Health Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet: Should You Eat Fewer Carbohydrates?
Although low-carb diets have been a subject of discussion for years, there’s no doubt that they are marking a comeback. Scientific studies show that these diets have lots of health benefits and are beneficial. A low-carb diet not only promotes weight loss but also provides the body with a wide array of improved functions which can be experienced emotionally, mentally, and physically. This article offers an overview of some of the top benefits of a low-carb diet.
What Is a Low-Carb Diet?
It’s basically a diet that limits your intake of foods which have high amounts of carbohydrates. A low-carb diet puts so much emphasis on healthy fats and quality protein instead of foods such as grains, foods with added sugar, starchy vegetables, and fruits.
Low-carb diets are not new and they have been used for centuries for different medicinal purposes. They have been linked to a variety of health benefits which include better physical and mental performance, better control of blood sugar and insulin levels, reduced hunger pangs, and weight loss among others.
How to Start a Low-Carb Diet
If you are thinking about starting a low-carb diet, then the best way to go about this is by first eliminating the major sources of carbs and added sugar from your diet. These include food sources such as grains, sugary snacks, sweetened drinks, and some types of legumes and dairy products. While you eliminating these food varieties, it’s important to increase your intake on quality proteins and healthy fats.
What to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet
There is a wide food variety that you can consume while you are on a low-carb diet. They range from healthy fats to non-starchy vegetables to unsweetened beverages. Below is an overview of the recommended low-carb foods.
They mostly contain zero net carbs. High amounts of healthy fats should be taken throughout the day to ensure that you are satiated for a long period of time. Olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, ghee, lard, flaxseed oil, and palm fruit oil are some of the good choices that you can use. Overall, healthy fats can be obtained from monounsaturated fats, saturated fats, and some varieties of polyunsaturated fats.
They contain high amounts of natural fat and low amounts of carbs. Full-fat goat and cow milk are some of the best in this category. Both soft and hard cheese in addition to low-fat milk are also suitable for a low-carb diet.
Proteins obtained from animal products have very few carbs. To control hunger pangs and food cravings, you can consume moderate amounts of quality protein while you are on a low-carb diet. Always choose grass-fed meat especially those that are organic and are fattier cuts than the leaner cuts.
- Fish such as anchovies, sardines, mackerel, bass, tuna, flounder, trout, and salmon.
- Organ meats from liver
- Grass-fed beef like veal, goat, and lamb meat contain high-quality omega-3 fats.
- Poultry such as quail, chicken, goose, hen, duck, and turkey.
They include cruciferous such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Leafy greens such as beet greens, turnip, kale, spinach, fennel, and collards are also great for a low-carb diet. Besides those, you can eat vegetables which have slightly higher carbs once in a while. For instance, water chestnuts, bell pepper, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, wax beans, and asparagus.
- Homemade bone broth
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Salad with dressing
Apart from water, unsweetened beverages such as tea and black coffee are great. In addition to those, you can drink vegetable juice and bone broth.
Spices and herbs, vanilla extract, stevia, unsweetened mustards, hot sauce, cocoa, and apple cider vinegar.
10 Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet
Taking a low-carb diet has a lot of health benefits. The most harmful food varieties contain flour, high amounts of calories, or added sugar and they are responsible for various health complications. If you are taking a low-carb diet, some of the benefits that you should expect are:
- Improved Digestion
Fewer carbs and less sugar mean that your digestive system will attain an optimal function. Sugar helps to sustain the lives of “bad” bacteria which are found along the gut. This can increase your risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome, candida virus, and the leaky gut syndrome. A low-carb diet eliminates the risk of digestive issues and promotes regular bowel movements.
- Weight Loss
Most people who want to lose weight often rely on calorie counting. However, this is a crazy activity that’s demanding and time-consuming. Shifting your attention to the variety of foods that you eat and focusing on mindful eating can help to quickly attain your weight loss goals. Low-carb diets are some of the best and they are known to produce great weight loss results within a short period of time.
- Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
The cost of diabetes medications continue to increase and this means that some patients may find it hard to get their prescriptions. However, one of the most effective and simplest ways of managing type 2 diabetes is by consuming a low-carb diet that contains minimal amounts of starch and sugar. It helps to control the secretion of insulin, blood pressure, and postprandial glycemia.
- Improved Cognitive Function
Sugar, just like drugs, is a highly addictive substance that has a dramatic brain effect. It increases anxiety, fatigue, and food cravings. However, replacing sugar with healthier fats provide the body with an antioxidant-like effect. Fats such as cholesterol help to support the brain molecules and neurotransmitters which control energy production, mood, memory, and focus.
- Helps to Fight Cancer
One of the diseases whose rate of development has been on the rise is cancer. But research studies show that this condition regardless of the type can be managed by a low-carb diet. Such foods help to minimize the effects of free radical damage. Besides that, they help to reduce oxidative stress and improve the level of immunity.
- Reduced Food Cravings
Are tired of binge eating and taking unhealthy processed foods? Then you should try to take a low-carb diet. Replacing high amounts of carbs with healthier fats and protein can increase the feeling of satiety. They limit the production of ghrelin, the hormone that’s responsible for sending hunger signals. High amounts of fats and proteins in your diet have the ability to switch on the hormones that promote long-lasting satiety.
- Hormone Regulation
As stated above, low-carb diets have the ability to regulate hunger hormones as well as insulin. In addition to that, they can also regulate the functions of neurotransmitters, leading to improved moods in some people.
- Low level of Blood Triglycerides
Triglycerides are fat molecules which are found in the bloodstream. High amounts of blood triglycerides can increase the risk of heart diseases. Carb-rich meals, especially those that contain fructose elevate the production of these fat molecules. However, taking a low-carb diet reduces the level of blood triglycerides, thereby minimizing your chances of developing heart disease.
- May Lower Blood Pressure
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a serious health condition that can trigger heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke. But it’s possible to lower your blood pressure and reducing the risk of these diseases by eating meals which have low amounts of carbs.
- Promotes the Production of “Good” Cholesterol
The production of High-Density Lipoprotein – the good cholesterol is normally triggered by a diet plan that involves the consumption of fewer carbs. An increase in production of the good cholesterol also lowers the production of the “bad” cholesterol which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Precautions When Starting a Low-Carb Diet
Low carb diet side effects are usually experienced during the onset of the program. It’s therefore important to take precautions in order to ensure that you minimize their chances of occurring or the level of their severity. Research shows that those who take low-carb diets are at high risk of experiencing the keto flu or the carb flu.
The keto flu is a collection of complications which include brain-fog, constipation, fatigue, diarrhea, muscle cramps, irritability, and anxiety among others. These side effects usually clear up within 14 days but you can take the following precautions:
- Avoid engaging in intense physical activities
- Drink lots of water to counter the effects of dehydration
- Take supplements to replenish the electrolytes
- Eat healthier fats
- Consume moderate protein
Note: it’s also important to introduce your body to the low-carb diet gradually. This gives it an adaptation period to embrace the new changes.
The Bottom Line
Low-carb diets have a lot of benefits. They are among the most effective diet plans that promote weight loss and enhance some aspects of wellness in the body. However, transitioning to a low-carb diet isn’t easy and it normally comes with side effects. So, ensure that you start the process gradually to give your body enough time to adjust.