A low-carb diet is a meal plan which limits the carbohydrate intake by avoiding consumption of foods which have a relatively high content of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are nutrients which provide energy. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose or blood sugar.
The body extracts the required energy from these sugars to carry out different functions.
More than required sugar intake means more calories in the body which are stored in body organs and tissues or converted into fats.
Over time, this results in fat accumulation and weight gain.
In a low-carb diet, one is encouraged to consume foods rich in other nutrients like proteins and fats, in place of carbohydrates. The diet plan restricts the number of carbs one can have per day.
Why low-carb diet?
A low-carb diet is found to be helpful in losing weight.
Thus, it is recommended for people aiming at weight loss.
In addition to weight loss, a low-carb diet also helps in reducing the risk of other metabolic diseases like obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.
How low-carb diet helps in weight loss?
Low-carb diet is beneficial in weight loss because
- It limits calorie intake and prevents fat accumulation and weight gain
- When the carbohydrate requirement is more than intake, the body starts to burn the stored fat in the body to derive energy, and this leads to weight loss.
- Consuming fewer carbohydrates and more protein reduces hunger as protein-rich foods are known to increase the satiety hormones which make you eat less.
Depending on your health condition, the carbohydrate intake can be limited to 60-130g per day.
Several studies have shown that consumption of low-carbohydrate diet results in loss of weight and body fat.
In a study conducted on 33 obese persons, intake of a very low-carbohydrate and high-protein diet was found to be a safe way to lose weight.
10 Foods To Limit On A Low Carb Diet
The following are ten foods rich in carbohydrates, which should be avoided when on a low-carb diet:
1. Whole grains-Wheat and rice
Whole grains like wheat and rice, which are staples in most countries, have a high content of carbohydrates.
Wheat is available as a whole-grain flour and refined flour. Wheat is mostly used in making bread, flatbreads, and tortillas.
Wheat flour is also used in making baked products like cakes, cookies, and muffins.
Although whole-grain products are considered healthier than refined products, both of them constitute a relatively high amount of carbohydrate.
A slice of white bread made from refined flour provides you with 14 g of carbohydrate, of which 2g is fiber.
Thus, net carbohydrate gain from a slice of white bread is about 12g.
On the other hand, a slice of whole wheat bread can load you with 13g of net carbs.
Rice is also equally high in carbohydrates. One cup of cooked rice gives 45g of carbs.
Brown rice, though high in fiber, also has a high value of 52g per cup.
What does this mean? Whole grains such as wheat and rice should be avoided on a low-carb diet due to their high carbohydrate content.
2. Starchy vegetables
Eating vegetables is considered healthy as they provide you with fiber and other essential nutrients.
However, some of the vegetables have a high quantity of starch, which is a complex form of carbohydrate.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroots, and corn are some starchy vegetables which one should avoid consuming on a low-carb diet.
Potatoes are exceptionally high in carbs. One medium potato has about 35 grams of net carbohydrates.
What does this mean? Consumption of vegetables rich in starch and other carbs increases the calorie intake and may result in weight gain.
3. Noodles and pasta
Other commonly eaten foods which have high levels of carbs are noodles and pasta. They are made from refined flour and contribute to weight gain.
One cup pasta has about 48-91g carbs depending on the type of pasta. Spaghetti, penne, farfalle, rotini, shells, elbows, and lasagna all are carbohydrate-rich foods with shells having the lowest carb amount (48g) per cup.
It is often misunderstood that consuming pasta made from whole grains is healthy and suitable for intake.
However, if you are on a low-carb diet, pasta containing whole grains should also be avoided, as it has an equally high content of carbs and no other benefit that added fiber.
Whole wheat pasta provides anywhere between 47-90g of carbs.
The same goes for noodles. Noodles made from rice contain about 80% carbohydrates.
Also, cooking pasta and noodles helps in removing some of the starch in it, but it does not make them a low-carb food. It is still a better idea avoid it.
What does this mean? Noodles and pasta should be consumed in minimum quantities for weight loss as they are loaded with carbohydrates.
4. Juice and sweetened beverages
Many fruits naturally have high sugar content. Therefore, drinking fruit juices, even without added sugar is not suitable for a low-carb diet.
Following is the carbohydrate content in one cup of commonly available unsweetened fruit juices:
- Apple juice: 28g
- Cranberry juice: 31g
- Grape juice: 37g
- Lime juice: 16g
- Orange juice: 26g
- Pineapple juice: 32g
- Pomegranate juice: 33g
These values are of unsweetened juices. However, commercially available juices are usually sweetened with fructose and contain a much higher content of carbohydrates.
The same goes for vegetable juices.
They have a slightly low concentration of carbs than fruit juices, but should also be avoided. For example, one cup of carrot juice has 22g net carbs.
