Many people choose Low-Carb Diets for their weight loss benefits. This doesn’t come as a surprise because I went through the 2017–2018 NHANES Data and found that nearly 1 in 3 US adults (30.7%) are overweight. But apart from weight loss benefits, is the low-carb diet is actually healthy for you?
Well, In this article, we’ll explore what a low-carb diet entails, its pros and cons. We’ll also explore whether it’s suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, common debates surrounding it such as the sustainability of the low-carbohydrate diet in the long-term.
Finally we’ll explain our proven tips for sticking with a low-carb diet. So let’s find out if a low-carb diet is truly healthy for you!
Low Carb Diet. What is it?
When on a low-carb diet you basically limit your consumption of carbohydrates and instead focus on eating healthy fats and protein.
A low-carb diet aims to reduce carbohydrate intake and swap it for more protein and fat, healthy fats to be precise. It has been demonstrated that this kind of diet works well for shedding pounds and enhancing general health.
Popular Low-carbohydrate diets are Keto, Atkins, and South Beach Diets. Keto is the most popular low carb diet out here, and you limit your daily carb intake to below 50g. Others go as low as 20g a day to get into ketosis faster.
Atkins diet on the hand permits you to gradually increase your carb intake. The induction phase is the restrictive phase (20g a day of carbs) but you slowly increase your carb intake till you reach the maintenance phase where you reach your weight loss goals.
The South Beach diet promotes the consumption of lean proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables while limiting carbs and sugar.
Is Low Carbs Healthy?
I’ll give you a yes and no. Why yes?
Well, when the body starts using fats for fuel instead of glucose, things like sugar cravings will be gone, the belly fat will reduce, your cholesterol levels will improve and blood sugar levels will be stab.
I also gave a no answer low-carb diets may not be healthy for expectant or breastfeeding mothers. More on that below.
Eating unhealthy food sources regardless of the type of date can also do more damage than good.
Here’s what research says about the Pros of Low-Carb Diets.
You will lose weight or manage your weight better than with any other type of diet.
One of the perks of a low-carb diet is that it can help you shed some pounds more than low-fat diets. When the body is deprived of its main source of fuel (carbs), it starts breaking down fat into ketones which can be used as an alternate energy source. This process, known as ketosis, can be beneficial for weight loss.
A 2006 study that surveyed 447 people, showed that those who were on a low-carb diet for 6 months had a more impressive weight loss than those that followed a low-fat diet, based on random assignment. In other words, carb-cutting could be the key to success in your weight loss journey!
Your blood sugar levels will stay stable or go down over time if followed correctly.
Shedding pounds is not the only reward of embracing a low-carb lifestyle – it may also help in blood sugar control! Reducing your carbohydrate intake helps your body balance sugar levels, which stops sugar spikes and keeps your glucose levels in check.
A 2017 study in the JMIR Diabetes journal demonstrated that with a ketogenic approach, participants considerably decreased their insulin and oral medication intake, as well as hemoglobin A1c levels, all while following the program for a full year.
Another 2013 study in The British journal of nutrition indicated that a very low-carb diet could contribute to more weight loss in the long run than a low-fat diet. So why not make a switch and get the sweet taste of success?
You will feel more energetic throughout the day.
It’s said that a low-carb diet can give folks a boost in energy. This could be because the body is getting its fuel from fat sources instead of the fast-acting energy from carbohydrates.
Additionally, a low-carb diet can keep blood sugar levels steady, which can prevent the symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, and weakness that come with overdoing it on carbs.
You may experience reduced inflammation throughout your body.
Certain research has proposed that low-carb diets like Keto may be effective in lowering inflammation in the body especially if you consume anti-inflammatory foods.
A study from 2015 uncovered that β-hydroxybutyrate, which is a ketone body, may be able to fend off numerous inflammatory diseases by hindering the NLRP3 inflammasome.
You may also experience reduced carb cravings.
When you eat something with a lot of carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels soar, leading to a need for something sweet once those levels come back down. A low-carb diet could help you to regulate your glucose levels, and thus lower your sweet tooth cravings. Eating healthy fats can make you feel full and content, so you won’t be so tempted by sugary treats.
A study published in 2014 looked at the data from previous studies and found that people on a Keto-style diet with few carbs had a decrease in hunger and cravings. This means that if you switch to a low-carbohydrate diet like Keto, you could see a decrease in your sugar cravings!
