A low carb diet limits carbohydrates such as bread, grains, rice, starchy vegetables and fruit. It emphasizes sources of protein and fat. There are many types of low carb diets and each has varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates.
A low carb diet is for losing weight. You might choose a low carb diet because you enjoy the types and amounts of food featured in the diet, or you may believe that a low carb diet will help you lose weight more quickly and more easily.
You can find carbohydrates in grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans and peas). You can also find carbs in sugar and sweets. For most people, carbohydrates serve as a primary source of energy. Your body converts carbohydrates into sugar during digestion. As your blood sugar level rises, so does your insulin level. Insulin then drives the blood sugar into your cells to provide energy to your body. Any extra sugar is stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen.
The low carb diet prevents fat breakdown in the body by using up sugar for energy. Proponents of the low carb diet believe that a decrease in carbs results in lower insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy. Still, research suggests that any weight loss from a low carb diet probably is not related to blood sugar or insulin levels.
A low carb diet focuses on meat, poultry, fish, eggs and some non-starchy vegetables. A low carb diet excludes or limits most grains, beans, fruits, breads, sweets, pastas and starchy vegetables. Some low carb diet plans allow fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A daily limit of 50 to 150 grams of carbohydrates is typical.
The weight loss may or may not continue long term, depending on your commitment to following the eating plan. If you abandon the low carb diet and return to your former eating habits, you may regain any lost weight.
Depending on what you eat, a low carb diet may be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. This can increase the risk of heart disease and perhaps some types of cancer.
If you are limiting fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods, you may not get enough fiber — which can contribute to constipation and other gastrointestinal problems.
Consult your physician before starting any weight loss plans.