Introduction to Low-Carb Diet
In the world of nutrition and research, diets and trends are constantly changing. Recently, more evidence suggests that lower carbohydrate diets may provide more health benefits compared to the traditional American diet including weight loss, more energy, and overall wellbeing (1). In this post, we will look at sources of carbohydrates and the differences between two types of low-carb diets.
What are Carbohydrates?
Simply put, carbohydrates are nutrients found in food that our body breaks down for energy. Carbohydrates are the most common source of energy for most organisms, including humans. Carbs are made up of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon and are broken down within our bodies to fuel everyday activities, even sleeping and thinking! Carbs make up sugars, starches, and cellulose (found only in plants).
Which Foods Have Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are in nearly all foods! Here are some key sources of carbs:
Starches: breads, pasta, potatoes, white and brown rice, sweet potatoes, plantains
All fruits, some have more than others!
Dairy: milk, ice cream, yogurts
Cereals/Grains: oatmeal, quinoa, couscous
Sweets/Snacks: chips, cookies, crackers, french fries, soda, sweet tea, candy
The Benefits Of A Low Carb Diet
Reducing your intake of carb containing foods can make your diet healthier overall, since you will be eating more nutrient rich foods like non-starchy vegetables, proteins, and good quality fats (2). Reducing your carb intake can lead to weight loss (3), increased energy (4), focus (5), and may even change the way our body responds to stress and inflammation. Also, most high carbohydrate foods like chips don't keep you full for long, so switching to lower carb may keep you from reaching for another snack!
Low Carb vs Ketogenic
There are a few diets that emphasize low carb intake, but the ketogenic diet is a hot topic in the nutrition world! The ketogenic diet is a low carb diet, but a low carb diet isn't necessarily ketogenic!
A Ketogenic diet involves eating 70-80% fat, 15-20% protein, and the rest 5-10% carbs, depending on your goals. The ketogenic diet severely limits carbohydrate containing foods to get you into what is called ketosis, where your body turns fat into fuel. A low carbohydrate diet usually means you are eating less than 30% of your calories from carbs (6).
So what does this mean? You can reap the benefits of a low carb diet without such a heavy carb restriction!
niKETO has great guides to get you started on a low carb lifestyle change, including posts on high and low carb fruits and vegetables, kickstarter meal plans, and more!
(1) 17 science-based benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. (2017, June 18). Retrieved October 3, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3.
(2) Westman, E. C., Mavropoulos, J., Yancy, W. S., & Volek, J. S. (2003). A review of low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets. Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 5(6), 476–483.
(3) Brehm, B. J., Seeley, R. J., Daniels, S. R., & D’Alessio, D. A. (2003). A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 88(4), 1617–1623. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2002-021480.
(4) White, H., & Venkatesh, B. (2011). Clinical review: ketones and brain injury. Critical Care (London, England), 15(2), 219. https://doi.org/10.1186/cc10020.
(5) Ketogenic diet reduces midlife mortality and improves memory in aging mice. (2017). Cell Metabolism, 26(3), 547–557.e8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2017.08.004.
(6) Masood, W., & Uppaluri, K. R. (2018). Ketogenic diet. In StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/.