Other sweetened drinks available in the market like sweetened or carbonated cola and soda and fruit-flavored drinks contain an even higher amount of carbohydrates.
They contain the sugar fructose which is not very good for weight loss. Also, they are not very nutritious or healthy.
The fructose present in the drinks is also known to increase the risk of diabetes.
In a study, intake of sweetened beverages in children was found to increase body weight and obesity.
What does this mean? Sweetened drinks or unsweetened fruit juices both contain a high amount of carbohydrates and result in weight gain.
5. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are believed to be nutritious foods with high-protein and high-fiber content.
However, unfortunately, they also contain significant amounts of carbohydrates.
Consumption of beans in cooked form provides the following amounts of carbs:
Of these, soybeans and green peas have a comparatively low level of carbohydrates and may be consumed in small amounts.
What does this mean? Many beans and legumes have considerable amounts of carbs and should be consumed in less quantity to benefit from their protein content.
6. Sugar and Honey
Sugar or table sugar in any form, granulated or powdered is nothing but carbohydrates. Sugar intake adds to the number of carbs you are taking.
This is because granulated sugar comprises of 99.9% carbs.
On the other hand, brown sugar is 98% carbs, but still, cannot be seen as a substitute for sugar to reduce carbohydrate intake.
What does this mean? Sugar, honey, and syrups are all excellent sources of carbohydrates and should not be included in a low-carb diet.
Milk contains almost all nutrients required by the body in a significant amount. Therefore, it is seen as complete food.
This also means that in addition to other useful nutrients like proteins, fats, and vitamins, it also has much carbohydrate content.
Consuming one cup of whole milk will give you 11g carbs, while the same amount of low-fat or skimmed milk gives 12 carbs.
Milk consumption should be limited to avail its other health benefits without increasing carbohydrate intake.
Also, unsweetened or unflavored milk is preferred as sugar and flavor add to the net carbs in the milk.
What does this mean? Milk, whether whole or low-fat, should be taken in low quantity to avoid increasing carbs in your body.
8. Commercially available sweetened or flavored Yogurt
Yogurt is made from milk and contains healthy bacteria that are beneficial for digestion.
It is also rich in proteins and considered quite healthy for consumption. However, the carbohydrate content of yogurt is no less than milk.
One cup of plain yogurt made from whole milk contains 11g carbs.
Low-fat yogurt, though limiting your fat intake, increases the carb intake as the yogurt prepared from skimmed milk has about 19g carbohydrates in one cup serving.
The commercially available yogurt is usually sweetened and flavored for enhancing the taste.
However, it is much more harmful for consumption if you are aiming at weight loss.
Adding sugar or fruit flavors (whether it is natural fruit or artificial flavors) increases the number of calories in the yogurt that you might want to avoid.
Therefore, one can either consume unsweetened and unflavored yogurt made from whole milk or limit the quantity.
What does this mean? Yogurt is a nutritious and healthy food suitable for weight loss when consumed in small amounts.
Beer is an alcoholic beverage which is commonly consumed. It contains sugars which can increase the carbohydrate content in your body.
One can of beer provides you with about 13g of carbs.
Therefore, it is a better idea to reduce the beer intake or switch to other alcoholic beverages which have lesser amounts of carbs like wine.
Also, one can consume low-calorie beer which is available commercially.
What does this mean? On a low-carb diet, one should restrain from consuming large quantities of beer or replace it with other low-calorie varieties.
Chips are popular snacks and widely available.
They are not very nutritious and also have high-carb content. Consuming chips will only result in more carbs and more fats in your body.
One should try to avoid this food entirely to promote weight loss.
What does this mean? Chips have a high-carb content and not suitable for consumption in diet aiming at weight loss.
Note: All values mentioned are approximate values. The carbohydrate content mentioned is the net amount of carbs without the fiber.
Low-carb diets may not be suitable for everyone.
The factors like age, gender, weight, genetics and the level of physical activity determine if this diet is appropriate for a particular individual.
Consumption of fewer carbs may result in low blood sugar levels called hypoglycemia.
This diet may not be safe for pregnant women or women who are planning a pregnancy.
Some persons may encounter fatigue, weakness, constipation or diarrhea, cramps and headaches while consuming these diets.
Before adding any particular food to their diet, one should take into account of previously known allergies or intolerances to certain foods, if any.
One should consult with the doctor if one is on medications and undergoing any other treatments.
Restricting the intake of certain foods can result in nutritional deficiencies, especially of vitamins and minerals.
Low-carb diets focus on reducing the intake of carbohydrates. T
hey exclude the foods with high calories and which can result in an increase in body weight.
Only a limited quantity of carbs is permissible per day for consumption in this diet. Instead, foods rich in other nutrients like proteins and fats are taken.
Limiting carbohydrates helps in weight loss and preventing the risk of associated disorders.