Going on a low carb diet is something almost everyone has either tried, considered, or heard about at some point. However, low carb diets may mean many different things to different people. The old style low carb dieting meant you ate butter and bacon all day. Most of us know that’s not the quickest ticket to good health, despite that the well-known approach might help you drop weight in the short term.
Thankfully, low carb diets have meant something much different these days. Low carb diets are now usually much more healthy for you and help you eliminate the most harmful carbs from your plate: refined (processed) grains, all added sugars and refined sugars, fast food, and junk food. Most also limit how much starch you have from foods like potatoes and sugars from fruit.
Image Source: The Soulful Spoon
Well, there are many reasons why one might adopt a low carb diet. I have actually lived on a technically low carb diet for the last 10 years. At that time, it helped me overcome two serious medical conditions: chronic acne and food addiction. Here’s my experience with a low carb diet:
- I don’t count grams per day like some diet advice suggests.
- I don’t eat bacon and butter (or even meat), if you’re wondering.
- I eat well-balanced meals rich in clean protein, ample amounts of greens, and any veggies I want.
- I always include some healthy fats in my day.
- I enjoy produce sources of carbs like berries, green apples, sweet potatoes on occasion, winter squash, pumpkin, and any kind of vegetable I want.
- Fermented foods are also a daily part of my routine for optimal gut health and mood function.
- I eat most of my fermented foods in the forms of kimchi, sauerkraut, plain (non-fat) Greek yogurt, coconut kefir, and 100% dark chocolate (which, yes, is a probiotic-rich food!).
What about whole grains and nuts? Generally, I even eat whole, gluten-free grains such as oats and wild rice if my body tells me it desires or needs them. This style of eating has helped me learn to crave healthier foods and realize just how much better my body feels on real food versus sugar and flour any day. I also find my blood sugar levels are better and my overall focus at work is tenfold what it used to be.
Besides what I eat, though, what could someone else gain from a low carb diet? Can’t these diets be dangerous? These are things you might be wondering, and with good reason.
Here is why a (responsible) low carb diet can help you lose weight and improve your health:
- It can reduce the amount of sugar in your bloodstream, which is more beneficial for your blood sugar and heart health.
- Eating a heart-healthy diet rich in produce, lean sources of protein, and heart-healthy sources of fats (in moderation) can prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
- It reduces insulin swings throughout the day due to better blood sugar levels — but don’t cut carbs too much or you may feel lightheaded and dizzy.
- It allows for individuals to see how carbs affect them more closely, which can help them tap into their hunger needs more than just giving into sugar and junk food cravings.
- It can help you drop weight either temporarily, through water weight when glycogen levels are depleted due to a reduction of carbs, or long-term, when the body starts to burn its own fat as fuel.
Here are some other things you should know about low carb diets:
- If you cut carbs back too much (from produce, especially), you may get sick and even feel like you have the flu. It’s better to take things slow and work on cutting out the added sugars, refined grains, and all processed and fast food before you go worrying about the carbs in berries and vegetables. Seriously, take it slow and focus on whole foods first.
- These diets can cause tendencies for disordered thoughts around food if taken too far. Once again, balance is key here.
- It is easy to consume too much fat, which even though is beneficial in small amounts throughout the day, is not always beneficial for everyone in large amounts and can lead to weight gain over time. This is especially true when talking about saturated sources in excess of what your body can process.
- You may have increased levels of thirst as your body begins to eliminate sodium and water via the kidneys. Drinking enough water as the body adjusts is essential.
- A low carb diet can be hard to stick to if you cut back too much on carbs. Once again, whole foods are carbs you should not be eliminating in the beginning unless you have a doctor’s orders.
How to set yourself up for a successful low carb diet:
Image Source: Amy Selleck/Flickr
Focus on produce, lean protein, and small amounts of healthy fats at each meal. Even if you’re vegetarian or vegan, this is simple enough to do. What about whole grains, you may be asking? Moderate-style low carb diets can include small amounts of whole grains throughout the day if your body tolerates them well. Some whole grains (especially steel-cut or rolled oats, wild rice, and quinoa) all have many health benefits that you can take advantage of if your body tolerates them. They are also excellent for lowering blood pressure levels and are rich in heart-healthy magnesium, potassium, and are good sources of iron. However, don’t overdo it on them and eat moderate portions (1/4 – 1/3 cup) once a day instead of relying on them at all your meals.
Lean protein and produce are your friends for weight loss and lean muscle mass, but you still need some healthy fats and whole food sources of carbs to thrive long-term. Just be careful not to eat lots of carbs and fat in one meal if you’re trying to lose weight. The body relies on either fat or carbs for fuel, but it can’t use both. If you’re trying to gain weight, however, here are some safe ways you can do that in a slow and steady manner.
Supplement tips and recipes to try on a low carb diet:
Image Source: Cotter Crunch
Finally, please don’t rely on diet bars, processed low-carb shakes, and pricey supplements. Get yourself a good multivitamin from a quality brand, a Vitamin D3 supplement, and a probiotic to support your gut health. Take these daily, and if you have issues with constipation or irregularity, eat more vegetables and add some chia or flax seeds to your routine (which you should be eating anyway since they’re great sources of fats and fiber!).
Here are some recipes you may enjoy on a low carb diet:
1. Steamed Turmeric Salmon With Lemon Peppered Veggies
2. Power Asian Crab and Avocado Spiralized Cucumber Power Salad
3. Grain-Free Lemon Coconut Breakfast Porridge
4. 2-Minute Low Carb English Muffin
5. Veggies in the Raw Bistro Bowl
Also, you may enjoy these 20 Low-Carb Recipes to Make You Healthier for even more ideas.
Optimize real foods, kick the sugar and refined foods, and you’ll be on your way to a naturally healthy, low carb diet in no time — without deprivation!
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