A great challenge in today’s food culture of highly processed, convenient food choices is how to eat well on a daily basis. The subject of many research studies, what you choose to eat matters and can have a significant impact on both your health and your weight. If calories count for weight loss, is low carb the way to go?
What is Low Carb Diet?
Low carbohydrate diets typically restrict the intake of carbohydrate-containing foods like breads, cereals, pasta, fruits, starchy vegetables, some milk products, as well as sugary foods. Depending on the diet followed, low carbohydrate diets may restrict your intake to grams or macronutrient percentages. There is no clear definition of a low carbohydrate diet but a typical range is between 30-100 grams of carbohydrate per day (1).
The REAL Reason Low Carb Diets Work
The basic belief of low carbohydrate eating is that you are restricting a group of foods, that Canadians tend to overeat, resulting in naturally fewer calories consumed and subsequent weight loss.
A simple concept in theory, in reality there is more. A positive consequence to lowering your carbohydrate intake is that you increase your protein and fat intake. Eating more protein regularly throughout the day can be a natural weight loss supplement. Protein helps to increase overall satiety, stop the insulin surge that comes with refined carbohydrates and maintains your lean muscle while you lose body fat (3).
Keeping the calorie level in check remains extremely important for continued weight loss. Individuals following a low carb diet must be selective about all food chosen, not just carbohydrates, making the calories count in your low carb plan. Rid nutrient poor foods for unsaturated fats, lean protein choices and an abundance of vegetables alongside your restriction of refined carbohydrates. Following this low carb eating lifestyle may not only help your weight but your heart, blood pressure and blood sugars may also benefit (1,2).
How to Make a Low Carb Plan Work For You
There are many low-carb diets available with varying restrictions. The one you will have the most success with is the one you can find the most enjoyment with and continue long term. Start slow and consider the following when finding a plan that is right for you.
- Low-carb eating starts at home. Nutrient rich meals and snacks are cooked and eaten in your kitchen. It is the first place to start.
- Ditch the processed. Refined carbohydrates such as baked goods, white breads, crackers and granola bars are typically low in nutrients and your body won’t miss them. Open the fridge first for nutrient rich, low carb meals and snacks.
- Protein is important at each meal and snack. Strive for 20-30 g of protein at meals and 10-15 g at snacks. If weight loss is your goal, a protein powder can be a convenient way to get the benefits of extra protein without adding significant calories to your plan. The best protein powder for weight loss includes the dairy proteins casein and whey, for their benefit in keeping your muscles strong and your stomach full.
- Don’t forget fibre. Your bowels need 21-35 g of fibre per day. Nutrient rich quinoa, steel cut oats and brown rice are smart additions if you are going to be carb choosy. Remember vegetables are fibre staples if carbs are restricted.
- Fats for heart health. Unsaturated oils, nuts and seeds add a few extra calories but in small amounts can add great value to controlling hunger and improving your health.
- Movement – every day. Your body will thank you.
For Further Reading
- Low-Carb Diets — Research Shows They May Be More Beneficial Than Other Dietary Patterns. August 2013.
- Low Carbohydrate Diets: The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health.
- Phillips S. A Brief Review of Higher Dietary Protein Diets in Weight Loss: A Focus on Athletes. Sports Medicine. Nov 2014; 44 (Suppl 2):149-153.
- Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial. JAMA 2015
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