Potential Cons of a Low Carb Diet.
It can be difficult at first to adjust to such a restrictive diet.
There’s no doubt that the advantages of a low-carb lifestyle are plentiful, however, it can be tricky for some to stay committed to this way of eating all year round.
Regaining some of the pounds you dropped while on the diet, and struggling to manage blood sugar levels due to flipping between high-carb and low-carb diets, are just a couple of the potential downsides.
You may experience “Keto Flu”
It’s not all smooth sailing with low-carb diets like Keto – they can bring on the “Keto flu”, an unfortunate collection of symptoms that can happen when the body is transitioning to a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle. These can range from mild discomfort to full-on grumpiness – headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and irritability.
However, Keto flu is usually a temporary condition that can last a week or so then the bumpy road will be smooth.
Low-carb diets may lead to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals
Jumping into a low-carb diet may leave you feeling a little deficient – not just in energy, but in terms of essential nutrients, too.
A 2019 research uncovered that during a ketogenic diet, people usually take in less of the beneficial minerals like magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium than suggested. It appears that low-carb diets may leave you with a scarcity of essential nutrients!
To solve the nutrient deficiencies, you should take supplements.
Is Low Carbs Healthy For Pregnant and Breastfeeding Mothers?
During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, it’s important to maintain a wholesome and nutrient-rich diet to ensure the health and development of both the mom and the infant.
A basic low-carb diet for starters may not supply enough energy and nutrients for the mom and child, and can also be missing out on key nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals which are absolutely essential during this period.
Moreover, research has indicated that a ketogenic diet can raise the possibility of birth defects and anxiety in mice as per studies conducted in 2013 and 2015.
Is Low-Carb a healthy diet in the long term?
A low-carb diet can be a good long-term choice for some people if done properly and taking into account individual needs, sustainability, and nutritional needs.
It has the potential to improve insulin sensitivity, help manage weight, boost cognitive function, and reduce the risk of heart disease. But just like any other diet, there are a few things to consider to ensure it is a viable and safe option for a person.
Individual needs: Not everyone will get the same benefits from a low-carb diet, and it may not be suitable for those with special health conditions or dietary requirements.
Before making any major dietary modifications, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.
Quality of food: A low-carb diet may still involve processed and unhealthy foods, which can have a negative effect on overall health. It’s important to pick high-quality, whole foods that are rich in nutrients and nourishing for optimal health benefits.
Nutrient adequacy: You may not get all essential nutrients on a low-carb diet such as fiber and minerals. This can cause serious health complications in the long term. Try to incorporate a balanced diet into your diet or opt for supplementation.
Is A Low-Carb Diet Right For You?
To follow a low-carb diet correctly, you’ll need to meal plan and track your intake carefully. There are a variety of different types of low-carb eating that you can try out, like Keto and paleo (which are both types of ketosis). Here are some tips on how to adopt this lifestyle:
Make sure to drink plenty of water on a low-carb diet
Dehydration can cause extreme fatigue and cravings and water is the best beverage you can ever take.
Avoid processed foods
These foods will spike your blood sugar levels quickly and cause health problems down the road.
Eat lean protein
Eat sources like grass-fed eggs or wild-caught fish instead of processed meats like bacon or sausage. These will help provide essential nutrients for muscle and tissue growth.
Remember not to overdo it. Just 3-6 ounces is enough.
Choose healthy fats
Healthy fats like avocado or extra virgin olive oil instead of unhealthy fat sources like fast food restaurants fries, processed meat and pizza. These healthy fats will help to regulate your blood sugar levels and provide essential vitamins and minerals as well as healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid grains completely
These foods contain high amounts of refined carbs that will spike your blood sugar levels quickly again once digested. Instead, focus on high-quality vegetables such as kale or broccoli as part of your balanced meal plan.
Lastly, be mindful of how much carbohydrate content each food has before consuming it – this way you won’t end up overloading on carbs which can lead to unwanted side effects such as weight gain or cravings.
In conclusion low-carb diets have gained popularity in recent years, but is low-carb a healthy diet? The answer we gave you was not a straight yes or no. Here’s why:
With the right plan and dedication, eating fewer carbs can be a great way to improve your overall health such as by lowering blood pressure, losing weight improving your metabolic health.
However there are also some risks associated with low-carb diets that you need to be aware of especially if you’re expectant or breastfeeding. It’s important to speak with your doctor before starting any new diet.