“Low-carb diets are all the rage, but what does it mean to be on a low-carb diet and how does it work? Whether you’re looking to lose weight, take charge of your health, or adjust your eating habits, eating fewer carbs may well be the lifestyle change you need.”
What are carbohydrates?
To understand what a low-carbohydrate (or low-carb) diet is, we first must ask…what is a carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, or one of the main classes of foods. They’re found in many different foods and drinks and your body uses them as a source of energy. After converting certain types of carbohydrates—namely starches and sugars—into glucose, or blood sugar, your bloodstream absorbs the glucose and distributes the fuel to cells all over your body.
Not all carbohydrates are created equal, however. There are three different kinds of carbohydrates: starches, fibers, and sugars.
Starches are complex carbohydrates that take the body longer to break down, which helps stabilize the amount of glucose released into your bloodstream. They also provide important vitamins and minerals. Examples of starches include beans and legumes such as lentils or black beans, fruits like apples or melons, whole grains such as brown rice or oatmeal, and vegetables such as peas or potatoes.
Fibers are another complex carbohydrate, but unlike starches, the body can’t break them down. Instead they pass through the intestines, simulating and aiding digestion while keeping you fuller longer, regulating your blood sugar, and lowering your cholesterol. Examples of fibers include beans and legumes, whole grains, fruit with edible skins or seeds such as peaches or berries, nuts and seeds like almonds or pumpkin seeds, and vegetables such corn, broccoli, or squash.
Sugars are a simple carbohydrate; this means your body breaks them down quickly, which can cause sudden blood sugar spikes and crashes. Sugars include natural sugars found in foods like milk and fruit, which also provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and added sugars, which are not initially present in foods but mixed in (or “added”) later.
Once you know what carbohydrates are and how they work, you can figure out how to change your carb consumption—the first step to succeeding on a low-carb diet.
What is a low-carb diet?
“A general low-carb diet has no official guidelines other than eating fewer carbohydrates than what is normal for you.”
Following your diet this way makes it very easy to personalize and lets you pick what kinds of carbohydrates you want to include in your diet. You don’t have to worry about counting grams of carbs, which can be a hassle for busy dieters.
One easy step to starting a low-carb diet is replacing some of your cane sugar consumption with stevia, a natural sweetener from the stevia plant; replacing the sugar in your morning coffee with Stevita Organic Spoonable Stevia packets, for example, is a quick and easy way to start reducing the number of carbohydrates in your daily diet.
If you want a more specific diet plan, you can do low-carb variations of existing diets, such as low-carb Mediterranean or low-carb Paleo, or follow diets that aren’t explicitly low-carb but have low-carb elements, such as the South Beach, Whole30, or Dukan Diets.
Arguably some of the most popular low-carb plans are the Atkins diet and the keto diet.
The Atkins Diet
Atkins is a very popular low-carb diet; it’s particularly great if you’re not a big fan of cooking, as they have plenty of premade food options. The Atkins diet starts with a very low carbohydrate intake, then gradually reintroduces carbs like fruits and vegetables back into rotation. You can still indulge in low-carb desserts and treats, such as Stevita SteviaSweet Hard Candies, which are sweetened with stevia instead of high-carbohydrate sugars to keep you on track with your low-carb diet.
There’s also a vegan or vegetarian friendly option called Eco Atkins, which focuses on plant-based sources of protein, and the Modified Atkins Diet (MAD) which is generally used to treat epilepsy patients not fully responding to medication. With fewer intake restrictions and no measuring of food aside from counting carbohydrates, this diet plan is easier for epilepsy patients to maintain and control their symptoms.
The Keto Diet
The keto diet is a strict low-carb that drastically reduces your carb consumption and increases your fat consumption. You’re essentially mimicking fasting; by denying your body access to glucose gleaned from carbohydrates, it instead tries to use fat as a source of energy.
Called “ketosis,” this fat burning process produces ketones, a kind of acid, that can be used for fuel—hence keto or ketogenic diet.
Keto dieting is most useful for short term, fast weight loss and management of epilepsy symptoms like seizures. Adherents may find it difficult to maintain because of the long list of restricted foods.
Luckily dieters can still enjoy low-carb sweeteners while trying to enter and maintain ketosis—Stevita Organic Liquid Stevia has no calories, no carbohydrates, and multiple flavors, making it easy to pep up low-carb foods like unsweetened yogurt without adding any sugar.
A modified keto diet may also help. Slightly modified ratios of fat, protein, and carbohydrate intake allow for more carbs and protein in daily meals, making the diet easier to follow while still having the dieter enter ketosis.
Be warned: high levels of ketones in folks with diabetes can be a sign of serious health complications. Always make sure to consult with a qualified medical professional before starting a diet.
Risks and benefits of a low-carb diet
As mentioned previously, always talk to your doctor before starting a diet.
While subjects of diet studies may lose weight in the short term, it’s not clear what benefits or risks low-carb diets pose for continuous use.
Low-carb diets that also emphasize consumption of healthy carbohydrates, fats, and proteins may lower risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Some subjects gained back the weight they lost after a few months, however, and certain diets can be risky for users with particular health problems (such as an increased risk of kidney stones at the beginning of the Dukan Diet). Long-term low-carb diets may also result in gastrointestinal disturbances or vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
The best way to know if low-carb dieting is right for you is to consult a qualified medical professional.
How to stick with a low-carb diet
So you’ve decided to try a low-carb diet. Great!
What are some ways you can make sure you stick to it?
- Learn to identify low-carb foods. Low-carb foods include lean meats, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, unsweetened dairy products, and certain fruits. Don’t be afraid to substitute out some high-carb foods with these low-carb ones.
- Plan your meals. Taking a few hours (or less!) in a day to plan your meals for the week before a grocery run lets you know exactly what you’re going to eat and do any necessary math for serving sizes and carbohydrate counts.
- Meal prep if you can. Preparing food at the beginning of the week can remove the temptation of eating out when you’re tired and stressed midweek. You know you have a nice dinner ready and waiting for you in the refrigerator.
- Keep low-carb snacks on hand. When snack attacks hit in between meals it helps to have filling low-carb compliant snacks at the ready, such as baby carrots, boiled eggs, nuts, or cheese.
- Maintain an appropriate exercise regimen. Moving your body contributes to your overall health! Keep in mind that endurance style exercise may not be appropriate for low-carb dieters because of the carbohydrates needed for that activity level.
While the benefits and risks of low-carb diets are not always clear, there is some evidence that low-carb diets such as the ketogenic diet may help manage symptoms for people with specific health issues as well as lose weight in the short-term.
If you’re looking to manage symptoms or lose weight, consider consulting a doctor about starting a low-carb diet and incorporating Stevita Naturals products into your daily use!