Very low carbohydrate diets are very popular right now due to
the quick weight loss that they can produce. But is a very low carbohydrate
diet better than other diet approaches when it comes to losing weight, keeping
it off, and improving health? A very low carbohydrate diet is an eating plan
that is high in fat and protein and restricts the amount and types of
carbohydrates someone eats.
Can I Lose Weight On a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet?
Yes, it is true that a very low carbohydrate diet can
produce weight loss, but let’s take a closer look at exactly how that weight
loss happens. First, when someone follows a very low carbohydrate diet for
weight loss, such as a keto diet or Atkins diet, the body does not have a
supply of glucose which provides the body with energy. The body then is
required to resort to stored glucose in the liver and muscles to meet its energy
needs. This energy is provided by ketones that are made when the body breaks
down muscle mass. This process mobilizes water, meaning that many of the shed
pounds are a result of water weight being lost. After a period of time, this
weight loss tends to slow or reverse. The long term results for weight loss
after following a very low carbohydrate diet tend to be similar to other diet
programs. The lost muscle mass could lead to a lower metabolic rate as well,
which may make weight gain more likely when returning to normal eating.
Is a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Healthy?
The American Heart Association recommends against using a very
low carbohydrate diet because oftentimes these plans are too high in saturated
fat and protein. Research shows that this type of diet can be hard on the
kidneys, heart, and bones. Also, low carbohydrate diets restrict very
nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes which have been
associated with a lower risk for stroke, heart disease, dementia, and certain
Who Should Not Follow a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet?
A very low carbohydrate diet or keto plan is not for
everyone. It is recommended to not follow this type of diet if you have a
history of pancreatic disease, liver conditions, thyroid problems,
constipation, kidney stones, a history of an eating disorder, or have gallbladder
disease or have had your gallbladder removed.
So, What Diet Should I Choose?
A healthy diet is one that contains a variety of nutritious
foods with little restriction. Usually a food plan that eliminates a food group
or demonizes certain foods leads to difficulty in getting all of the vitamins,
minerals, and nutrients needed for good health (not to mention may lead to a
disordered relationship with food). It’s important to remember that many
nutrient-rich foods are sources of carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables,
legumes, and whole grains. And just because a diet leads to weight loss does
not make it healthy. While it is true that weight loss can lead to an
improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar; it is still
important to keep in mind that a healthy diet should be good for the whole body
and not just for the waistline.
Rather than demonizing all carbohydrates it is best to look
for more natural sources of carbohydrates in the diet. Natural carbohydrates,
such as fresh produce and whole grains, generally provide antioxidants and
fiber not found in other foods. These foods tend to slow down digestion, have less
of an impact on blood sugar, and improve cholesterol levels. Enjoying all foods
in moderation and balance is good for the body and mind.
The jury is still out on the overall benefits of a very low
carbohydrate diet for weight loss. For good health, it is best to stick to what
research has shown over and over again. The best diets for losing and
maintaining weight is one that you can stick to, includes a variety of colorful,
plant-based foods (including carbohydrates) and help you feel your best!