You probably hear the most about low-carb eating for weight loss, but for some people, the approach could also help optimize their health, says Schmidt. “Research shows that women who are obese or have metabolic problems [may] do better hormonally on lower carbs,” says Schmidt, pointing out that other outcomes of the diet can include better sleep, mental clarity, and increased satiety. (1)
Another mineral you may want to supplement is potassium. While there is no concrete evidence that a dramatic potassium loss occurs on a low-carb regimen, Sondike says to ensure against problems he recommends patients use Morton's Light Salt -- a potassium chloride product that he says can add back any of this important mineral that's lost. Eating a few almonds is also a good way to supplement this mineral without adding carbs to your diet.
Research funded by an American company also found that some people with type 2 diabetes who followed a programme that included a low-carb eating plan were in remission after two years. Participants in the study were supported to restrict their intake of carbs, initially to less than 30g per day and then gradually increasing the amount, based on personal tolerance and health goals.
For the sake of keeping processed/synthetic ingredients out of your diet, focus on avoiding low-carb packaged foods — like most commercial protein bars or meal replacement shakes. These may provide fat and protein, and be low in sugar or carbs, but they’re still not beneficial overall if they contain things like processed protein powders, refined oils and artificial sweeteners.
However, there’s no evidence that following a low-carb diet is any more beneficial in managing diabetes than other approaches in the long term, including a healthy, balanced diet. Research suggests that the best type of diet is one that you can maintain in the long term, so it's important to talk to your healthcare professional about what you think will work for you. Another option is the Mediterranean diet, which is also linked to reducing the risk of heart diseases and stroke.
At the start, do not deny yourself fat. Eat enough so that you are satisfied and you do not feel hungry. That way you will soon become what is called “fat adapted” — burning fat for fuel efficiently. You will know that you are fat adapted when you do not need to eat every few hours and you no longer feel the highs and lows (“hangry” episodes) that can accompany a high carb diet.
Turns out, what’s low carbohydrate for one person isn’t for another. “There’s no medical definition of what low carb is,” says Columbus, Ohio–based Kelly Schmidt, RD. Basically, it’s reducing the number of carbs you eat from your norm. In general, however, a low-carb diet may include 50 to 100 grams (g) of carbohydrates per day, she says. Below that is considered a ketogenic diet, while 100 to 200 g of carbohydrates per day is a moderate-carb diet.
It’s really important to first reduce your carb intake from unhealthy sources such as sugary drinks, pizzas, cakes, biscuits, chips, white bread, fruit juices and smoothies. And it is a good idea to get your limited carbs from healthy high-fibre carb foods, such as pulses, nuts, vegetables, whole fruits and whole grains, as well as unsweetened milk and yoghurt.
Use our premium meal planner tool (free trial) to access tons of weekly meal plans, complete with shopping lists. You can adapt the diet plans to your liking, skipping any meal, choosing how many people you’re cooking for, and the shopping lists adapt. You can even start a new plan from scratch (of from pre-existing ones), tailor them completely and save them.
Low-carb diets may improve high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglyceride values slightly more than do moderate-carb diets. That may be due not only to how many carbs you eat but also to the quality of your other food choices. Lean protein (fish, poultry, legumes), healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and unprocessed carbs — such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products — are generally healthier choices.
In addition to keeping you adequately hydrated -- which can also help alleviate constipation -- drinking lots of water can also help offset still another low-carb diet problem: bad breath. The ketones produced during the diet can lead to what is sometimes described as a fruity odor although it is often described as having an almost "chemical" odor similar to acetone or nail polish remover.
As for if you’re dealing with health issues, you really have to defer to your doctor. For instance, if you have kidney disease, you also want to talk to your doctor about appropriate protein intake. If you have heart disease, you can still go low carb, but you may be better off opting for monounsaturated fats (avocados, nuts, and olive oil) over saturated fats (butter and red meat). Everyone’s cholesterol levels respond differently on a low-carb diet, so if yours are going up, switch to unsaturated sources of fats, Spritzler recommends. “In general, this is a diet most people can do. If you have a chronic condition, work with a doctor who understands low-carbohydrate diets to monitor you,” she adds.
The Mediterranean-style low carb diet approach, which we recommend in The Blood Sugar Diet, is a low sugar diet, low in starchy, easily digestible carbs, but packed full of disease-fighting vitamins and flavonoids. It is rich in olive oil, fish, nuts, fruit and vegetables, but also contains lots of lovely things that down the years we have been told not to eat, such as full fat yoghurt and eggs.
Fruit: While berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are fine in small to moderate amounts, be careful with other fruit. They are fairly high in carbs and sugar, which can raise blood sugar, may slow down weight loss and can possibly worsen metabolic issues. Consider it nature’s candy: fine for a special treat, but probably not something to consume daily on a low-carb diet. Learn more
Another option is to decrease the intake of carbohydrates slowly, over a few weeks, to minimize side effects. But the “Nike way” (Just Do It) may be the best choice for most people. Removing most sugar and starch often results in several pounds lost on the scale within a few days. This may be mostly fluids, but it can still be great for motivation.