Low carb diets come in many different forms and vary greatly in how many and which carbohydrates are allowed. Many people find they are able to successfully lose weight quickly following a low carb diet, but it is important to understand the different types of low carb diets and your lifestyle when considering a low carb diet.
Low carb diet is a broad term used to cover lots of different diets as well as popular weight loss programs including Atkins, Ketogenic Diet, South Beach, the Zone Diet, Protein Power, Sugar Busters, Dukan Diet, and more. It is also sometimes known as a reduced carb diet or a low glycemic diet. While each specific low carb diet may be slightly different in the number of carbs they allow, in general low carb diets look to reduce (not eliminate completely) the number of carbohydrates consumed daily and eliminate foods that raise blood sugar.
Low carb diets can very greatly in the number of allowed carbs, however there are generally three types of low carb diets.
- Overall Reduced Carb Diets: Generally when we talk about reducing overall carbs in your diet by eliminating specific carb heavy foods, we are talking about a reduced carb diet. People following this type of diet may not be eliminating all carbs but are trying to reduce their overall carb intake based on their goals and preferences. One example of this would be someone who eliminates all white flour and white sugar. Another example could be someone who eliminates all grains, beans, and sugar but continues to eat many fruits and vegetables. A third example could be someone on a Paleo diet. (link to Paleo)
- Gradual Low Carb Diets: Many of today's popular low carb diets promote a gradual approach to carbohydrates. Normally at the beginning of these diets, carbohydrates are extremely limited. Then as the dieter progresses, certain carbs are added back to the diet. This continues until the dieter experiences an unwanted result – weight gain, lack of energy, cravings, etc. At this point, the dieter returns to their previous level of carb intake so they can continue to reap the positive effects. Some diets that follow this model are South Beach, the Zone Diet, Dr. Dukan Diet, and Atkins.
- Ketogenic Diets: Ketogenic diets are diets that eliminate almost all carbohydrates and strive to have the body in ketosis where it burns fat for fuel. This can speed up weight loss in many people and is being used to treat some ailments. On most ketogenic diets, carbs are limited to less than 60 grams daily and almost all fruit, grains, legumes, sugars, and processed foods are eliminated. It is extremely important to consult a physician before this type of diet since it very restrictive.
Pros and Cons of a Low Carb Diet
Low carb diets have been known to help people lose weight, and many times lose weight quickly. However they can be difficult to follow and there are many differing opinions about how healthy it is to follow a low carb diet. Here are some common pros and cons of a low carb diet to consider.
One important note about low carb diets. Since low carb diets can vary greatly, it is important to consider the pros and cons of the specific approach you are choosing.
- Many people experience rapid and steady weight loss
- Processed foods and sugars are eliminated from your diet
- Most people on low carb diets do not count calories
- Many people say they feel full longer and experience less cravings
- There are many different types of lower carb diets to choose from
- Many people find themselves eating less processed foods when they are reducing carbs by eliminating sugar and processed grains
- Many people consume higher levels of saturated fats and cholesterol when on a low carb diet
- Healthy whole grains and legumes are usually eliminated from your diet
- Fruit and vegetable intake may be limited depending on your low carb diet choice
- It can be difficult to follow since food choices are highly restrictive
- Low carb diet program can be very expensive
- Grocery bills may increase due to purchasing more proteins
- Some health professionals believe eating less than 100 carbs daily has negative health consequences including kidney problems, osteoporosis, bad breath, and higher cholesterol.
How Does it Work?
Since there are so many different low carb diets, it is difficult to explain exactly how a low carb diet works and will depend upon the approach or diet you choose. However these general guidelines will help you begin to eliminate or reduce carbs in your diet.
Use the guidelines below to help you get started on your low carb diet.
Explore Low Carb Diet Options
Since there are so many different low carb diets out there, begin by exploring the different diet types and decide what works best for you, your goals, your family, and your lifestyle. Look for a plan that you can see working long term and that you can stick to.
Choose a Low Carb Diet
Next choose the diet that you believe will work best for you. This may be a specific weight loss program like South Beach or may be a more general approach of eliminating all white flour or all processed carbs.
Make a List
Make a list of the foods that you can’t eat on the plan you chose. Understanding what foods are allowed and not allowed on your diet will be extremely helpful. For example on most low carb plans virtually all vegetables except for potatoes, carrots, corn, starchy squash, beets, and peas are allowed.
Plan Your Meals
Since eating low carb can take some getting used to, it is best to plan out your meals for the entire week when you are just starting. This will help you stay on track.
Our low carb meal plans are a great resource if you are new to low carb.