The practicality of a low carb diet
Low carb, paleo, keto, carnivore, anabolic, Atkins…
These are all probably dietary structures that you may or may not have heard of. Love them or hate them they are all connected by the fact they have a manipulation of dietary carbohydrate intake.
Most dietary systems are built on oversimplification to make things really simple for people. We sometimes struggle with ‘eat anything’ kind of diets because we’re not very good at knowing how much or how little food we have eaten or really need to eat.
A low carb diet is one that controls carbohydrates, this is food that is sugary, or starchy such as chocolate, pasta and bread. You focus on protein rich whole foods, fruits, nuts, fats, oils and vegetables.
Low carb dieting with whole food ingredients has shown to improve health markers. These diets have been in common use for decades and are recommended by many GP’s. Best yet, there’s usually no need to count calories or use special products. All you need to do is eat whole foods that make for a complete, nutritious, and filling diet.
What is low carb?
A low carb diet means that you eat fewer carbohydrates and a higher proportion of protein and fat.
You may think or have been told that fat is detrimental to our health. In some respects some are but not all fat is created equal.
Low-fat products are often full hidden binders and sugars that may cause disruption to hormones and spike your blood sugars. The low-fat diet hasn’t prevented the increase in obesity… Think about that.
We know there’s little reason to fear natural fats. Especially plant based and omega rich purple bellied fish. With a low carb diet you don’t have to fear fat. Low carb reduces the sugar and starches in the diet, with adequate protein — or even high amounts of protein — you’ll find enough natural fat to stabilise your diet.
A low carb diet can tend to have less fluctuations in blood sugar management...
Your body will naturally use less insulin and with the reduction in blood sugar, your body will turn to use protein and fat (including its own) for fuel.
In addition, people naturally feel less actual stomach rumble hunger, helping reducing food intake and promoting weight loss.
Eat more: Meat, fish, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables that grow above ground and natural fats (including ghee, butter, cream, cheeses, full fat diary, avocado, coconut, dark chocolate and animal fats). Including dark thin skinned berries.
Eat less: Sugar and starchy foods (like bread, pasta, rice, beans and potatoes), crisps, chips, carbonated drinks, chocolate and low fat dairy products.
It’s too simple to be true isn’t it?
Combined with the intuitive eating practices of eating when you’re hungry and finding your own 80% full.
It can be really that simple.
Calories do still matter and your overall intake for the day needs to be considered, this style of dieting combines satiating filling foods with a diet style that will naturally help you eat less.
Who should NOT do a strict low carb diet?
Most people can safely start a low carb diet but in these three situations you may want to take advice from your GP or health practitioner:
People with diabetes taking insulin or metformin
People using medication for high blood pressure?
Mother’s who are breastfeeding.
People with renal (liver or kidney) issues.
If you’re not in any of the above with no other severe medical conditions it might be something to try.
What to eat:
Here are the basic low carb foods, choose the ones you prefer to eat, think of it like a buffet: take what you like and leave the rest. You can eat all of the fibrous green vegetables that you would like.
Beef and buffalo
Lean cuts of pork and boar
Wild game, venison
Poultry such as chicken, turkey, duck, pigeon
Fish such as pollock, cod, haddock, sole, trout, sea bass, salmon
Seafood such as shrimp, squid, octopus, lobster, crayfish
Eggs and egg whites
Dairy such as cottage cheese or strained Greek yogurt
Protein powder such as whey, casein, egg, bone broth / collagen
Plant-based powder blends (e.g., pea protein, rice protein, hemp protein)
Beans, lentils and legumes
Tempeh, tofu or edamame
Avocado and avocado oil
Cacao (dark chocolate)
Fresh coconut and coconut oil
Nuts, seeds and their butters (macadamia, pine nut, almond and walnuts)
Olives and extra virgin olive oil
Omega-3 fatty acid supplement (e.g., fish oil, krill oil, or algae oil)
Cheese and cream cheeses
Higher-fat dairy items
Fat from beef, pork and lamb
Fattier cuts of poultry (e.g., dark meat)
Fattier fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel or herring)
Vegetables and fruits
Apricots, peaches, nectarines
Sour cream and cheese dips
These foods will make it relatively easy to stay on a low carb diet.
What to drinks are good for low carb dieting?
Water is perfect and so is coffee or tea.
