Diets that are low in carbohydrates are a very effective way to lose weight. Not only are low-carb diets healthy, they are good because they help your body to switch to fat burning mode. These diets follow a few simple rules like keeping carbohydrate intake low, protein intake moderate and fat intake high. Complement this with regular exercise to lose weight quickly.
Why is low-carb diet the best for weight loss?
Diets that involve cutting calories become ineffective after some time. Low-carb diets are better because you do not have to reduce the amount of food you eat, only the intake of carbohydrates is lowered. Reducing the consumption of carbohydrates helps in lowering the levels of insulin, a hormone that signals our bodies to store fat.
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Lower insulin levels help in effortless weight loss. According to certain studies, you can lose weight even if you increase your calorie intake. But for this, you consume fewer carbohydrates.
There are many other benefits of a low-carb diet. These diets help in lowering blood sugar, blood pressure and triglycerides. They help raise good cholesterol(HDL) and improve the pattern of bad cholesterol(LDL).
How many carbohydrates can you eat on a low-carb diet?
There are different types of low-carb diets. The consumption of carbs varies accordingly.
- Moderate low-carb diet: less than 130 grams of carbohydrates daily
- Low carb diet: 50 to 130 grams of carbohydrates daily
- Ketogenic diet: less than 50 grams daily
These are the general guidelines for the various kinds of low carb diets. The correct carbohydrate intake for each differs according to their age, gender, body composition, activity levels and their health.
Types of carbs
Not all carbohydrates are the same. We should differentiate between different types of carbs to follow a healthy diet plan. Good carbs are the ones that are unprocessed and contain fibre. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and potatoes are examples of good carbs.
Bad carbs are found in processed food, and they do not contain natural fibre. Soft drinks, packaged fruit juice, white bread, pasta and white rice are examples of bad carbs or refined carbs. Refined carbs lack nutritional elements, and this is the reason why they are called empty calories.
- Vegetables: All vegetables are high in good carbs.
- Fruits: Apple, bananas, pears, avocados.
- Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas.
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts.
- Seeds: Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds.
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice.
- Tubers: Potato, sweet potato.
- Sugary drinks and processed juices
- White bread
- Pastries, cookies and cakes
- Candies and chocolates
- French fries and chips
How do low-carb diets work?
Extreme low-carb diets send our body into ketosis. Ketosis means that our body starts burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. This increases the levels of ketones in our blood. Ketones are small carbon fragments that are created when the fat stores in the body break down, and glycogen is depleted from the body.
Our body can use ketones instead of glucose for its energy requirement.
It usually takes about a week of low carb diet (less than 50 grams of carbs) to reach ketosis. Ketosis has some side effects like constipation and dehydration. However, if you have nutrient dense food with plenty of water, it is quite safe and effective.
Eating a low-carb diet reduces insulin levels in the body. Too much insulin causes our body to store fat. You also tend to lose water weight initially when you follow a low carb diet. This weight loss happens because your kidneys release sodium and water in response to lower levels of insulin in the body. When we use glycogen in our muscles for energy, water is released.
Five common low-carb diet mistakes
Though low carb diets are an effective method to reduce weights, many of us make fundamental errors which make these diets ineffective for us.
Here are some common low-carb diet mistakes to avoid
1. Ignoring the nutritional value of carbs
Not all carbs are bad. There are many nutritious carbs like green vegetables, beans and fruits that we can eat in moderation. Some foods that contain healthy carbs and also rich in other nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre. So, do not eliminate carbohydrates from your diet altogether.
2. Overdoing fats
Cut back on trans fats and saturated fats. Instead go for polyunsaturated fats like salmon, walnuts, avocados, nuts and olive oil.
3. Not following portion control
If you do not follow portion size correctly, you can end up overeating. So keep specific measuring containers handy to follow proper portion control.
4. Not considering your activity levels
Your carb intake should depend on how much you exercise during the day. You may need more carbs if you exercise regularly. However, if you do not exercise every day, you can reduce your carb intake.
5. Overeating low-carb snacks
There are numerous so-called low carb snacks available in the markets these days. These, unfortunately, are highly processed and are high in sodium and trans fats. Avoid these and go for health whole carbs instead.
Tips to reduce carb intake in your diet
Many of us find it difficult to lower the carbohydrates in our diet. Adopting a new diet often takes time and patience. Follow these few tips to help you reduce your carb intake.
1. Be realistic
It usually takes weeks before you see the results of your new diet. The initial weight loss is often just the water weight. The progress slows down after that. So, be patient, and you will slowly and steadily see the results of your diet.
2. Cut back on unhealthy carbs first
Unhealthy carbs like processed foods, white bread, soft drinks, and desserts should be eliminated from the diet first.
3. Eat healthy carbs
If you have reduced carbs from your diet, choose the healthier carbs to be a part of your diet. Include whole grains, lentils, beans and vegetables in your diet.