Low carbohydrate diets are regimes that restrict carbohydrate intake in order to achieve weight loss. The best known low carb diet plans include the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet. These diets can be very successful and have certainly helped a lot of people to lose weight.
What Foods Are Eaten On Low Carbohydrate Diets?
Most low carb diets will start off with a 2 week induction phase where carbohydrates are cut down to around 20g net carbohydrate per day. Most foods contain some carbohydrate, so this means either counting carbs using an online diet journal at a site like Fitday.com, or following rules about how much of each food group you can eat.
For example the induction phase of the Atkins diet allows unlimited meat, fish, eggs, butter and vegetable oils; 2 cups of salad veggies and 1 cup of other vegetables per day (excluding starchy vegetables); and a maximum 4 oz of cheese. Heavy cream is also allowed, but limited.
Milk, nuts, beans, fruit, alcohol, potatoes, bread, grains, pasta, corn etc are all banned during those first two weeks. Milk, nuts, beans and most fruit, plus some alcoholic drinks, are added back in limited quantities in phase 2. Whole grains and their products such as whole grain bread, along with corn and potatoes, are allowed when you are close to your goal weight.
Most low carb diets recommend that you never again eat large quantities of foods that contain refined flour and sugar. Even when you reach your goal weight, if you go back to old eating habits, you will gain weight again.
What Else Is In The Low Carbohydrate Diets Plan?
At the same time that you follow the eating plan, you must drink at least 8 x 12 oz glasses of water spread through the day, do a little exercise every day and take a good multi vitamin and mineral supplement. These points are just as important as the food rules, and they apply to all phases of the low carbohydrate diets.
Are There Any Risks?
There have still not been enough studies to be sure about risks. Low carb diets go against the ‘received wisdom’ that says that we should eat less fat to lose weight. On low carbohydrate diets you can eat more fat, but still lose weight.
Opponents of the low carbohydrate diet point to research that shows that a higher intake of red meat and saturated fats can lead to increased risk of heart disease. You should speak to your medical adviser before starting a low carb diet plan, to check whether this might be a risk for you.
Supporters of the low carbohydrate diets plan refer to other studies which show cholesterol levels dropping on low carb diets. They point out that the people who were studied in that type of research were almost never on low carb diets. They were eating large amounts of red meat and saturated fats, plus large amounts of carbohydrates.
So it could be the combination of high fat and high carbohydrate that is unhealthy. This seems to make a lot of sense, and if it is true it would mean that low carbohydrate diets plans can be healthy as well as being effective for weight loss.
Visit our weight control page to determine your ideal weight with our online calculator and to learn about the risks of being overweight.
The No Carb Diet And How It Works
The no carb diet was first described by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a Canadian-born explorer who lived for some time with the Inuit people. During that time he followed their diet of 90% meat and fish, including fats. At some times of year it was virtually 100%. He found he was healthy on the Inuit diet.
Stefansson’s parents were both from Iceland, so critics have suggested that he might have some genetic links to Inuit people or at least be genetically predisposed to thrive on the kind of high meat and fish diet that can be necessary in cold climates. However, other Western explorers went with him and also seemed to thrive on the diet when tested.
What Actually Is The No Carb Diet?
The no carb diet is basically an extremely low carb diet. It does include some vegetables. Of course, different people interpret it in different ways.
The No Carb DietSome people consider that a diet is ‘no carb’ if it does not include foods that are in the carbohydrate section of the food pyramid. But this would still allow many foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as bananas and potatoes. So to call this a no carb diet seems a little bizarre.
More commonly, the term no carb diet is used to describe a fairly extreme version of the low carb diet popularized by Dr Robert Atkins and others.
Following this kind of no carb diet, a person would eat unlimited quantities of meat, fish, eggs and butter. Cheese would be limited and other dairy products would not be allowed. Vegetable oils might be allowed, since they contain no carbohydrates.
It is important to remember that some vegetables are included too, but only those that are lowest in carbohydrate content. Generally that means green leafy vegetables. Others, such as onions and broccoli, are higher in carbs.
What To Keep In Mind When Following The No Carb Diet
Anybody wanting to follow this type of diet needs to keep certain things in mind. First, the Inuit that Stefansson lived with were eating wild, organically raised meat and fish. Chemical farming had hardly begun in the early 20th century, and certainly had not reached the polar regions. So you might need to try to find wild, organically raised meats today, such as organic grass fed beef. This comes expensive if it is the major part of your diet.
If instead you eat regular non-organic meat from the supermarket, you are likely to miss out on some nutrients while taking in hormones and chemicals that might make it harder for your body to survive on this type of diet. So if you want to do this, be prepared for the cost.
Second, the medical evidence for no carb diets is inconclusive. Some studies have found that cholesterol and fatty deposits in the arteries are actually reduced on this diet. Others have found that the heart has less energy and may be weakened by it.
It is important to be sure not to eat too much protein, because this is bad for the kidneys. A high proportion of daily calories should come from fat on the no carb diet. A low fat version would be dangerous.
At the same time it is vital to drink plenty of water. The rule is 8 x 12 oz glasses (or, of course, 12 x 8 oz glasses). Again there is a risk of kidney damage if there is not enough water flowing through the system.
The no carb diet is certainly interesting to read about. However, it is hard to assimilate into our everyday lives. Most people therefore prefer something like the Atkins diet or South Beach, which are both a little less extreme than the no carb diet.
Planning Your Low Carb Meals
Planning your low carb meals is surprisingly easy, once you get accustomed to the diet. You can make many delicious recipes. Over the last decades, low carbohydrate diets have become so popular that there are plenty of cookbooks. You can also find recipes online.
Many people find that they can easily adapt their favorite recipes to make low carb meals. This means that your meals really do not have to change very much. You can probably still cook and eat most of your family’s favorite foods. You just have to make sure that the high carbohydrate foods are separate, so that you can leave those for the rest of the family while you have a little more of the main dish.
One of the best things about low carbing is that you can eat with family and friends without needing special foods. It is also perfect for restaurant dining. Restaurants always have plenty of choices and you can just ask them to hold the fries or rice.
Planning Low Carb Meals At Home
Low Carb MealsWhen you are planning low carb meals at home, remember to include salad. In fact, if you are used to having two courses of main dish and dessert, you may want to switch to salad and main dish. This will make sure that you eat enough vegetables as well as avoiding overeating sweet tasting foods.
Most people will want to have three meals a day and maybe one or two snacks. You should not skip meals because you need to keep your metabolism active. That is why Dr Atkins recommends never going more than 6 waking hours without eating.
For breakfast, you have a lot a choice. You can have traditional breakfast foods like bacon and eggs, sausage, omelet. Or you can have anything else that you want from your plan. You may find that you enjoy a chicken salad first thing in the morning, or fish with a creamy sauce.
If you need to eat and run, you could make a crustless quiche one evening and grab a big slice from the refrigerator each morning. Be adventurous, and you will find it much easier to keep to the low carb diet for the long term.
Remember, low carb meals keep you satisfied longer. This is because of their higher fat content. Do not try to cut down on fat in your meals. It is not necessary and it will not help you lose weight.
Low Carb Meals: Some Control Tips
In fact, trying to control your fat intake is a big mistake on a low carb diet and could cause you to go off plan very fast. So try to get used to the idea that those unlimited foods really are unlimited, and allow yourself plenty of them.
One of the big benefits of eating low carb meals is that you do not have the blood sugar swings and insulin spikes that eating a lot of carbohydrates brings. This means that you will probably have more energy and those mid afternoon blues will soon be a distant memory. So if you plan your low carb meals correctly, you will not need snacks.