A low carb diet, as the name implies, is a diet that is low in carbohydrates (bread, rice, sugar, especially the refined variety) and high (or rather adequate) in fats and proteins (meat, eggs, cheese, butter, nuts, etc.). A number of variations of the diet exist but the one thing that is common to all is the drastic cutback on the intake of carbohydrates in the diet plan.
Most of these plans substitute the outgoing carbohydrates with fats and proteins. Although different types of these diets may vary in the recommended intake of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as a general rule a low carb diet is tantamount to a high-fat and moderate protein diet.
In a low carb diet at least 60 to 70% of the daily calorie intake must come from fats, contrary to a normal diet where a major portion of the calories comes from carbohydrates. The carbohydrate calories should not constitute more than 5 to 10% of the daily calorie intake. The remaining 20 to 30% calories can come from proteins.
Why a low-carb diet?
How often have you come across overweight people feeling frustrated at not being able to lose an inch of the stubborn abdominal fat in spite of exercising and in spite of being on the traditionally recommended low-fat, high carb diet for months? Too often to even remember! The reason, obviously, has to lie in the wrong approach to attacking the problem underlying excess weight and excess inches.
Scientific research has shown that dietary fat is not necessarily converted into body fat, whereas carbohydrates readily convert into fat by the action of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas in response to elevated sugar levels in the blood (as caused by carbohydrates) to allow blood sugar to be used by cells.
However, insulin also aids in fat deposition and stimulates the brain to produce hunger pangs. The vicious cycle of more carbohydrates, more and more insulin repeats, resulting in cells becoming insulin resistant with time. Consequently, excess sugar either stays in the blood (causing diabetes) or starts converting to fat (causing obesity) instead of being used up by cells to produce energy, leading to obesity, fatigue, and lethargy.
Benefits of a low carb diet
A low carb diet helps prevent hyperinsulinemia (i.e., elevated insulin levels in the blood) and increases the level of glucagon, a pancreatic hormone that reverses the action of insulin, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and helps burn fat to energy and remove cholesterol deposits from arteries.
And because the body gets into the fat-burning mode, sustained weight and inch loss occurs, accompanied by lowered blood pressure, better lipid profile and raised energy levels.
Due to the consumption of fats and oils, the appetite and hunger pangs stay in control, because fatty foods are more satisfying and take longer to digest. And since limited amounts of complex carbohydrates do accompany the fats (obviously, the healthy types), the body metabolism does not switch to starvation mode. A vitamin/mineral supplement and a fiber supplement may be added if necessary.
Once the body chemistry is back to normal and the excess weight knocked off, complex carbohydrates and some vegetables/fruits can be added to the diet. But if one does not want to go back to the earlier state, one has to kiss goodbye the white bread, pastries, cakes, ice creams and things like that, except for an occasional binge.