Find out the benefits of eating low carb and why it may help you lose weight, reduce cravings, and feel better!
Lately, you’ve seen me writing a lot about low carb eating. Why? Because I love it so much and it’s changed the way I think about food and the way I feel.
I’ve shared the reasons why I have decided to follow a low carb lifestyle, but today, I will share with you more of the scientific reasons about why eating a low carb diet is so great so you can make an informed decision if this lifestyle is right for you too.
What Is Low Carb?
For the past 50 years, we’ve been told to avoid fat. We should eat low-fat everything and avoid fat as much as possible. Ancel Keys even did a study about the effects of fat and cholesterol and heart disease. It was because on this study by Keys that the government then jumped on the “low-fat” bandwagon and changed the way we view fat.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until recently that the Ancel Keys study has been questioned, and what we thought we knew about fat and cholesterol just isn’t true.
So if it’s not fat making us fat, then what is?
It’s the excess consumption of processed carbohydrates and unhealthy fats.
When we consume carbohydrates, our body converts them into glucose to use for energy. In response to this glucose entering our bloodstream, the pancreas secretes insulin to reduce the amount of glucose in our bloodstream. Insulin is our fat storing hormone, so when it’s secreted, fat burning is switched off and fat storing is turned on. If we consume very little carbohydrates, we require less insulin, and therefore, we can actually STORE less fat and BURN more fat!
How much carbohydrates you can tolerate is different for everyone. Some people can tolerate more carbohydrates than others, while some can’t tolerate them at all.
Take myself for example. When I was younger, I didn’t have much of a problem tolerating carbohydrates. I could eat whole wheat bread, oats, and lots of fruit and my body was still able to remain pretty lean. But as I got older, this changed.
When I was following the 21 Day Fix way of eating, which is around 30% protein, 40% carbohydrate, and 30% fat ratio, I did lose weight at first, but eventually, my body started putting back on those stubborn pounds around my belly. I couldn’t figure out why! I was eating super “clean,” restricting calories, and exercising each day, yet those love handles around my belly would not budge. The scale kept creeping up and up and my clothes got tighter and tighter. I thought maybe it had to do with my hormones? So I got my hormones tested and everything was fine, there were no red flags and everything was operating as it should be.
I started doing some digging, and during that time, I came across some articles about eating a low carb, high fat diet. The information I learned was astonishing! Fat is actually good for us – it’s the carbs that are bad!
As we get older, our ability to handle carbs may diminish and pre-diabetes and insulin resistance become more and more common. When we consume too many carbs, out body starts to produce more and more insulin to help reduce the glucose in our blood, which leads to hyperinsulinemia.
After a week of lowering my carbohydrate intake and increasing my fat intake, I had lost that stubborn belly fat and could fit into my skinny jeans again! Of course, some of this can be attributed to water weight loss, which is true, but I’ve been able to keep that belly fat off for five months now while sticking to a low carb, high fat way of eating. I even eat a LOT MORE than I used to following the typical way of eating (low fat, high carb.)
The Health Benefits Of Eating Low Carb
Sure, the weight loss is a great benefit of eating this way. But for me, it’s a LOT more than just looking good in a pair of jeans. There are so many other health benefits to eating this way:
- Stabilize insulin release, therefore we can burn more fat rather than store it.
- Stabilize our blood sugar.
- Stabilize hunger signals and really understand what the true feeling of hunger is.
- Stop energy crashes and that “hangry” feeling by reducing insulin spikes.
- Increase our good cholesterol and decrease our bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Prevent developing type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin levels.
- Reduce inflammation in our body which is a large contributor to diseases such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimers, etc.
- Improve our nutrient intake.
I can tell you that I have experienced all of these benefits since switching to a low carb way of eating. The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I no longer get hangry! My family can attest to this. I used to get very angry when I got super hungry. I would get shaky and down right mad if I didn’t eat! But now, I can easily go 4, 5, 6 + hours without feeling that way. Yes, I will get hungry eventually, but it’s a gradual feeling of hunger, one I can hold off for a long time but still feel energetic and happy.
Another benefit I’ve noticed is that I eat a TON more veggies than I used to. I have never really enjoyed eating vegetables. I knew I had to eat them, but I was lucky if I got in more than 3 servings/day of them before. Now, my carbohydrates are from veggies alone. My grocery cart is full of fresh vegetables now, ones that I have avoided eating in the past, like brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, etc. And I LOVE eating them. Here’s a link to my video about how I’ve added more vegetables to my eating.
The Different Types of Diets
You may have seen a surge in new ways of eating lately. Here are some examples of different protocols of eating. They may not be all low carb, but they are all very nutrient dense:
Paleo’s main focus is eating the way our ancestors ate. This means eating meat, fish, chicken, vegetables and fruit. Those who follow the Paleo way of eating avoid dairy, grains, sugar, wheat, and processed foods. While I think this way of eating has some benefits, it isn’t really a low carb way of eating. Many Paleo recipes still use a lot of fruit and some natural sugars like maple syrup and honey.
Like Paleo, the Primal diet is based on the way our ancestors ate. Those who follow the Primal way of eating also eat some forms of dairy and more saturated fats like coconut oil and butter.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Atkins diet before! It was super popular in the 90’s and early 2000’s. It is based on a low carb way of eating, however, the Atkins diet also includes a lot of processed foods. This way of eating also promotes a higher protein intake. I personally find this diet to be less nutrient dense.
The ketogenic diet is relatively new in the nutrition sphere. The ketogenic diet (often termed keto) is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the Atkins and low-carb diets. It involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake, and replacing it with fat. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. While I do see a lot of benefit to this way of eating, I also think it is too low carb for many people, especially women. We do need some carbs for our hormones to function properly.
The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in countries like Italy and Greece back in the year 1960. It’s a whole foods diet that is full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and whole grains. As you can see, while this way of eating is definitely healthy, it is higher in carbs.
A low-carb, high-fat diet is a diet that restricts carbohydrates, such as those found in sugary foods, pasta and bread. It is high in protein, fat and healthy vegetables. The emphasis is on whole, unprocessed foods, no sugar or grains, moderate protein, higher in fat, and of course, low in carbs. Personally, I find this way of eating the easiest to follow. There are less “rules” and the focus is on eating low carb, high quality foods.
How Many Carbohydrates Should You Consume
How many carbohydrates you can consume in a day really depends on YOU! Like I mentioned previously, some people can tolerate more carbohydrates than others. This may have to do with their genetics, their activity levels, their hormone levels, etc.
In using myself as an example, I have a fairly decent level of carb tolerance. My hormones are in balance and I’m very active, so I can usually eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates. For me, I can eat about 100g of carbs per day and still stay in fat burning mode.
If you find that you have a lot of cravings and have a hard time controlling your appetite, you may find a low carb way of eating particularly beneficial. Restricting carbs can help regulate your hunger signals and your appetite.
I recommend that people start at 100g or less of carbohydrates per day and see how they feel. Some people do well restricting carbs even more (less than 50g or 20g per day.) By eating a low carb, high fat diet, your body goes from a sugar burning state to a fat burning state! And hey, who doesn’t want to burn more body fat?! You’ll find your energy is more stable (no more afternoon crashes,) your mood is better, you can sustain exercise for longer periods, and it has therapeutic effects for those with epilepsy, ADHD, Alzheimers, certain types of cancers, T1 & T2 diabetes, acne, PCOS, etc.
PLEASE NOTE: if you have any of the above conditions, please talk to your doctor first before reducing your carb intake. Your blood pressure may decrease and your blood sugar will improve which may require reducing your medication so you don’t become hypotensive or hypoglycemic.