Low-carb diets offer significant health benefits, so today we’re going to discuss two variations of carbohydrate-restricted dietary choices and the typical health improvements that may result from choosing to follow these diet regimes.
The Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic diet, or keto, is a diet based on high-fat, moderate protein, and extremely low carbohydrate consumption. Typically in keto, carbohydrate consumption is limited to 20 grams per day or less. Some more “relaxed” variations of ketogenic low-carb diets limit carbs to 40 g per day. In comparison, a typical North American consuming 2000 calories a day is expected to assume roughly 300 g of carbohydrate.
The challenge with a keto diet seems to be difficulty in adapting to eating high volumes of fat, particularly in a society where fat has long been demonized. It can be extremely difficult to eat keto in a public setting, as few restaurants offer meals made with high-quality good fats and low carbohydrates.
The Low G.I. Diet
The low glycemic index diet offers a wider variation of foods than keto, yet shares many of the same benefits. In a low G.I. diet, foods are selected according to how much they trigger blood sugar surges. While more carbs are consumed than in keto diets, these tend to be slowly digested, high-fiber carbohydrates.
In a low G.I. diet, only foods with a glycemic index of 50 or lower are consumed.
Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction From Low-Carb Diets
Studies of low carbohydrate diets consistently show that when people choose to reduce carbohydrate consumption, and instead eat more protein and fat, they lose weight. In fact, maintaining or increasing protein consumption helps preserve muscle mass, so low carbohydrate diets also make it easier to maintain weight lost.
Eating low-carb reduces appetite. This means you tend to snack less and and make healthier eating choices.
Decreased Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure is a significant risk factor in diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and many others. Reducing carbohydrate consumption typically leads to a significant reduction in blood pressure.
Reduced Visceral Fat
Visceral fat, or abdominal fat, is the dangerous fat packed around your organs. This fat increases inflammation, insulin resistance, and leads to metabolic syndrome. Low-carb diets are excellent for reducing this visceral fat in a targeted manner. If you’ve been told you have metabolic syndrome or an issue with abdominal fat, low-carb diets are a healthy choice.
Increased Good Cholesterol
On a low-carb diet, HDL or “good” cholesterol tends to go up significantly. In addition, the most frightening form of LDL or bad cholesterol, known as small LDL particles, are reduced on low-carb diets.
Triglycerides are fat molecules in our blood. Oddly enough, it is not fat consumption which causes them to increase. It is carbohydrate consumption. When you cut carbs, your blood triglycerides tend to drop dramatically. This reduces your risk of heart disease.
Reduced Blood Sugar, Reduced Insulin Levels, Improved Insulin Response
When we eat carbs, particularly highly processed carbs with high G.I. values, they are broken down into sugars in our digestive system and quickly enter our bloodstream and increase our blood sugar levels. This triggers the release of the hormone insulin to help control our levels of blood sugar so that they won’t harm us.
When our body has to produce too much insulin too frequently, insulin resistance may develop, making it difficult for the body to control blood sugar. This leads to prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, where the body simply cannot produce enough insulin to control blood sugar levels.
As soon as you choose to cut carbohydrates in your diet, you no longer need all that insulin because protein and fats are not converted to sugars in the way that carbohydrates are. In fact, many type II diabetics are able to reduce or eliminate their insulin dosage by choosing a low G.I. or keto diet.
Improvements in Brain Disorders
Low-carb diets have been proven helpful in certain brain disorders such as epilepsy, and are now being studied for other brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
There are now a significant number of studies that indicate health improvements from low-carb diets.