We tell you what any­one who wants to reduce the amount of car­bo­hy­drates in their plate needs to know.

If you made a res­o­lu­tion to your­self at the begin­ning of this year to lose weight, you’re like­ly con­sid­er­ing a low-carb diet as one of your options. From Atkins to Paleo and Keto, the trend toward low-carb diet options for weight loss remains one of the most pop­u­lar. The rea­son for this is prob­a­bly due to its effec­tive­ness — many peo­ple actu­al­ly lose weight by lim­it­ing their car­bo­hy­drate intake. But at what cost? And is this real­ly a healthy path to your goal?

What types of low-carb diets are there?

There are sev­er­al types of low-carb diets, and they vary in the amount of car­bo­hy­drates allowed each day. A typ­i­cal low-carb diet typ­i­cal­ly con­tains less than 26% of total calo­ries from car­bo­hy­drates. For exam­ple, for those on a 2,000 calo­rie per day diet, car­bo­hy­drates should be less than 130 grams. Typ­i­cal­ly, low-carb diets lim­it foods high in car­bo­hy­drates or added sug­ars, includ­ing sweets, starch­es, and refined oils.

How­ev­er, foods allowed on a low-carb diet may vary depend­ing on your dai­ly car­bo­hy­drate intake. Even high-carb foods, such as fruits, starchy veg­eta­bles and whole grains, can be includ­ed in mod­er­a­tion when los­ing weight on some low-carb diets.

Here are some of the most pop­u­lar low-carb diets:

  • Keto­genic (keto) diet. This low-carb, high-fat eat­ing pat­tern lim­its dai­ly car­bo­hy­drate intake to less than 5–10% of total calo­ries, which is approx­i­mate­ly 20–50 grams of car­bo­hy­drates.
  • Atkins diet. Dur­ing the first phase of this diet, car­bo­hy­drate intake is lim­it­ed to approx­i­mate­ly 20 grams per day, depend­ing on which plan you choose. Dur­ing the diet, con­sump­tion grad­u­al­ly increas­es, but usu­al­ly does not exceed 100 g per day.
  • South Beach Diet. In addi­tion to reduc­ing your car­bo­hy­drate intake, this diet encour­ages you to eat lean meats and heart-healthy fats. At the ini­tial stage, grains and fruits are also pro­hib­it­ed.
  • Paleo diet. This diet mim­ics the diet of our hunter-gath­er­er ances­tors and is nat­u­ral­ly low in car­bo­hy­drates.
  • Ducan’s diet. The diet lim­its car­bo­hy­drates, but is high in pro­tein and low in fat. It is divid­ed into four stages. At the first stage, you are allowed to eat an unlim­it­ed amount of lean pro­tein plus one and a half table­spoons of oat bran per day; in the next stage, non-starchy veg­eta­bles and some car­bo­hy­drates and fats are grad­u­al­ly added.
A typical low-carb diet typically contains less than 26% calories from total carbohydrates

How do low carb diets work?

Our body breaks down car­bo­hy­drates dur­ing diges­tion, turn­ing them into glu­cose. Glu­cose is then used as fuel to pro­vide the ener­gy need­ed to per­form many of our body’s func­tions.

If we don’t eat enough car­bo­hy­drates, instead of using glu­cose as fuel, our bod­ies will begin to break down fat, which should the­o­ret­i­cal­ly lead to weight loss. This is the basic premise of a low-carb diet. But while it’s unlike­ly to harm your body in the short term, researchers are find­ing some results among those who fol­lowed a low-carb eat­ing pro­gram for long peri­ods of time.

If we do not consume enough carbohydrates, then instead of using glucose as fuel

Potential harms of low-carb diets

There is a lot of research show­ing that low-carb diets have no sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits over more tra­di­tion­al calo­rie-restrict­ed, nutri­ent-bal­anced diets. While short-term car­bo­hy­drate restric­tion for a week can lead to sig­nif­i­cant weight loss (albeit pri­mar­i­ly from water and glyco­gen stores), the real con­cern is that this type of eat­ing pat­tern should not be fol­lowed for months or years.

Com­pli­ca­tions such as car­diac arrhyth­mias, car­diac dys­func­tion, sud­den death, osteo­poro­sis, kid­ney dam­age, increased risk of can­cer, impaired phys­i­cal activ­i­ty, and lipid abnor­mal­i­ties may be asso­ci­at­ed with long-term car­bo­hy­drate restric­tion in the diet.

If you have chron­ic dis­eases, first con­sult a dieti­cian rather than pre­scribe a diet for your­self. For exam­ple, if you have prob­lems with cho­les­terol metab­o­lism, then the keto diet may be dan­ger­ous. A low-carb diet is not suit­able for those with kid­ney prob­lems — con­sum­ing too much pro­tein puts addi­tion­al stress on this organ.

Mikhail Kutushov, tox­i­col­o­gist: “When not prop­er­ly for­mu­lat­ed, low-carb diets can lead to defi­cien­cies in fiber, vit­a­mins and min­er­als. Ath­letes, preg­nant and lac­tat­ing women, as well as chil­dren and ado­les­cents should be espe­cial­ly care­ful when approach­ing this diet, since a lack of car­bo­hy­drates leads to unpleas­ant health con­se­quences. POn a low-car­bo­hy­drate diet, you should nev­ersharply reduce car­bo­hy­drate intake, as this can lead to neg­a­tive health con­se­quences; Andexclude fiber, because it is impor­tant for the health of the diges­tive sys­tem; htalk about drink­ing regime.”

When following a low-carbohydrate diet, you should not dramatically reduce your carbohydrate intake or eliminate fiber.

When choosing food, choose quality over quantity

Because low-carb diets do not dif­fer­en­ti­ate between car­bo­hy­drates and typ­i­cal­ly lim­it not only donuts and cook­ies, but also fruits, whole grains and some veg­eta­bles, it is easy to become defi­cient in the vit­a­mins, fiber and antiox­i­dants these foods con­tain. It’s worth not­ing that a num­ber of stud­ies have shown that peo­ple with a mod­er­ate car­bo­hy­drate intake — nei­ther low nor very high — had the low­est risk of mor­tal­i­ty.

Dr. Wal­ter Wil­lett, co-author of one of the stud­ies and pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­o­gy and nutri­tion at the Har­vard T.H. School of Pub­lic Health. T. H. Chan, notes: “These results com­bine sev­er­al con­tra­dic­to­ry direc­tions. Too much and too lit­tle car­bo­hy­drates can be harm­ful, but it’s also impor­tant to con­sid­er the type of fat, pro­tein and car­bo­hy­drates you eat.”


Not all car­bo­hy­drates are cre­at­ed equal, and many health experts rec­om­mend focus­ing on qual­i­ty rather than quan­ti­ty. There’s a big dif­fer­ence between a piece of whole grain toast with eggs and a crois­sant with jam in the morn­ing. It’s time to change the rhetoric and start asso­ci­at­ing car­bo­hy­drates with pos­i­tive things. Car­bo­hy­drate foods pro­vide ener­gy and con­tain many vit­a­mins and fiber that most of us lack.

If you’re con­sid­er­ing a high pro­tein diet, talk to your doc­tor or dietit­ian to see if it’s right for you. They can help you cre­ate a plan that will ensure you get enough fruits and veg­eta­bles and lean pro­tein foods.

By the way, we pre­vi­ous­ly wrote about the only car­bo­hy­drate that helps get rid of bel­ly fat. Also learn how switch­ing to a low-carb diet can affect your work­outs.

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