Everybody is on a low-carb diet these days. What does that mean? Low-carb can be defined in different ways.
The Obesity Medicine Association represents low-carb within the parameters of a restricted carb diet:
Low Glycemic Index Diet
Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbs in foods according to how they affect blood glucose (sugar) levels. Carbs with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood sugar and therefore insulin levels. Carbs with high GI value cause spikes in blood sugar and spikes in insulin levels. The more insulin we secrete, the more fat we store.
Restrict your carb intake to 50 – 150 grams of carbs per day. Foods that are low-carb include:
- Meat: Any type, including beef, pork, game meat, chicken, etc.
- Fish and Shellfish: All kinds: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel or herring are great. Avoid breading.
- Eggs: All kinds: Boiled, fried, omelets, etc.
- Coconut & olive oil.
- Vegetables that grow above ground: All kinds of cabbage, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. Asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, olives, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc.
- Dairy products: Lean towards full-fat or 2% dairy options like real butter, cream, sour cream, Greek yogurt, and cheeses. Be careful with regular milk and skim milk as they contain a lot of milk sugar. Avoid flavored, sugary and fat-free or low-fat products.
- Nuts: in moderation.
- Berries: In moderation; ok if you are not a super strict or sensitive. Great with whipped cream.
Very Low Carb Diet
Restrict your carb intake to < 50 grams of carbs per day. This is with or without nutritional ketosis. Ketosis means that the body is in a state where it doesn’t have enough glucose available to use as energy, so it switches into a state where molecules called ketones are generated during fat metabolism. Ketones can be used for energy, and have a unique property — they can be utilized instead of glucose for most of the energy needed in the brain, where fatty acids can’t be used.
Why Are Low-Carbs “Bad” For You?
Casually, sometimes a person who says he or she is eating a “low-carb diet” means reducing overall carb consumption; but not necessarily. Following actual carb counts or numbers, mainly focuses on reducing or eliminating added sugars or other refined sugars, this involves the “no white foods” approach of removing white rice, white potatoes, and white flour.
Carbs are found in rice, pasta, grains, tortillas, chips, fruits, vegetables, bread, etc. When you eat refined carbs, they break down into sugar. Refined carbs are forms of sugars and starches that don’t exist in nature. They also come from natural whole foods that have been altered or “refined” in some way by processing. Refined carbs are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. The more insulin we secrete, the more fat we store the fat is prevented from breaking down. A diet that lowers the amount of insulin secreted is beneficial for weight loss. Other benefits of a low-carb diet besides weight loss includes lowering triglycerides, increasing HDL (the good cholesterol), and reducing blood sugar.
Foods on a low-carb diet include non-starchy vegetables, meats and eggs and other sources of protein, low-sugar fresh fruits such as berries, dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt, nuts, and seeds, and foods with healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil. Low-carb tortillas, condiments, and even baked goods and desserts are available. Spaghetti squash is a healthy eater’s favorite. Kitchen products such as the Spiralizer have made it handy to use vegetables (such as zucchini) as a pasta substitute. Cauliflower can be used in mashed potatoes, rice, pizza crust, and bread recipes.
How Should I Manage My Low-Carb Diet?
A Low-Carb Diet is not about eliminating carbs altogether; it is about reducing overall carb intake and eating better carbs. Healthier carb choices include quinoa, sweet potatoes, oats, barley, oatmeal, chickpeas, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat bread. Refined carbs (such as white pasta and white bread) should be minimal and eliminated if possible. Replace carbs with more protein. Your body works harder to process protein, which means you stay fuller, burn more calories, and help build muscle when you eat protein. Contrary to popular belief, eating fat does not make you fat! Eat healthy fat (not trans fat; choose unsaturated fat). These include avocado, nuts, olives, flaxseed, seeds, natural peanut butter, fatty fish (like salmon). Fat helps keep you full and is required for the absorption of vital nutrients into the body such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Lowering your carb intake will help facilitate weight loss, but remember that when you add in carbs, add them in slowly to allow your body to adjust to some initial water weight gain. Non-starchy vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, salad greens) and low-sugar fruits (berries, grapefruit, apples) should be your primary source of carbs. Avoid the refined, simple, and white carbs; instead, eat oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain bread. Stick to low glycemic index carbs. Avoid carb binges. Keep an eye on calorie intake. The more conscious you are about carb intake, the better success you will have in losing and maintaining weight.
Visit one of Top10MD’s Obesity Management Specialists today and get that diet of your’s under control.