How The Low Carb Lifestyle Can Improve Your Health
A low carb diet is essentially, what it says – it is a diet that greatly reduces intake of carbohydrates. This is not as easy as it sounds.
Carbohydrates are found in foods such as sugary snacks, bread, pasta, starches, fruit, and many processed foods. Typically, the strictest low carb diets limit intake to 20 grams of net carbs per day, at the very least less than 50 grams and the main source of these carbs should be non-starchy vegetables.
Although it may seem drastic, there is plenty of scientific research that shows low carb eating to be beneficial to your health, from weight loss, medical reasons, or a wish to simply eat better. Whatever your reason for starting the low carb lifestyle, there are several key health benefits that can be attributed to this kind of diet.
Low Carb Lifestyle and Weight Loss
With many diets, people often end up hungry and then snacking and fail to lose weight. They try to restrict their food intake too much and end up ‘falling off the wagon’. This is a very real issue for many people and the ultimate reason why they do not lose the weight they are trying so hard to shift.
In contrast, with the low carb lifestyle you do not get the hunger cravings or need to eat like you do with other diets. Research has shown that people who reduce the amount of carbohydrates they eat and replace these with additional protein and healthy fats will eat less and reduce their overall calorie consumption.
If you are trying to lose weight then this can be an effective method, as you actually want to eat less. When you are eating a low carb lifestyle, you lose weight in different ways.
For example, a lot of the body is made up of excess water and the low carb diet can help to get rid of some of this.
A low carb lifestyle leads to lower levels of insulin, which causes the kidneys to work more efficiently and by eliminating insulin triggers, most people lose weight and often very quickly.
Lower Levels of Visceral Fat
When we do lose weight from following this diet there is an important point to consider. Not all weight is the same, and visceral fat is the bad kind that sits around our organs and can cause serious health problems. Research has shown that a low carb diet can help to reduce levels of visceral fat specifically rather than the other type of fat, the subcutaneous type.
Stabilize Blood Sugars – Prevent and Manage Type 2 Diabetes
When a low carb diet is followed long term, there is a clear reduction in the chance of developing diabetes and other health issues.
Eating less carbs reduces the need for the body to produce insulin; insulin is used to break down all the sugars in carbohydrates and too much of this can lead to diabetes in later life.
By simply reducing the amount of carbohydrates (insulin trigger foods) that you are eating, you are reducing the production of insulin the in the body and reducing the body’s resistance to it. A low carb diet prevents erratic blood sugar spikes that may lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, research has shown that diabetes, both type 1 and type 2 can be better controlled with a low carbohydrate diet. Of course, anyone who is considering changes to their diet should consult their doctor. This is particularly the case if you are taking medication for your diabetes, as this may need to be adjusted too.
High Blood Pressure
Like diabetes, high blood pressure has been connected to many serious health disorders such as heart attacks and strokes. Ultimately, we should all aim to keep our blood pressure within the healthy range, but this can be hard with our lifestyles.
Research is therefore focused on finding ways everyone can realistically lower their blood pressure. The low carb diet can help to keep blood pressure where it should be and prevent it from getting too high.
The overall message is that a low carb diet can be beneficial in many ways and can help with certain health issues. However, there is always a risk when making drastic changes to your diet such as significantly reducing the amount of carbohydrates you consume. It is therefore best to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet; this is particularly the case if you have been diagnosed with any current health issue. Ask your doctor, a low carb lifestyle may really work for you.
The Health Benefits of Low Carb Besides Weight Loss
Low carb has been studied and it is well documented that their effectiveness is multi-faceted. Of course, the thousands of people who have lost a lot of weight and were able to keep it off makes a low carb eating plan something of an attractive proposition, especially since it is not your typical fad diet, but an actually lifestyle change.
Harvard completed a study that explored just how impressive the results of a low carb diet can be for weight loss, in comparison to a low fat diet that people tend to rely on for all of their weight loss needs. By now, most people are aware how excellent low carb diets can be for rapid weight loss, but do they offer any other health benefits?
Yes, they do, and that is what makes a low carbohydrate diet such an attractive option when deciding what path to follow.
Additional Health Benefits
The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition explains what other effects a low carb diet has on the human body. Medical professionals have been using it since the 20’s to help epilepsy sufferers reduce the symptoms, furthermore in some cases has rendered the use of medication unnecessary.
There have also been strides made in proving that a low carb diet can be use a therapeutic tool for a number of other conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, a number of strains of cancer, diabetes and even acne.
The point of the study was to determine whether the preconceived notions surrounding ketogenic diets have prevented doctors from relying on it as a therapeutic method.
The Mayo Clinic has also explored the other effects that are seen when on a low carb diet. While citing many of the same issues listed by the EJCN, the Mayo Clinic has added cholesterol levels and high blood pressure to our list.
