The word “diet” makes many a nose wrinkle, because who really wants to diet? Cutting back on the foods you love might seem like an impossible challenge, but taking charge of what goes on your plate is easier than you might believe. Low carb diets like the ketogenic diet are a lifestyle that has immeasurable benefits for many people. If you’re ready to commit to changing what you eat, then this guide is going to show you exactly where to begin with either a low carb or ketogenic diet.
Let’s dive into the details.
What is a Low Carb Diet?
Generally, a low carb diet is one where you choose fats over carbohydrates as your main macronutrient. There are a number of low carb diet variations.
Studies have proven that the human body needs natural fats to function. Fat is good for you, and it is one of the most satisfying macronutrients. You can lose weight, too.
By avoiding sugars and starches from carbohydrates, your blood glucose level will stabilize rather than experiencing insulin spikes. Instead, the levels of insulin drops, and this will enable your body to start burning fat for energy.
Different Types of Low Carb Diets
One of the first things you need to do before beginning your low carb diet is choosing which regimen is best for you. There are dozens of variations, but here are the four most common:
- Atkins – A diet that allows for bacon, butter, and emphasizes low starch vegetables. There are plenty of Atkins food products in the grocery store, too, making it easier to adapt to this lifestyle.
- Paleo – Based on the hunter and gather lifestyle of human ancestors, paleo eliminates all carbohydrates that would be processed, including dairy. So, you would focus on meats, berries, nuts, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and legumes.
- Low Carb Mediterranean – Like the regular Mediterranean diet, the low carb version has been modified to allow for wine, fruit, and whole grains (just less of them). Legumes are also allowed, unlike ketogenic and Atkins diets.
- Ketogenic – a high fat, very low carb diet that allows the body to use ketones for energy instead of glucose. Keto allows for 20-30 grams of carbohydrates per day. 70-75% of your calories will come from fat.
Benefits of Low Carb Diets
Any of the above-mentioned diets will have the following benefits:
• Weight loss
• Stabilized energy levels and moods
• Controlled blood sugar
• Reduced appetite
• Lowered blood pressure
• Higher HDL cholesterol
• Better digestion and nutrient absorption
• Skin improvements
Who Should Avoid Low Carb Diets
Most individuals are safe to start a low carb diet. Only in some situations do you need to consult with a medical professional before beginning:
• You are taking medication for diabetes or need insulin.
• You are presently on medication for high blood pressure.
• You are currently breastfeeding.
If you don’t fit into one or more of these three scenarios, then you’re free to begin.
What Not to Eat on a Low Carb Diet
Depending on which low carb diet style you choose, the foods that you need to limit or remove altogether may be different. However, most low carb diets remove overly sugary and starchy foods, like beans, potatoes, rice, pasta, and breads. Fructose should also be limited, with some exceptions. For example, Atkins and keto will avoid bananas and apples but allow for berries because of the fiber content.
Also, it’s important to note that most diets restrict alcohol or anything with added sugar, such as Starbucks Frappuccinos, cocktails, milkshakes, juices, sodas, and enhanced waters (Vitamin Water).
Foods For a Low Carb Diet
Here’s a brief glance at foods allowed in most low carb diets:
• Meats – beef, lamb, wild game, chicken, pork, etc.
• Fish and seafood – primarily fish and seafood that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid anything with breading.
• Leafy green vegetables
• Cruciferous vegetables
• Nuts and legumes
• Natural fats – avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.
• Black Coffee
Steps To Starting a Low Carb Diet
With the basics covered, you are now ready to take the necessary steps to starting a low carb or ketogenic diet.
Step 1. Limit Carbohydrates
The most important step is understanding your carbohydrate limit. Restrict your carbs to a net of 20-30g for ketogenic. For low carb, you should eat below 50g of carbs, but if you’re more active, then you need about 100g of carbohydrates a day.
Step 2. Limit Protein
Remember: low carb and/or ketogenic does not mean high protein. High protein diets will result in those proteins being converted into glucose—and that glucose can be stored within fat cells. Eat enough protein to meet your individual requirements throughout the day but don’t go overboard.
Step 3. Don’t Fear Fat
Since low carb and ketogenic diets focus on healthy fats for energy, you need to use fats. Carbs and protein are less important in these diets. Therefore, you shouldn’t come into a low carb diet fearing fat. Embrace the fat! But remember, if you’re dieting for weight loss, then you need to eat just enough fat to be satiated and stop.
Step 4. Stay Hydrated
Carbohydrates need water to be stored in the body. Fat doesn’t have the same requirement. This means that the less carbohydrates you have in the body, the more easily dehydrated you will become. Instead of the typical 8 cups of water, you will need about 16 cups of cool water. Furthermore, you will need to replenish your electrolytes more often, because the minerals sodium, potassium, and magnesium are water-soluble. To maintain your electrolyte levels, drink bone broth, eat pickled vegetables, or choose electrolyte supplements.
Step 5. Eat When Hungry
Some people have the mindset that you need 3-6 meals and mini-meals or snacks throughout the day to stay sated. That might just be your appetite, a psychological urge that compels to eat because your bored or are seeking comfort. Since you should be hydrated, you will be able to understand the hunger cues better. Only eat when you feel those hunger pangs and avoiding snacking throughout the day. Remember, fat is the most satiating macronutrient, so don’t be surprised if you stay feeling less hungry more often.
Step 6. Stay Focused
As with any major lifestyle change, you are going to run into some obstacles. You might have heard about “keto flu,” which might make you feel under the weather for a few days. Stay focused, stay hydrated, and use exercise to help work through any cravings. If you can get through the initial first few weeks, you will start seeing the benefits of a low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet that were discussed in the beginning of this guide.
You might need to experiment with different dieting styles to see which low carb diet is best for you. However, whichever you choose, you are sure to enjoy the benefits of a diet that focuses on wholesome ingredients full of healthy fats. Now that you know what foods to choose and how to ease into this new lifestyle, nothing is stopping you.
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