Carbohydrates are often regarded as villains by people who want to lose weight. A diet rich in refined carbs promotes weight gain, bingeing behaviors, and hyperinsulinemia, causing conditions such as obesity and diabetes mellitus in the long run.
Multiple studies have compared various diets for weight loss, but no single low-carb diet is considered the “best” diet. Carbs play a vital role in keeping us full, maintaining satiety, and providing our bodies with fuel when needed. Following a very restrictive low-carb meal plan in pursuit of weight loss may help you lose weight, but you may also lose muscle mass rather than body fat stores.
Consuming only low-carb foods often causes undesirable effects, such as nausea, irritability, exhaustion, and more serious symptoms (hypoglycemia and loss of consciousness). It may not be for all individuals and cause undesirable adverse effects, especially in those who take medications or insulin for diabetes mellitus. Multiple low-carb diets are immensely popular, and you may give these a try, although you are only advised to do so under the supervision of a qualified nutritionist.
Here are the most popular low-carb diet plans:
Among these, the South Beach diet is more accommodating and hence easier to stick to in the long run.
What is a low-carbohydrate diet?
The recommended carbohydrate content in a 2,000-calorie diet is between 225 and 325 grams daily. In a low-carbohydrate diet, you are permitted to only eat between 60 and 130 grams of carbohydrates daily. In a very low carbohydrate diet, you can only eat up to 60 grams of carbohydrates each day, which pushes your body to use fats as a source of fuel, rather than carbs, causing weight loss.
If you want to try a low carb meal plan, you must make sure you eat a lot of lean proteins, legumes, and nuts and stay away from fried foods, bacon, and red meat that have unhealthy fat content.
How do various low-carb diets work?
The Atkins diet
The new Atkins 40 diet allows you to consume 40 grams of carbs per day. You can eat protein (chicken, fish, and legumes), vegetables, and healthy fat (avocados, walnuts, and olives). Your nutritionist will give you a food pyramid, which you are supposed to follow.
At the top of the pyramid are carbs that you can enjoy after you have hit a certain weight loss goal, which includes barley, oats, and brown rice. All “white foods” such as sugar, white bread, white potatoes, and pasta from refined flour are prohibited. Portion sizes are strictly controlled.
The diet is prescribed in the following stages or phases that help cut down carbs gradually:
- Phase 1 (induction): This is the strictest stage where you must avoid all types of fruits, bread, grains, dairy, starchy foods, and alcohol, and can only consume 20 grams of carbs daily. You lose the most weight during this phase.
- Phase 2 (the phase of ongoing weight loss): You slowly add complex carbohydrates back to your diet, of which 25 to 50 grams of daily carbs are permitted. Legumes, berries, nuts, tomato juice, and yogurts are allowed.
- Phase 3 (pre-maintenance): More carbs are gradually added to your diet (up to 80 grams of carbs daily).
- Phase 4 (lifetime maintenance): You can consume up to 100 grams of carbs a day with other diet restrictions.
The Ketogenic diet (Keto)
The popular Keto diet regime allows you to consume the following:
- Healthy high-fat foods
- Oils (especially seed oils)
- Proteins from legumes, fish, and lean meats
You may also enjoy an occasional keto dessert made from almond flour and fruits.
Carbohydrates allowed in a day are fewer than 50 grams. Such a diet induces a metabolic state called ketosis, wherein your body is forced to burn fats rather than carbs as fuel to function. The keto diet may have side effects such as “keto flu,” “keto breath,” headache, irritability, and constipation.
The South Beach diet
Created by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, M.D., in 2003, this diet gets its name from a glamorous area in Miami. It is not a strict low-carb diet and only stresses a lower intake than the recommended daily allowance for carbs. About 140 grams of carbohydrates a day are allowed in this diet.
This diet claims to balance complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat intake in your diet and make your portions nutrient-dense, tasty and fiber-rich. Special cookbooks and CDs are available that guide you. The daily intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes is allowed. Exercise, an important part of your lifestyle, and healthy snacking (celery sticks, nuts, and seeds) are permitted.
This diet is followed in these three phases:
- Phase 1: This lasts for two weeks and is designed to eliminate cravings for foods high in sugar and refined starch. Only chicken, seafood, lean beef, and soy products are allowed, and fruits, alcohol, or fruit juices are not. Avocados, nuts, and seeds may be consumed in strictly controlled portions.
- Phase 2: Here, whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables are added back to your diet. You will gradually lose weight in this phase.
- Phase 3: You can eat all types of foods in moderation. Cutting back on sugars, oily and fried stuff is recommended.
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