The low-carb diet is an ever-growing trend. It is very popular amongst people that wish to lose weight. As a response to this demand, many food companies have resorted to producing low-carb food items, whilst restaurants are also taking this into consideration when preparing their menus. However, scientifically speaking there are still many doubts to whether or not a very low carb diet is healthy or not. This article shall examine the overall potential benefits of low-carb diets, effects on weight loss, possible risks and effective ways to strike a balance and live a healthy lifestyle.
The term low-carb dietbasically refers to any diet that restricts carbohydrates to less than 20 percent of caloric intake or any diet that simply restricts or limits carbohydrates to less than the recommended daily portion. In this case, foods high in carbohydrates are limited, and replaced with foods containing a higher percentage of protein and fats. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in the body, and are metabolized to produce glucose. Our bodies are structured in such a way to easily break down the glucose and obtain the needed energy. The excess glucose which is not needed, is converted into glycogen and is stored in the liver and muscle cells. Subsequent accumulation of this is what results in the increase in body fat. While some dietitians recommend a low-carb diet for reducing weight, others are more concerned about the possible risks that may arise. Given the low-carb intake food supplements can also assist you in getting all the nutrients the body need to stay healthy.
While other diets may monitor calories or grams of fat, the goal of carb limitation is to burn off the body’s fat stores. Cutting carbs can be healthy, as long as the right carbs are cut and at healthy levels. People who want to lose weight should first have a picture of the carbs they want to cut. You may decide to cut down on processed, fried and sugary items; but it is advised that legumes, beans and whole grains should remain a part of a healthy diet. Dietitians have further suggested that carbs may be reduced to around 100 to 150 grams per day or 35 to 40 percent of total calories; although this is still dependent on factors like activity levels, age and metabolism.
Effects of a low-carb diet on Weight Loss
The low-carb diet is highly recommended to lose weight. Most people put on weight because their consumption of calories through what they eat or drink is more that they can burn. In other cases, weight gain can be due to an underlying health condition. People are often worried when they put on excess weight; and this is one of the reasons why dietary patterns such as the low-carb diet have been successful. One of the biggest benefits of low-carbohydrate (high-protein) diets is weight loss. When foods containing high amounts of carbohydrates are consumed excess glucose is deposited as glycogen in the liver and muscle cells. When there is a switch to a low-carb diet, the supply of glucose in the blood is considerably reduced to the point where the body can no longer get the required energy easily from blood glucose. When this happens, it is forced to break down the stored fats in your body to obtain the required energy. This results in weight loss.
A Low-carb diet also leads to appetite loss. In this case, a higher consumption of foods like lean protein and good fats will automatically restrict your appetite and you will automatically eat less. In this way, weight loss is also achieved. Another way in which low-carb diet leads to weight loss is through a high thermic effect. Rather than counting calories, following a low-carb diet where most of the calories taken in are derived from proteins will subsequently lead to a high thermic effect which will help you to lose weight faster. However, despite the efficacy of low-cabs diet in enhancing weight loss, several questions and concerns about the risks come to mind.
What are some other advantages of a low-carb diet?
Some other advantages of a low-carb diet have been pointed out as follows:
- A low-carb diet is more effective at controlling blood sugar; as the metabolism of carbs leads to the creation of glucose which increases the level of blood sugar. People who are at higher risk of type II diabetes are usually advised to opt in for a low-carb diet.
- Research has also shown that low-carb diets can contribute towards maintaining low blood pressure.
- A recent study examined the effects of diets low in carbohydrates and concluded that these diets are highly effective in reducing serum triglyceride in the blood. A reduction in triglyceride levels reduces risk of heart disease, obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.
- By reducing insulin resistance, low-carb diets can in turn reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Associated risks of low-carb diets
We have spoken about the benefits of a low carb diet. But the risks? Following avery low-carb diet for a long time can affect your health; the following are some of the negative effects of a low-carb diet:
- Reduction of carbs in your diet causes your body to metabolise the available fat in your body to obtain the necessary energy. Incomplete metabolism of fats leads to the formation of ketones in your blood; and accumulation of ketones can be dangerous and can even lead to adverse health conditions.
- Formation of ketones in the body can lead to health conditions like nausea, gout and bad breath.
- Due to the high content of proteins in low-carb diets; eating too much protein creates pressure on the kidneys and can have long term impact on health.
- Increased amount of protein in the body may also lead to a higher possibility of kidney stone.
- Low-carb diets may also increase the risk of osteoporosis, which is highly linked with high protein consumption. People who eat high amount of protein tend to excrete more calcium in their urine; and because the body obtains calcium from the bones, this increases the risk of osteoporosis. This risk can however be controlled by reducing the amount of protein in your diet.
- One of the most common side effects of low-carb diets is constipation. Since fibre is an essential part of your diet that is supplied by carbohydrates; reduction in carbs will automatically lead to reduction in fibre- which affects bowel movement.
Striking a balance
Whichever diet pattern you adopt, the most important thing is reaching and maintaining a healthy weight; as this is crucial for preventing and controlling many diseases and medical conditions. Being overweight or obese creates a higher risk of developing serious health problems. Maintaining a healthy weight is very important; besides the health advantages, it makes you feel good about yourself. Energy balance is important for maintaining a healthy weight. The amount of energy or calories you get from food and drinks is balanced with the energy your body uses for things like breathing, digesting, and being physically active. If you are following the low-carb diet, you can obtain the necessary carbs from plenty of fruits and veggies, obtain good fats from selected sources and count calories. Go for lean protein and regulate your intake of red meats in order to avoid excess pressure on the kidneys. The fact that it is a low-carb diet does not mean you should not take any carbohydrates at all; just choose your carbs carefully. While the diet can help you lose some lose weight, it can also deprive the body of needed nutrients if taken to extremes.
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