Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve heard about low-carb diets. Touted as one of the best diets for weight loss and diabetes management, low-carb focuses on foods high in protein and fat while reducing carbohydrates. The allure is obvious: shed excess pounds and regulate blood sugar without sacrificing flavor.
This is why low-carb diets – and there are many subtypes – are so popular right now. Who wouldn’t want to eat delicious, fatty foods and get healthier while doing it?
The problem with this is that low-carbohydrate diets, especially keto, are not for everyone. After all, like any other diet, low-carb, no matter how healthy, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. So how can you know if it’s going to work for you?
Understanding Low-Carb Diets
While there are no official definitions of a low-carbohydrate diet, most research we examined agrees it’s a diet that restricts carbs to about 20-30% of your daily energy intake. This would be about 130g of carbs per day.
In essence, this diet restricts the intake of carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, rice, and sugary treats, while focusing on increasing protein and healthy fats. When you cut down on refined carbs, you keep your insulin levels in check and help your body burn stored fat for energy. The result? Weight loss and improved insulin sensitivity.
Foods to Include:
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and seafood
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy fats like olive oil and avocado
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Leafy greens
Foods to Avoid or Limit:
- Sugar-laden snacks
- Most fruits
Who Should Consider a Low-Carb Diet
As we already established, low-carb diets are not for everyone. While they work wonders for folks who want to lose weight, manage their blood sugar, or simply improve their energy levels, they’re not ideal for people with very high cholesterol.
However, studies do show that low-carb diets can help with:
- Diabetes management
- Weight loss
- Lowering inflammation
- Reducing triglycerides
- Improving heart health.
Tips for Following a Low-Carb Diet
Whether you want to lose weight, keep your insulin in check, or simply follow a healthy diet that doesn’t restrict too much of the good stuff, the most important thing is to start slow and keep at it. It’s good to recognize that sticking to any diet can be challenging – being aware of this fact can help you expect and push through the initial hurdles. Onto to the practical tips!
- Read Labels: Carbs can be sneaky, hiding in seemingly innocent foods. Get into the habit of reading nutrition labels to stay informed about your carb intake even when you’re buying foods marketed as ‘low carb.’
- Meal Planning: Stock your pantry with low-carb staples and prepare meals ahead of time. This way, when hunger strikes, you’re armed with a healthy option rather than reaching for a quick, carb-loaded fix. Also consider adding some ready-made meals for low-carb plans into your routine for convenience.
- Incorporate Variety: A common misconception is that low-carb diets are monotonous. While there may be some truth to this, if you incorporate a variety of foods available within the low-carb spectrum in your daily diet – from leafy greens to lean proteins to sweet berries – you’ll never get bored.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential for your overall health, but did you know it can also help curb cravings? Sometimes, our bodies confuse thirst for hunger, so drink your water and herbal teas regularly.
Another thing that can help you stick to this diet is understanding why you’re doing it in the first place. Before you start, clearly define your reasons for choosing keto or low-carb, as having a strong motivation can help keep you on track when faced with challenges.
Also, if you know you struggle with forming new habits, consider sharing your decision with friends or family. Having someone to lean on is always a good thing, plus, when they invite you over for dinner, they’ll know not to tempt you with baked goods and sugary treats.
Finally, remember that nobody is perfect, and slip-ups happen. If you find yourself indulging in a carb-heavy treat from time to time, don’t let guilt derail your progress.
The Bottom Line
Low-carb diets work for many people, especially those looking to lose weight and manage blood sugar, but it’s important to recognize that success depends on individual factors, adherence, and overall lifestyle.
Because we’re all different, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant dietary change to ensure it aligns with your specific health needs. Remember, sustainable changes, no matter how small, often lead to the most lasting results.