Carbohydrates are the most common and preferred source of energy for most of us since childhood, which makes up the “go” or “energy-giving” foods in the food chart.
However, when a person ages, the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates slows down, which can be deposited as fats, possibly causing overweight and obesity. In addition, chronic diseases may also develop because of increased carbohydrate intake, such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.
A low carb diet is a recommended diet for those who want to lose weight and those who want to regulate their blood pressure and blood sugar levels to stay healthy and fit.
So what are the benefits of going into a low carb diet?
In this article, you’ll become more aware of the health benefits of trying a low-carb diet to draw motivation and achieve your health and fitness goals.
What Is a Low Carb Diet?
A low carb diet may range from zero to 150 grams of carbohydrates per day. And there are different types of low carb diets depending on the goal you want to achieve. While some people take a low carb diet to maintain weight, others want to lose weight, treat disease, or to follow healthy diets and eating practices of ancestors.
According to a study, dietary guidelines may consider a low carbohydrate diet as safe and effective for weight management among overweight and obese individuals who have consumed equal or less than120 grams of carbohydrates per day.
How Does It Work?
Low-carb diets trigger a greater breakdown of body fats of lipolysis—the body shifts from burning carbohydrates to burning fat, making it as its primary fuel source. A low carbohydrate diet forces the body to utilize fat reserves to convert them into energy, translating into better health and a slimmer waistline.
Health Benefits of a Low Carb Diet
1. Improved Cardiovascular
Health Like Paleo, a low-carb diet helps improve blood pressure, cholesterol or triglycerides, and overall cardiovascular health. You don’t have to necessarily avoid saturated fats because fats don’t have an impact on blood levels. The real culprits are carbohydrates, which lead to overweight or obesity leading to insulin resistance and thereby increasing saturated fats in the blood. In short, cutting off the carbs can get you back on track in your body weight, and your blood levels will follow.
It’s perfectly healthy for any individual to follow a low carb diet, provided that the diet includes a variety of nutritious, unprocessed, and whole foods. Low-carb diets can be excellent for cardiovascular health because they may help increase the levels of good cholesterol and decrease triglyceride levels and blood pressure. Well-planned low carb diets include fruits, vegetables, beans, and small portions of whole grains, like oats and quinoa.
2. Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
Good eating habits and proper diet are the key ingredients to help regulate blood glucose levels. Low carb diets, like the Atkins diet, help burn off your body’s fat stores, regulate your blood glucose, and help you achieve optimal health without you feeling deprived or hungry. Once you have achieved your weight goal, a low carb diet can help you determine your personal carbohydrate tolerance each day without losing or gaining weight. With the right weight management, insulin resistance is prevented, thereby regulating your blood glucose levels.
3. Promote Good Kidney Function
The kidneys produce urine as it filters the blood to remove excess acids and fluids, draining it via the urinary bladder 24 hours a day. Your kidneys also help in regulating blood pressure and balancing the fluids and electrolyte levels in your body. Also, the kidneys develop hormones that help keep the bones and blood healthy.
In short, nobody can survive without good functioning kidneys. That’s why the kidneys need proper support through a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet. However, when there is too much blood sugar, in the case of diabetes, the blood proteins and their receptors tend to have abnormal changes. It can lead to the injury of the kidneys’ filtering system. Progressive kidney damage may result because of tissue injury.
Too much pressure in the blood or hypertension may cause scarring and damages the kidneys, which may cause chronic kidney failure. That’s why the best way to prevent kidney problems is to prevent or treat diabetes and hypertension. These medical conditions can be greatly improved with a low carb diet.
In a 2019 Vira Health study, patients with type 2 diabetes who followed a ketogenic diet showed improved blood sugar control, reducing blood glucose to much safer levels. Patients on the ketogenic diet had significant improvements in body weight, blood pressure, and other metabolic syndrome markers. The majority of the patients were able to discontinue taking oral anti-diabetic medications and also reduce injectable insulin. Because of controlled blood sugar levels and blood pressure, long-term kidney damage can be slowed or prevented.
4. Promote Brain and Mental Health
In medicine, a ketogenic diet is used in treating epilepsy among children and even in adults. It’s a treatment option for epileptic patients with uncontrolled seizures, helping reduce the severity or number of seizure attacks.
A low carb diet is believed to alter the genes involved in the brain’s energy metabolism, helping in stabilizing the neurons or nerve cells among people who have epilepsy.
Here’s how low carb diet help protects the brain and mental health:
- Reduce Brain Inflammation: Low carb diets can help reduce inflammation markers. A high-sugar diet can trigger the release of cytokines (secreted by immune cells) that recruits inflammatory cells on the brain, causing inflammation or regulates immunity.
- Boost Antioxidant Defenses: Unnecessary oxidative damage may also result from excessive sugar in the blood causing free radicals even to break the nervous system’s blood-brain barrier or BBB. With low carb diets, they help improve internal antioxidant capacity protecting your nerve cells.
- Regulate Neurotransmitters: Keto diet has been shown to help improve mental health. It helps regulate neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, melatonin, glutamate, and GABA, which have something to do with the prevention or development of psychiatric disorders.
5. Low Carb Diets Reduces Appetite
One of the effects of dieting is hunger, wherein it’s also the cause of giving up. Because more proteins and fats replace carbohydrates, a low carb diet reduces appetite automatically. There are foods with low carbs but can satisfy hunger and prolong the time before feeling hungry again.
