With the popularity of low-carb diets
coming and going over the past couple of decades, many people think to lose a few pounds, their first step should be to cut out carbs. However, there’s a lot of misconceptions about what a healthy
low-carb diet really is.
When it comes to cutting carbs, people often think more (or, in this case – less) is better. That’s not the case.
You can still enjoy carbs on a low-carb diet. The key is in the type of carbs
Carbs are organic molecules classified by structure, and there are two structural types you've probably heard of: simple and complex.
As you might guess, simple carbohydrates are smaller, quickly processed molecules that break down faster. Complex carbohydrates are larger and take longer to break down.
Within these structures, there are subtypes of carbohydrates that affect you differently depending on some factors:
- How quickly or easily your body digests and absorbs the carbohydrate.
- The enzymes that exist in your mouth and gut.
- What other foods you are eating along with your carbohydrates, such as fat or protein. (This is because fat and protein can slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.)
- The way you personally perceive how sweet something is can also alter how carbs affect you.
Although this can all seem complicated, there are a few simple ways to alter your diet so it’s lower in carbs, focusing on the foods that will keep your blood sugar steady.
How to start a low-carb diet
The main benefit of a lower-carb diet is to help manage weight loss
and balance calories. If weight loss is your goal, which it often is for people turning to a low-carb diet, cutting back on the simple and less nutritious forms of carbohydrates is an excellent way of cutting back on calories—which is necessary for weight loss.
Simple carbohydrates often found in processed foods
don't provide very much nutritional bang for the buck. In other words, they're usually high calorie but lacking in anything that your body can use. These simple carbs can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
These foods include:
- Sugar, corn syrup
- Fruit juice
- Baked goods, candy
- Most breakfast cereal
- Store-bought white bread
Carbohydrate-rich foods that include fiber and essential vitamins and minerals include:
These high-fiber, nutrient-rich foods help lower harmful cholesterol levels
, promote healthy gut bacteria
, make weight loss easier, and are much better than very low carbohydrate diets for sustainable, lasting weight loss.
The bottom line is that a healthy low-carb diet
focuses on complex carbohydrates that include fiber and valuable vitamins and minerals and limits highly processed carbohydrates that are high in sugar and do not provide nutrition.
Balanced low-carb diet plan
A healthy diet that is low in simple carbs and sugars but includes a moderate amount of complex, high fiber and nutrient carbohydrates can go a long way to helping you feel full, satisfied, and energized. It’s also vital to get enough protein. Study
show that a diet higher in protein
is the make or break of whether any diet succeeds for the long term – whether that is a low-carb or low-fat diet. Below is a sample meal plan for a week: