Going on a low carb diet is something almost everyone has either tried, considered, or heard about. 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 healthier and help you eliminate the most harmful carbs from your plate: refined (processed) grains, all added and refined sugars, fast food, and junk food. Most also limit how many starchy foods they eat and mostly avoid foods like potatoes or corn.
Here’s how lowering your carbohydrate intake can help you achieve your health and weight goals and whether you should give it a try.
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Why Try a Low Carb Diet
There are many reasons why one might adopt a low carb diet. I have actually lived on a low carb diet for the last 10 years. In that time, it has 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).
- 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, winter squash, and pumpkin.
- 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 (yes, it’s 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 can help you learn to crave healthier foods and realize just how much better your body feels on real food versus sugar and flour any day. You’ll also find your blood sugar levels are more stable, and your overall focus at work may improve.
How a Low Carb Diet Can Help You Achieve Better Health and Lose Weight
Lower Blood Sugar
A low carb diet can reduce the amount of sugar in your bloodstream, because carbs break down into simple sugars, which turns into blood glucose for your metabolism. Less carbs means less sugars, which is more beneficial for your heart health and waistline.
Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
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 can also reduce 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 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.
Setting Yourself up for Success on a Low Carb Diet
When you decide to start a low carb diet, it’s important to remember that you should cut carbs over a span of at least a few days. If you cut carbs back too much (from produce, especially), you may experience side effects that mimic flu-like symptoms, which will immediately turn you off to your new diet. It’s better to take things slow and work on cutting out the added sugars, refined grains, and all processed food and fast food before you go worrying about the carbs in berries and vegetables.
When you’re not eating many carbs, it’s important to consider where your calories are coming from. You’ll naturally be eating more protein and fats, so it’s important not to go overboard on either as this can also lead to weight gain and poor health over time.
From the moment you start, make sure you’re getting enough water. 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.
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 carbohydrate 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, try to eat moderate portions (1/4 – 1/3 cup) once a day instead of relying on them at all of your meals.
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!).
The Bottom Line
When you decide to take the leap and get started, 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. Soon, you’ll feel healthier, lighter, and more energetic.
More Tips for a Low Carb Diet
- 10 Quick Low-Carb Breakfasts To Start Your Day
- 10 Awesome, Filling, and Quick Low Carb Snacks
- 6 Tips to Help You Lower Your Carb Intake (lifehack.org)
Featured photo credit: Brooke Lark via unsplash.com
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