I receive lots of questions about low-carb diets and the benefits they offer. There are a lot of different low-carb options out there, and I’m excited to summarise four of the most popular for you.
In this article, I’ll explain what the Keto, Atkins, Paleo, and low-carb Mediterranean diets are like so that you understand which will work best for you. :)
Low-carb diets emphasise eating protein and fat while eating fewer carbs than the average person. People who are on low-carb diets tend to eat things like eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, and fish.
They typically eat less pasta, bread, and other grains. They also don’t eat many sugary sweets or desserts, and some people limit certain types of fruits and vegetables.
Most of the time, people turn to low-carb diets to help them lose weight. Some believe low-carb diets help people lose weight faster than other diets do. However, in the long run, other diets typically work just as well as low-carb diets do.
You might also try a low-carb diet for reasons that don’t have to do with weight loss. For example, people with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or type 2 diabetes sometimes go on low-carb diets to manage their health problems. Low-carb diets can help increase good (HDL) cholesterol and reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.
On keto, you reduce your carb intake significantly and replace it with fat. The goal of this diet is to keep your carb intake so low that your body goes into a state called ketosis. Too much protein can also limit ketosis, which is why the emphasis is on replacing carbs with mostly fat.
Typically, your body relies on carbohydrates as a source of energy. However, during ketosis, your body uses fat storage as energy instead.
When your insulin drops from a lack of carbs, your body starts releasing fatty acids from your stored fat. Some of the fatty acids go to your liver, which converts them into something called ketones, and these ketones supply energy to your brain. Over time, your body burns a lot of fat.
Eat foods that are high in fat. Then, prioritise protein and low-carb fruits and vegetables.
Some common foods to eat on keto include:
On keto, you should avoid:
Some of the benefits of keto include:
On keto, you might be at an increased risk of:
When you start keto, you might go through something called the keto flu. Typically, these symptoms go away after a couple of weeks on the diet, but some people experience these side effects for longer. Symptoms of the keto flu include:
In addition to all this, the keto diet is very restrictive. Some people don’t mind that. However, others struggle to stick with it in the long run.
The Atkins Diet lets you eat as much fat and protein as you want, as long as you avoid high-carb foods. The diet is typically used for weight loss, and it is broken down into four phases.
What you can eat depends on which phase you are in. However, no matter what, you should focus on eating healthy protein and fat sources, such as:
If you are in a stage in which you can eat carbs, pick complex carbohydrates that occur in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Here are some examples:
People who follow this diet drink water, coffee, and green tea. Alcohol is OK during the later stages in small amounts.
People on the Atkins diet should avoid these in all phases:
During the first stage, people on the diet should avoid:
In general, people who follow this diet for one year have pretty good results. People who stick with the diet typically:
People on this diet also like that they don’t have to count calories or limit all carbohydrates. They typically appreciate the flexibility that this diet offers. After the first stage, you adjust the diet to suit your body’s response.
The diet also focuses on eating carbs (after you complete the first stage) that are high in fiber. Fiber helps you feel full, improves your digestive system, and helps you manage your weight.
Some of the negative side effects and risks from this diet include:
Some medical professionals recommend that you eat two cups of fruit per day. On the Atkins diet, most people will struggle to eat this much fruit, and you might miss some of the vitamins and minerals that fruit contains. Even though later phases of the diet emphasise fiber, you still might not be eating enough, especially at the beginning.
This diet is less restrictive than some low-carb diets, but it is still limiting. Some people find it too restrictive. Even though it doesn’t require calorie counting, you still need to keep track of your carb intake, and some people struggle to cdo that every day.
The Paleo diet is all about eating the foods that our ancestors ate thousands of years ago during the Paleolithic era. During this time period, people were hunter-gatherers, not farmers. They typically ate whole foods, including fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
The purpose of this diet isn’t to avoid carbs. The Paleo diet lets you eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want. However, because people who follow this diet don’t eat grains, dairy, or processed foods, most end up eating low-carb diets by default.
People who follow the Paleo diet eat whole, unprocessed foods. They eat:
In general, you should avoid processed foods on this diet, including:
Some people on the diet will drink tea and coffee, even though hunter-gatherers didn’t have access to these beverages.
On the Paleo diet, you’ll eat significantly less sugar and avoid ultra-processed foods. While some processed foods can be healthy, ultra-processed foods are the ones you should watch out for when eating, since they are more likely to cause health issues.
When eating like this, you’ll eat fewer empty calories. Some of the benefits of this diet include:
Supporters of the diet also claim that Paleo can help with:
However, more research needs to be done to verify these claims.
This diet includes a lot of red meat, and that can increase levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. This is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. In addition to this, some people notice that they gain weight when on this diet if they aren’t properly exercising due to all the high-calorie foods (like nuts).
Like other low-carb diets, this diet is restrictive. Some people will struggle to stick with it, and others might slip into binge eating because of that.
The Mediterranean Diet is based on the cuisines of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece and Italy.
The diet is plant-based, not meat-based. Because of this, people still eat plenty of carbohydrates. However, because the diet emphasises eating whole foods, people end up eating fewer sweets and processed foods that are often high in carbs.
Alcohol isn’t encouraged, but you can drink red wine in moderation.
People on this diet should avoid:
Even though all of these diets are different, they share some basic principles. Luckily, you don’t have to follow any of these diets if you don’t want to. If you want to lower how many carbs you eat, you can start with the basics:
I typically suggest that you try to eat about 25-30 percent of your calories as carbohydrates, even on low-carb diets. However, always listen to the advice of a medical professional, especially if you are managing a health condition.
If you want to follow a specific diet, consider which one will work best for you. Some people prefer structured and restrictive diets, but others struggle with them. It all depends on your lifestyle, fitness goals, health history, and general preferences. :)
Love Rachael Xx