It seems like more and more of my friends are getting on the low-carb bandwagon. Hot trends such as the Paleo and Primal eating movements have refocused many of us on the benefits of cutting out junk food and limiting our processed carb intake. If you’re curious to see if lowering your carbohydrate intake could help you lose weight or better manage your blood sugar, here are a few things to consider:
1. Go gradually. If you’re used to the standard American diet, which often includes 300 daily grams of carbs or more, a drastic reduction could be very hard on your body. Some low-carb diets ask that you start with an extremely-low-carb period. This might work for some, but for many, it makes more sense to reduce carbs gradually.
2. Low carb is not just about steaks. Obviously, when you eat fewer carbs, you’ll need to eat more protein and fat. But protein is not just steaks – it can include poultry, seafood, cheeses and yogurt. When you add fats, try to add olive oil – the most heart-healthy fat we know of. Other healthy fats come from avocados, nuts, coconuts, and dairy.
3. Don’t forget fruit and vegetables. Old versions of some low-carb diets neglected the importance of vegetables and fruit, but newer versions of the same diets have rethought this stance. Mom was right: for optimal health, you do need to eat your vegetables (and fruit in moderation). The more we learn about the amazing chemicals that vegetables contain, the more science supports what Mom says.
4. Fat is not the enemy. We’ve been indoctrinated into viewing dietary fat as bad, but current thinking is that this was a mistake. Not all fat is bad. We need dietary fat, and some fats are in fact very good for us – see the list in section 2 above.
5. You need fiber. Low-carb diets need not lead to constipation. Even if you minimize grains, you can – and should – still gets plenty of fiber from vegetables and fruit. Eat plenty of varied vegetables – as many as you can in fact, and 2-3 servings of fruit per day. Vegetables are delicious when sautéed with garlic and olive oil, and a snack of full-fat plain Voskos Greek yogurt topped with berries will provide you with protein, good fat, fiber and antioxidants.
6. Don’t forget exercise. You don’t need a lot – but 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 4-5 times per week will help with weight loss, weight maintenance and just feeling better overall.
If you decide to go ahead and give low-carb dieting a try, be patient. It could take several weeks, even months, for your body to fully adjust, and you will probably need to tweak the amount of carbs you do get. Use fitday.com to track your daily carb intake, and to make sure you’re getting adequate vitamins and minerals.