There are variations on what is considered a low carb diet
Anything from 20 grams to 150 grams can be considered low carb. 150 grams will not kick start ketosis to burn fat stores that actually requires less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. Dr. Judith Wylie-Rosett led a study that makes mention of The American Diabetes Association belief that a low carbohydrate, low fat diet can be used to achieve improvement in both weight and metabolism, pointing to the Mediterranean diet as evidence.
The Mediterranean Diet
This is an interesting point, because it’s well documented that the residents of countries in the Mediterranean have higher life expectancies, and while they do eat carbs, their carb intake is much lower than it would be in the United States, or the United Kingdom.
The Mayo Clinic breaks down the Mediterranean diet which hinges on eating plant based foods, nuts whole grains, and legumes. Olive oils are used in place of butter, and herbs and spices replace salt. It is more common to eat white means and leave red meat to the odd occasion, and meals are spent with family and friends and consumed over a few hours.
WHO has a list of life expectancies for every country and the United States average is 79, while Greece is 81, Spain is 83, and so is Italy.
There are a number of low carb diets that you can follow; you can be as strict or as lenient as you wish. Whether you are looking to lose weight, maintain muscle, or reduce your risk of heart disease. In addition to the benefits listed above, a low carb diet can also serve as an appetite suppressant. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explored the reasons why, concluding that the high protein diet could be an explanation as to why.
Additionally, another similar study saw that participants on a diet that was high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates didn’t have the same food cravings as the participants did that were on a low calorie, low fat diet. This is because greatly reducing carbs and eliminating sugars, actually helps to regulate blood sugars so that the appetite is naturally suppressed eliminating those horrid out of control food cravings.
Low Carb Diets for Heart Health
Carbohydrates are foods, which contain similar ratios of the elements, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The group consists of gums, cellulose, sugars, and starches. They serve as the body’s primary fuel source when converted to glucose, a simple sugar used by the body as a quick source of energy.
Two Forms of Carbs
Carbohydrates come in two forms simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates or simple sugars occur in processed and refined foods. Sources of simple sugars include refined cane sugar (white table sugar), honey, fruit, dairy products, and vegetables.
Complex carbohydrates consist a series of linked simple carbohydrates and fiber. Starchy foods contain complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrate sources include whole grain products, pastas, rice, cereals, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, bread, and starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas, corn, and zucchini.
When considering which carbohydrates provide the greatest health benefits, complex carbohydrates give more nutritional benefits. They contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber lacking in simple carbohydrates. They also provide the body with slow and consistent fuel keeping insulin levels even and consistent.
Simple sugars cause insulin levels to spike which can lead to insulin resistance for some people if simple sugars are a primary carbohydrate source. Insulin resistance has been consistently linked to patterns of obesity and diabetes. While the body treats all sugar as fuel, the way it metabolize them greatly influences their long term effects on the body.
What Is a Low Carb Diet?
Low carb diets include a low level of mostly complex carbohydrates with most calories coming from protein and fat. Recently low carb diets have become increasingly more popular as people find them to be so effective for weight loss. In fact, restricting carbohydrates effectively supports weight loss according to a study described in the September issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. However, the quality of the carbohydrates consumed is equal in importance to monitoring the amount.
The fiber in complex carbohydrates plays a significant role in supporting heart health as well. Dietitians recommend consuming 60 to 130 grams of carbohydrates daily. Protein and fat sources for low carbohydrate diets need to be lean and healthy. Protein sources include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and some non-starchy vegetables. Healthy fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) sources include unrefined nut, seed and vegetable oils like sunflower seed oil, olive oil and coconut oil.
How Does a Low Carb Diet Support Heart Health?
For several decades, low carb and low fat diets received a great deal of endorsement and attention for supporting weight loss and overall health. It was also unclear which approach provides the most effective results for weight loss.
A recent study indicates a low carbohydrate diet works best for weight loss with the added benefit of decreasing risk factors for developing heart disease. Both diets allow people to lose weight effectively, however low carb diets appear to allow people do so with more success.
According to the randomized trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a small group of obese dieters divided into two groups, one following a low fat diet and the other a low carbohydrate diet, found the low carbohydrate group lost more weight during the yearlong study. They also showed greater decreases in body fat and triglycerides, risk factor for heart disease, and increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), good cholesterol.
While a low carbohydrate, diet supports short-term weight loss and heart health, other characteristics of a low carb diet may be more significant causal factors. The higher amounts of protein and fat allow dieters to feel full longer which may lead them to eat less in general. Low carb diets done well also provide fewer calories.
Carefully Planned Diet
Low-carb diets must be carefully planned to ensure enough carbohydrates are consumed. Consuming less than 20 grams of carbohydrates can cause uncomfortable symptoms including: