what is considered low carb
In a low-carb diet, you restrict calories from carbs to about 80-240 per day, meaning you limit carb intake to 20-57 grams per day

In a low-carb diet, you restrict calories from carbs to about 80-240 per day. This means you limit your carb intake to 0.7-2 ounces (20-57 grams). Different levels of carb diets are as follows:

  • Very low-carbohydrate diet (less than 10%) or less than 20 to 50 grams per day
  • Low-carbohydrate diet (less than 26%) or less than 130 grams per day
  • Moderate-carbohydrate diet (26%-44%) per day
  • High-carbohydrate diet (45%) per day

Low-carb diets prioritize the glycemic load of foods over carb count, restricting the amount of carbs consumed while emphasizing protein and fat intake. Foods such as the following are an important part of a low-carb diet: 

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Lean meat
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Fish
  • Healthy fats
  • Dairy products
  • Whole grains

What is the daily recommended amount of carbs?

According to the American Dietary Guidelines, carbohydrates should make up 45%-65% of your total daily calories. For an average person with a normal weight for their height who consumes about 2,000 calories daily, this means that carbs account for about 900-1,300 daily calories. 

Scientific research has shown that low-carb diets have some major health benefits, but they may not be the healthiest choice for everyone. People with hormonal disorders or those who take medications for diabetes may suffer from dangerously low sugar levels if they aren’t eating enough carbs. 

That’s why it’s important to consult your doctor before starting a low-carb diet. Some dietitians prefer a patterned diet wherein they restrict low carbs almost completely during the initial dieting phase and then gradually increase carb content over time.

4 types of low-carb diets

  1. Keto diet: The keto diet is likely the most extreme in terms of carbohydrate restriction because the goal is to push your body into ketosis and replace carbs with fat for body fuel. Most people cannot consume more than 15 grams of carbohydrates a day while in ketosis.
  2. Atkins diet: Depending on your diet goals, there are three versions of the Atkins diet, where you limit your carbohydrate intake to 20, 40, or 100 grams a day.
  3. Whole30 diet: Although it is not advertised as a low-carb diet, following the Whole30 diet eventually results in consuming fewer carbs than usual. For 30 days, you avoid sugar, alcohol, dairy, legumes, and grains, all of which are high in carbohydrates.
  4. Paleo diet: The Paleo diet focuses on avoiding processed foods, legumes, and grains (among other things), leading to a lower carbohydrate intake. Fruit and sweeteners in their natural condition are allowed, however, which is something that other low-carb diets seek to avoid.

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What are the pros and cons of a low-carb diet?

Pros

  • Weight loss: Eating fewer carbs every day can help you lose weight.
  • Reduces insulin: Low insulin secretion is good for your metabolism because it reduces fat storage in the body, spikes and drops in blood sugar, and stress on the beta cells of the pancreas.

Cons

However, limiting carbs can be harmful if done incorrectly. It can lead to binge eating, eating disorders, irritability, and tiredness. Extreme carb limitations can also slow metabolism and interfere with thyroid function.

What are examples of good carbs to incorporate in a low-carb diet?

Good sources of carbohydrates are whole, unprocessed foods that are high in fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals:

  • Brown rice, wild rice and basmati rice
  • Whole-wheat bread, pasta, and flour
  • Oats, barley, and quinoa (high in fiber, potassium, magnesium and selenium)
  • Leafy greens (high in micronutrients)
  • Starchy vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin (high in micronutrients)
  • Beans and peas (high in fiber, folate, iron, and potassium)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in almonds, walnuts, cashews, flaxseeds, hemp, and pumpkin seeds

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Medically Reviewed on 9/1/2021
References
What Does Low-Carb Really Mean? https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/fda-plans-to-weigh-in-on-low-carb-products#1

Low carbohydrate diet: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537084/

Weight loss and carbohydrates: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/weight-loss-and-carbohydrates