Low Carb Diets – What You Need to Know
Low carb diets have been around for over two centuries, however most mainstream medical doctors have yet to acknowledge the benefits of the diet, but perhaps this is bound to change as more and more studies begin to highlight the advantages of a low carb diet.
Low carb diets are certainly not new, with John Rollo reporting the use of a low carb diet to treat diabetes in 1797 and William Banting publishing his “Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public” in 1863. In fact, many low carb diets are still referred to as “Banting Diets.”
What are Low Carb Diets
Simply put, low carb diets are based on restricting your carbohydrate intake and increasing the amount of protein and fat you consume.
If you want to follow a low carb diet you need to restrict your intake of sugar, fruits, some vegetables, and starches (many vegetables are permitted on a low-carb diet, however, many starchy vegetables contain carbohydrates and should be restricted).
Bread, refined sugar, rice, and pasta are generally on the restricted or to be avoided list, while meat, eggs, fish, cheese, and other proteins are on the unrestricted list.
With over twenty clinical trials conducted over the last eleven years alone, the benefits of low carb diets are quickly becoming recognized and accepted. Here are some of the benefits of implementing a low carb diet:
- Low carb diets regulate insulin levels
- Low carb diets support fat loss
- Low carb diets offer a metabolic advantage
- Low carb diets reduce cardiovascular risk factors
- Low carb diets can reduce food cravings
- Low carb diets can reduce appetite leading to lower calorie intake
Insulin Regulation and Low Carb Diets
Insulin levels and insulin sensitivity are hot topics when you read discussions on obesity and diabetes, and with good reason. Insulin is responsible for three main functions in your body:
- It allows cells to absorb and use glucose for energy.
- It removes excess levels of glucose from your blood.
- It allows glucose to be stored as fat if the cells don’t need glucose for energy.
When you eat too much sugar, the pancreas may not be able to produce sufficient insulin and this leads to high blood glucose levels, which leads to diabetes (get familiar with these 13 early signs of diabetes).
When your cells become insulin resistant it leads to metabolic syndrome, which leads to fatigue and other serious conditions like cardiovascular disease and obesity.
In a clinical study done on 132 severely obese individuals, the New England Journal of Medicine found that insulin levels reduced by 27% and that overall insulin sensitivity increased in the individuals on a low carb diet.
Water, Fat, and Weight Loss
The bottom line is that most of us choose to go on diet to lose weight.
There are different types of weight loss, namely water loss and fat loss. Water loss often occurs at the start of a diet. Insulin levels can affect how much water you retain and a change in insulin levels or blood glucose levels can therefore affect how much water you lose initially.
Long term weight loss is normally associated with fat loss as opposed to water loss.
Low carb diets are well known for encouraging water weight loss in the first two weeks of the diet because they often have a big effect on insulin levels. But this doesn’t mean you only lose water on low carb diets.
In more than twenty studies done over the last eleven years on low carb versus low fat diets, individuals on low carb diets lost more weight in the short and long-term. Individuals on low carb diets also lost more abdominal and visceral fat and low carb groups often lost two to three times more weight than individuals on low fat diets.
The Metabolic Advantage of Low Carb Diets
The metabolic advantage is what most dieters dream about.
Essentially, your metabolic rate is used to describe how much energy your body produces and uses in a given period of time. The more energy your body needs the more fuel it burns and the easier you lose weight and fat. More muscle weight means your body burns more calories for energy (read more about it in my article about the top 10 factors that affect your metabolism).
The increase in protein consumption on low carb diets is thought to be responsible for increased energy expenditure, which creates the metabolic advantage associated with low carb diets. Eating more proteins is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.
Low Carb Diets Reduce Certain Cardiovascular Risks
Cholesterol and triglyceride levels are two of the most important indicators of cardiovascular health and they are often used to determine the risks of developing various cardiovascular disorders (please be aware that there are various opinions about the role of cholesterol and you can read more about it in my article What Most Doctors Won’t Tell You About Cholesterol).
When HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) increase, cardiovascular risks decrease and cardiovascular health is improved.
In over 18 studies on low carb versus low fat diets, individuals on the low carb diet saw a greater increase in HDL cholesterol levels and in 19 studies, individuals on low carb diets saw greater reductions in triglyceride levels than those on low fat diets.
Low Carb Diets and Food Cravings
Food cravings are a dieter’s nemesis. For most of us, food cravings spell diet disaster, so a diet that can not only help you to lose weight but that can actually help to reduce food cravings is a diet made in heaven.
Low carb diets may actually help to reduce food cravings because they help to regulate blood sugar levels and they reduce insulin levels in the body. Blood sugar levels are one of the most important underlying causes of food cravings.
When your blood sugar levels drop, your body is designed to crave carbohydrates to help it to normalize the levels of glucose in your blood.
When you eat sugar or carbohydrates, blood sugar levels increase and this causes the pancreas to produce insulin to remove excess glucose from the blood, which in turn creates a vicious cycle because when the glucose levels drop you crave carbohydrates again.
By reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing protein intake, blood sugar levels no longer spike, reducing your cravings for sweet foods.
Low Carb Diets and Appetite Regulation
Blood sugar levels, food cravings, and appetite are all linked by insulin and ghrelin levels in the body. Leptin and ghrelin are commonly called the hunger hormones and these hormones are responsible for regulating appetite (read more about it in my article on How to Reset Your Hormones and Melt Fat).
Studies show low carb diets increase ghrelin and reduces leptin levels. Individuals in low carb diets are often less hungry, experience less cravings for carbohydrates, and they generally tend to consume fewer calories naturally.
Low Carb Diets – The Evidence is Clear
A low carb diet may not be for everyone, but the evidence is clear: Low carb diets can be extremely beneficial for losing weight and improving overall health.
If you are looking for a less restrictive diet – you can find more information in my eBook Blast Your Belly Fat. This eBook is the ultimate guide for losing belly fat for good without counting calories.
Read my other articles about other types of diets:
Intermittent Fasting 5:2 – Principles, Science and How To
How to Reduce Your Glycemic Index (GI) and Lose Weight
How to Eat Right for Your Blood Type
How to Use Raw Food Diet to Treat Eczema