Check out these few examples of foods that can help curb your appetite:
- Eggs: When you eat eggs, which is a protein-rich food, at breakfast, you feel more satisfied. Also, eggs have fewer calories when compared to a common carbohydrate meal, such as a bagel.
- Dairy Products: Low and non-fat dairy products are recommended, such as skim milk, non-fat yogurt, and low-fat cottage cheese.
- Whole Grains: Some examples are popcorn, quinoa, barley, bran, and oats.
- Poultry and Lean Meats: Meats are heavy on the stomach and high in protein with low carbs. Cut on calories by choosing boneless and skinless chicken breast, the eye of round steak, turkey breast, and pork tenderloin.
- Fish and Seafood: They are rich in omega fatty acids, like omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart. Cod is one good example of white fish is cod, which is low in calories and high in protein. While scallops are low in calories, skip high-calorie sauces. You can enjoy scallops grilled, boiled, or steamed.
- Fruits and Vegetables: They are rich in vitamins and minerals. Choose berries with less glycemic index and less starchy vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower. The perfect examples of low-calorie vegetables include watercress, Chinese cabbage, radish, celery, spinach, kale, mushroom, and bell pepper. Low-calorie fruits include watermelon, cantaloupe, grapefruit, strawberries, blueberries, and kiwifruit.
- Legumes: Lentils and black beans are inexpensive and versatile protein sources. Lentils are very easy to prepare. Aside from iron, potassium, folate, manganese, and iron, legumes are rich in fiber, keeping you feel full.
6. Reduces Stubborn Abdominal Fats
Not all body fats are the same. There are two types of fats, including visceral fat and subcutaneous fat (under the skin).
Visceral fat accumulates in the internal organs, including the abdominal cavity, which is obviously seen in overweight individuals. Excess visceral fat may cause insulin resistance, causing metabolic dysfunction. Low-carb diets, like the ketogenic diet, help reduce harmful abdominal fat.
7. Help Lose and Manage Weight
You can lose weight, restricting the number of calories you consume and increasing your physical activity levels. Reducing calorie intake by 500 to 750 calories a day can help you lose about 1 to 1.5 pounds or 0.5 to 0.7 kilogram weekly.
With extra fats and protein, you feel full longer, helping reducing eating frequency. Low-carb diets only provide short-term weight loss. That’s why it’s important to also exercise and sleep on time to avoid nighttime eating to maximize its weight loss benefits.
8. Improve Quality of Life
If your weight is managed, you feel more inspired to live a healthy lifestyle. Losing weight with the help of low carb diets can kickstart your workout and set your fitness goals. Less sugary food intake keeps you energized without the heavy and sleepy feeling after eating, making you more productive and improving your quality of life.
Types of Low Carb Diet
A Typical Low-Carbohydrate Diet
It’s a carb-restricted diet wherein the eating pattern is lower in carbohydrates than a regular diet. Also, this low carb diet is higher in protein, emphasizing eating more fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, nuts, eggs, and healthy fats. High-carbohydrate foods are restricted, including sugary drinks, like soda, junk foods, potatoes, and grains.
Here’s a common guide when it comes to choosing your recommended carb intake per day depending on your preferences and goals:
- 100 to 150 Grams: It is recommended for weight maintenance and those who perform regular high-intensity exercise. Fruits and some starchy foods are allowed, such as potatoes.
- 50 to 100 Grams: This carbohydrate range is suitable for weight maintenance or slow and steady weight loss. Fruits and vegetables are allowed.
- Under 50 Grams: If you want fast weight loss, limiting your carb intake to less than 50 grams is advised. Limit fruit consumption to berries because they have a low glycemic index (GI). You may consume plenty of vegetables.
Ketogenic or Keto Diet
A keto diet refers to a very low carb, adequate-protein, and high-fat diet. When you eat fewer carbohydrates, replacing it with fat results in the burning of fats or a state of “ketosis.” A keto diet involves eating high-protein and high-fat foods. Carbohydrates are restricted to fewer than 50 grams per day. Some people limit their carb intake to 20 to 30 grams daily.
A Paleo diet is more of an approach or eating practice that fits perfectly with any low-carb diet, like keto. It is because the Paleo diet is inherently high in healthy fats, lean proteins, and abundant vegetables. And because grains are naturally eliminated on this low carb diet, it quickly reduces the body’s total carbohydrate intake. It involves replacing starchy grains that are nutritionally poor with nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, thus promoting superior weight loss and better overall health.
This low carb diet has several phases, gaining increasing popularity because of its promising weight benefits. This low-carbohydrate eating plan was developed by Robert C. Atkins, a cardiologist in the 1960s, emphasizing a higher intake of fats and protein and restricting carbohydrates.
The Atkins Diet doesn’t involve portion control or calorie counting but would require tracking carbs using net carbs. It’s a system used in tracking total carbohydrates in the food you eat less the fiber content. For instance, 8 ounces or a cup of raw broccoli has total carbohydrates of 4.6 grams and 2.6 grams of fiber, giving a net carb value at 2 grams.
Low-Carb High-Fat or LCHF Diet
The LCHF diet is a relatively standard low-carb diet with a greater emphasis on eating whole, unprocessed foods. It’s a very low carb diet, which allows 20 to 100 grams of carbohydrates per day. The recommended foods under the LCFH diet include meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, shellfish, dairy products, healthy fats, berries, and nuts.
Low carb diets bring tons of health benefits. It helps manage weight to avoid an increased risk of developing or worsening diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic medical conditions. Also, a low carb diet helps reduce your appetite, decrease stubborn fats, and promote nervous system health. Practicing a low carb diet can help improve your quality of life and overall health.