It is well known that the Western diet/Standard American Diet (SAD) are high in processed carbohydrates (especially sugar) which results in gastrointestinal and systemic inflammation. This further contributes to the development of increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which can lead to all kind of diseases and imbalances (allergies, autoimmune diseases, blood sugar imbalances, obesity etc). By eating refined carbohydrates and not enough fiber we feed the pathogenic bacteria and fungi (especially those higher up in the digestive tract). By eating complex carbohydrates with fiber, we feed the beneficial bacteria in the lower part of the gut.
High carb diet also favors weight gain. Excess carbs are stored as fat.
Now let’s explore a low carbohydrate diet.
Low carb diets have been popular on and off since the dawn of the Atkins fame (and maybe even earlier?). But, what exactly defines low carb? Does eating this way actually help with weight loss? Are there any other health benefits to eating fewer carbs?
What is a carb?
A carb, or carbohydrate, is one of our three main macronutrients. Carbs, along with protein and fat that are needed for optimal health in quantities larger than vitamins and minerals which are micronutrients.
Carbohydrates come in three main types:
Sugars are the smallest (molecule) carb. There are many different kinds of sugars, beyond the well-known table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose).
Starches are longer chains of many sugars bound together. Starches are broken down by our digestive enzymes into sugars. These sugars are then absorbed and metabolized in much the same way as if we ate sugar itself.
Fiber, on the other hand, is also a long chain of sugars, but these are not broken down by our digestive enzymes. Fiber passes through our system, feeds our friendly gut bacteria, and then takes food waste out the other end.
Because fiber isn’t digested like sugars and starches, it’s often excluded from the carb calculation.
How we metabolize carbs
When we eat carbs, our body absorbs the broken down sugar into our blood, thus raising our blood sugar. Depending on how high and fast our blood sugar rises, our body releases insulin to tell our cells to absorb that sugar out of our blood and use it as energy now or store it for later.
This is part of the theory as to why eating low carb diets may help with weight loss – by preventing the release of insulin, thus preventing the storage of excess calories.
But, our bodies are a bit more complicated than that!
Low carb for weight loss?
Yes, our bodies are burning fat more efficiently than sugar (carbs). While burning sugar a lot of free radicals are created. Low carb diet helps with insulin balancing (insulin resistance).
A few studies recently put low carb diets head-to-head against low-fat diets for weight loss.
How many carbs is low carb?
There isn’t one single definition.
The average American eats about 300 g of carbs per day. Some people consider eating under 250 g of carbs per day to be the first threshold of a low carb diet. That’s really not that low in carbs, it’s lower carb, rather than low carb. Plus, if you’re new to cutting carbs, this level is easy to maintain and a good start (if you want to cut your carbs).
Taking that a step further, eating about 50 g per day of carbs is considered a typical low carb diet.
On the extreme side, eating less than 50 g of carbs per day is considered to be very low carb – it falls under the ketogenic diet range. Eating so few carbs can actually change your metabolism into a ketogenic state. That means we are burning fat for energy (fat burner vs. sugar burner).
Other health benefits of low carb diets
Low carb diets have the benefit of preserving muscle mass during weight loss. They can also improve heart health biomarkers like cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Not to mention that eating fewer carbs can improve how our bodies manage those carbs in terms of insulin and fasting blood sugar levels.
There can definitely be some non-weight-loss health benefits to eating fewer carbs!
Eating a low carb diet can be healthy, as long as it contains enough of all the essential nutrients. Some people may lose weight by eating fewer carbs, and others won’t.
Low carb diets can help to improve how the body manages blood lipids and blood sugar, so it can be a healthy choice for some people.
As with most things in nutrition, there isn’t a one size fits all rule. Low carb diets can be a good choice for many people, but it’s not the magic bullet that some people claim.
What about you – have you tried (or do you currently) eat low carb? How many carbs do you eat per day? Have you had any great (or not so great) health effects from it? Let me know in the comments below.
Low Carb Baked “Breaded” Chicken
2 pounds chicken drumsticks
½ cup almond flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rosemary or thyme
½ tsp garlic powder
Preheat oven to 450F. Cover a large baking dish with parchment paper. In a large food storage bag, combine all ingredients except chicken. Place a couple of pieces of chicken in the bag and shake until coated. Repeat with the rest of the chicken. Place chicken on a lined dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Turn over and bake 15 minutes longer. Ensure the internal temperature of chicken reaches 165F.
Serve & enjoy!
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To your radiant health, with love,