Use modest amount of milk or cream in coffee or tea, opt for sweeteners over sugar and be careful when ordering coffee or drinks from chains for their hidden sugars.
The ‘occasional’ glass of wine is fine in terms of a low carb diet, but omit beer, cider, sugary mixers and cocktails.
Try to avoid:
Foods much higher in sugar and carbohydrate.
Breads in high amounts
Pasta in high amounts
Pastries and cakes
Milk chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks
Starchy and dried fruits and snacks such as bananas and dates
Jams, compotes and marmalade
Condiments such as ketchup, brown sauce and salad cream
You may like to eat all of your meals with no carbohydrates in the day and emphasise your allotment of carbohydrate in just one meal if you would like to include some of higher carbohydrate items but they also have other health and behaviour considerations that may work against what you’d like the diet to achieve.
When you lower your carbohydrate intake you will immediately see a reduction in scale weight.
Initially, follow the diet strictly.
When you find the weight and goal you want, you reintroduce carbohydrates slowly and swap out some of the heavier amounts of fat. Some people actually prefer a low carb way of eating long term but a healthy diet and lifestyle needs variety and there’s plenty of health benefit to some carbohydrates.
Here are three examples of what a low carb meal can look like, depending on how many carbs you plan to eat per day:
Here's a couple of lunch ideas in video:
Low carb is to generally stay under 50g for the whole day.
Generally speaking, under 150g is ‘low carb’ especially if you’re athletic and training.
Why would you consider eating fewer carbs?
There are many potential benefits, proven by science and supported by clinical experience, like these:
Most people start eating fewer carbs to lose weight. That's mostly because carboHYDRATES store water in the body. Typically 1g of carbohydrate stores an additional 3g of water.
You also start to utilise glucose from muscle tissue and in the liver which again means you lose weight.
Remember - to actually lose 'fat' not just weight, you still have to be in a reduction of energy (eating less calories than you do now) this is just one method to help you do this.
May help the management of blood sugar
Low carb diets can help reduce or even normalise blood sugars.
Carbohydrate reduction of any level is likely an effective tool for blood sugar control.
Low carb might help settle symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome such as bloating, gas and pain.
Indigestion, reflux and other digestive issues can sometimes improve, too.
There are many other considerations in a healthy and happy tummy but we see repeated benefit to digestion and bloating.
Help long term with craving sugar
Are you struggling to stay away from sweet foods, even though you try to eat them in “moderation?” Many people do.
A low carb diet can often reduce the sweet cravings as blood sugar is normalised and stable and you provide the body with adequate nutrients from the diet.
Improved mental clarity, and a calmer digestive system are the most frequently cited benefits of low carb eating as well as lower blood pressure and other improvements better skin, fewer migraines, improved mental health symptoms, better fertility, and more.
For meals to be classed ‘low carb’ they typically need to be under 10g carbohydrate in the entire serving.
Your whole day however may wish to be under 50g for traditional ‘low carb’, 20g for ketogenic and for an exercising and athletic population around 120-150g carbohydrates.
50g of carbohydrates from green vegetables
1.5kg green veg
50g of carbohydrates from bread -
1 a bagel
Really low-carb foods
None of the foods above are extremely low in carbs.
How much would you need to eat to get to 20 grams of net carbs when eating other low-carb staples?
Butter – 20kg Avocado – 7 avocados (net carbs per avocado: 3) Cheese – 1.5kg Meat – an almost infinite amount (meat is virtually free of carbs) Fish – an almost infinite amount Olive oil – an infinite amount Coconut fat – an infinite amount
Here is a low carb menu:
2 pan fried cod fillets in olive oil with roasted courgette in butter with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, lemon and parmesan
2 fillets of salmon en papillote with asparagus, butter and lemon
8oz sirloin steak strips stirred with mange tout, corn and tender-stem broccoli in olive oil
2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
Cook with crushed garlic, lemon zest and dried rosemary / mint
Fresh chives and rocket salad or steamed veg
250g butternut squash roasted
150g turkey thigh mince
4 rashers streaky bacon
Crumbled feta cheese, parsley and pomegranate seeds
180g raw weight chicken breast
2 rashers of streaky bacon
1/2 medium avocado
Dusting of Parmesan
Roasted med veg
Give it a ago and just like any of my recommendations - think of it like a buffet - take what you'd like and leave the rest.