Counting net carbs
A low-carb diet can help you lose weight faster than other types of diets, and it may help you maintain your weight loss. It can also help you lower your triglycerides and raise your good cholesterol. However, you should choose healthy sources of fat and protein for the best results. Here's a list of 50 satisfying low-carb foods to get you started.
There are three main types of carbohydrates: starch, fiber, and sugar. When you see the total carbs listed on the nutrition label, it's referring to the total of all three types. The fiber in carbs passes through your system, leaving your feeling full and keeping your digestive tract healthy. Sugar alcohols are a type of sweetener that has about half the calories of regular sugar. They occur naturally in some fruits, but they can also be added to foods.
Net carbs are calculated by subtracting fiber and sugar alcohols from total carbs. This is done under the assumption that sugar alcohols and fiber are not metabolized or absorbed. This is not always the case, though, so you may prefer to count total carbs instead of net carbs.
Meat, poultry, and eggs
Meat, poultry, and eggs contain protein and other nutrients your body needs while having almost no carbs. Choose lean cuts of meat and follow portion sizes to make the healthiest choices. In addition to protein, meat, poultry, and eggs contain the following nutrients:
- Vitamin B12
- Essential fatty acids
Some of the best low-carb options include:
- Pork chops
Some tips for making meat, poultry, and eggs a healthy part of your low-carb diet include:
- Choose a lean cut, trim away fat, and remove the skin.
- Cook meat to the right temperature, including poultry to 165°F, eggs and ground meat to 160°F, and other meat to 145°F.
- Store raw meat in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
- Refrigerate leftover cooked meat within one hour.
Fish and seafood
In addition to being very low in carbs, fish is high in protein and low in fat. It contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that can lower your risk of heart disease and help your brain function optimally. Fish and seafood are also good sources of:
- Vitamins A, B, and D
Fish and seafood that are likely to be lowest in contaminants include:
- Canned light tuna
Women who are pregnant or nursing and small children should avoid the four types of fish that are likely to contain high levels of mercury:
- King mackerel
Most dairy products are low in carbs and can help you build and maintain strong bones. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are also good sources of the following nutrients:
- Vitamins A, B12, and D
When choosing dairy products, be sure you read the label to make sure they don't have any added sugars. Full-fat dairy products are usually the lowest in carbs, including:
- Whole milk
- Whole-milk yogurt
- Cheddar cheese
- Heavy cream
Vegetables can reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke. They're a great source of phytochemicals, which can help you stay healthy and fight disease.
- Folic acid
- Vitamins A, C, and E
If you're watching your carbs, you'll want to stick with nonstarchy vegetables like:
- Green beans
- Brussels sprouts
Like vegetables, fruits are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients that can help you fight disease and live healthier. Fruits have more carbs than vegetables, but they can still be a part of a healthy, low-carb diet. The following fruits have less than 15 grams of carbs per serving, and many are high in fiber, so their net carb count is even lower:
- Honeydew melon
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are low in carbs and powerhouses of nutrition. They're full of protein, fiber, and other nutrients like magnesium, folate, calcium, and vitamin E. Some healthy, low-carb nuts include:
- Brazil nuts
- Pine nuts
How many carbs should you eat?
There are several different types of low-carb diets, so the amount of carbs recommended by each one varies. The keto diet recommends getting 70% to 80% of your calories from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs. If you're eating 2,000 calories per day, you should eat about 100 calories from carbs. Since each gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories, that's about 25 grams of carbs per day.
Is a low-carb diet healthy?
A low-carb diet can be extremely effective for some people, but it's not for everyone. If you're following the keto diet, you burn fat instead of storing it, and the ketones you produce increase your metabolism. The keto diet can be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. A study of people with type 2 diabetes on the keto diet found that it reversed their diabetes after one year in 60% of cases.
The keto diet can also help people who have a body mass index (BMI) over 40. In addition to obesity and type 2 diabetes, the keto diet may be helpful for people with Alzheimer's disease, autism, and brain cancer.
But a low-carb diet is not for everyone. If you are thin, have an eating disorder, or have other metabolic issues, the keto diet may not be right for you. Children also shouldn't be put on a keto diet without their pediatrician's approval.
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Diabetes Association: "Get to Know Carbs," "Non-Starchy Vegetables."
Better Health Channel: "Meat and poultry."
Cleveland Clinic: "What Is the Keto Diet (and Should You Try It)?"
Harvard Health Publishing: "Is it time to stop skimming over full-fat dairy?" "Quick-start guide to nuts and seeds."
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Fish: Friend or Foe?" "Low-Carbohydrate Diets."
Michigan State University: "Low carb fruits – 15 grams or less per serving."
USDA MyPlate: "Dairy," "Vegetables."
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