale is somewhat complex.

Simply put, when carb (or glucose) is ingested, it enters the body's cells for immediate fueling. But when it becomes consumed in excess, it becomes stored for later use or converted into fat. Limiting or restricting carbs forces the body to use stored energy (mostly from fat stores), thus initiating weight loss.

Also when total carbohydrates are low, there is an automatic decrease in the amount of insulin released into the bloodstream. Insulin is a fundamental hormone required to use glucose, as it assists in glucose entry into the cells following carbohydrate intake.

Insulin can be thought of as a key. It helps unlock the cells' "door" for glucose to enter. Insulin's primary message to the body is simple: Store everything, including fat, glucose, and calories. Get glucose inside cells so they can store up whatever they do not use for energy.

But by restricting carb, insulin levels are cleared from the bloodstream and combats storage risk. Dramatically restricting carb, such as in a very low-carb diet, can even shift the way nutrients are processed.

No-Carb Diet

The ketogenic diet is considered a very low to no-carb diet, with 50 grams of carb often being the max. It is also high in fat and moderate in protein. The drastic reduction of carbs puts the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis. Ketosis is a process in which the body produces ketones from body fat, using them as energy.

Studies have shown ketogenic diet can help those lose weight, manage diabetes, and reduce the risk of age-related diseases. However, the ketogenic diet requires a constant restriction of carbs and reintroducing carb foods takes the body out of ketosis.

What's more, keto fans may not be in ketosis. Those dramatically cutting out carbs may likewise be at risk of health concerns and experience negative side effects.

Side Effects of Low-Carb Diets

The body relies on carbs for energy. So without it, a series of side effects may cascade. These include:

• Fatigue
• Headaches
• Brain fog
• Dizziness
• Cravings
• Changes in bowel habits
• Bad habits
• Fluid and electrolyte imbalances
• Nutrient deficiencies

Cutting carbs may likewise increase the risk of health concerns, including weight regain and chronic yo-yo dieting. Meals too low in carbohydrate can make bones fragile, as they deplete the mineral stores that are in the bones.

A Safe, Low-Carb Diet

When it comes to down to it, there really is no "one size fits all" diet. Instead, they are completely individualized to best accustom to unique lifestyles and preferences.

One should consult with a dietitian or physician to identify nutrient needs, too. They can also help design and customize a low-carb meal plan to accommodate all individual factors and preferences. Their professional guidance can prevent potential concerns of following a low-carb diet.

Active individuals may also benefit from a low-carb diet, though others peak in performance with higher carb intake. Pregnant women should also ensure adequate calorie and carb intake.

If not desiring or requiring a low or very low-carb diet, the takeaway message is this: Reduce added sugar intake. Because all-in-all, the general American population consumes too much sugar.

High sugar consumption often comes from pastries, cookies, ice cream, and various "junk foods" to enhance flavor and prolong preservation. Sugar has shown to have a negative impact on health, especially when it comes to the encouragement of weight loss.

A low-carb meal plan comprehensively encourages nutrient-rich veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. It also limits empty calories from simple sugars.

Ultimately, place the focus on whole foods and include more nutrient-dense carbs in the diet. Balance carbs with lean protein and healthy fat sources to optimize nutrient content and overall health, too.

Trusting in the nation's weight loss meal delivery service can also help control carb intake. And not to mention, all the meals are doctor-designed, dietitian-approved, and chef-prepared!

Every meal provides a scientific balance of complex carbohydrates, whole grains, and fiber along with lean protein and healthy fat ratios. More specifically, each meal contains 1,100 to 1,400 calories daily. Forty to 50 percent of total caloric intake comes from lean protein and 20 to 25 percent from healthy fats. The remaining 30 to 35 percent comes from complex carbohydrate.

There is also an option to reduce carb intake even further. Low-carb meals supply 25 net grams of carbs or less while snacks are limited to 15 net grams or less. Both meals and snacks also deliver adequate lean protein the body needs to regulate blood sugar levels. They likewise ensure the body receives an adequate amount of calories to prevent metabolism from slowing down.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner options are ample, so never feel deprived of flavorful options. With meals including waffles, an enchilada stack, and sliced ham with mustard maple sauce, following a low-carb diet is effortless!

Written By bistroMD Team. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on May 23, 2019.


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