This low-carb diet for beginners will help you learn about the health benefits of low carbs, different low-carb diet options, and what to eat and what to avoid.
Carbs have long been controversial in the nutrition world, with some experts claiming they are the key to weight loss and health, while others believe that eating carbs causes weight gain and chronic disease. The right answer is probably a bit of both in terms of weight loss and optimal health. The carbohydrates you choose to eat—and how your body processes them—will affect your health.
The term “low-carb” can mean many different things, depending on who you ask. While there is no official definition, most low-carb diets restrict carb intake to 20–150 grams per day—down from the 300–400 grams per day recommended by mainstream nutritional guidelines.
What Is the Low-Carb Diet?
The low-carb diet is a way of eating that’s been shown to be effective for weight loss and overall health. One study found that people who followed a low-carb diet lost twice as much weight as those following a low-fat diet, and another found that participants in the lowest carb group had lower blood sugar levels. A meta-analysis of studies on low-carb diets also showed significant improvements in blood lipid levels (i.e., total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol).
Low carb diets have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation, too—both factors that influence risk for heart disease. It may also benefit the brain by increasing the production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which protects neurons from damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease or stroke.
Studies show that going low carb can help with gut health, too; one study showed that following a ketogenic diet reduced symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome by 47 percent after only two weeks! In addition, research suggests that this type of nutrition plan could even be beneficial for people with kidney disease due to its ability to prevent kidney stones from forming.
The Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet
- Lowering blood sugar
- Lowers cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. These conditions are linked to high carbohydrate intake.
- Lowers stroke risk as well as other diseases that affect your blood vessels.
What to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet
Low-carb foods are high in protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients. Here are some of the best low-carb foods to eat:
- Meat includes beef, poultry, fish, and other sources of protein.
- Vegetables: leafy greens (kale, spinach), broccoli, and other vegetables
- Berries like strawberries and blueberries; citrus fruits such as oranges or grapefruit; melons like cantaloupe; tomatoes (raw) or tomato sauce; avocado (without sugar).
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds can be eaten moderately on a low-carb diet (1 ounce per day). Seeds are also great for snacking on. They contain healthy fats, which help keep you satiated longer between meals.
Low-Carb Food List
You can eat the following foods on a low-carb diet:
- Meat, fish, and eggs
- Cheese, butter, and cream
- Nuts and seeds.
- Oils include olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, or MCT (medium-chain triglyceride). These are all healthy fats that are good for you. They help keep you full while helping your body burn fat more efficiently. (MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides). You should avoid conventional vegetable oils like peanut or corn oil because they contain lots of omega-6 fatty acids, which may cause inflammation in your body rather than reduce it. Check out our article “The Truth About Fats In Your Diet” for more details about fats in general!
Oils do not contain carbs, but some people still worry about overeating fat, so we’ll talk more about this later on when we answer some questions from readers of our blog post!
You want to make sure that the meat is free-range or grass-fed; otherwise, there could be hormones injected into them, which will increase inflammation in your body, contributing to weight gain instead of weight loss.  If you’re vegetarian, eggs are a great source of protein, but if not, I recommend choosing lean cuts like chicken breast over fattier ones like pork chops.
What to Avoid on a Low-Carb Diet
This means that you should avoid processed foods, as well as any foods that are high in carbohydrates. These include:
- Bread and other baked goods
- Rice and pasta
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other starchy vegetables (corn is also quite starchy)
- Fruits (except small amounts of berries)
You should also avoid alcohol, sugar, legumes like beans and lentils, dairy products such as cheese or milk—and yes! You will have to give up your beloved buttery coffee creamer too. In addition to these foods I’ve already mentioned above, any foods made with corn syrup are low in carbohydrates but aren’t allowed on this diet plan.
Low Carb Diets and Keto Diets
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. It has many similarities to the Atkins diet but is stricter and more complex.
The ketogenic diet was developed in the 1920s by nutritionists at the Mayo Clinic to treat epilepsy. It is used mainly to manage refractory childhood epilepsy and other neurological disorders, such as migraine headaches.
Low Carb Diet vs. Keto Diet
Both diets reduce carbohydrate intake significantly, but they differ in how many carbohydrates you can eat daily. A person following a low-carb diet may eat between 20 and 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. In comparison, someone following a keto diet may only be able to consume 5% of their total daily calories from carbohydrates (or less than 20 grams).
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet that focuses on getting more of your calories from healthy fats instead of carbs. While it was initially designed to help people with epilepsy in the 1920s, we’ve learned over time that it can help people lose weight and improve their health in many other ways.
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that’s become popular among people who want to lose weight and feel better by eating fewer carbohydrates.
Keto diets are based on the idea that eating fewer carbs increases fat burning in the body and reduces hunger pangs during dieting or fasting. Foods high in carbs are bad for this purpose because they cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, fatigue, and weak feelings.
Low carb diets also reduce insulin levels and help with weight loss because insulin causes fat storage.
Exercising on a Low-Carb Diet
Exercise is an important part of any healthy diet, and it’s especially important on a low-carb diet. By exercising regularly and eating lots of nutrient-dense foods, you’ll feel better than you would if you went on a standard carb-heavy diet that didn’t include exercise. Exercise can help your body burn fat more efficiently, which not only helps you lose weight faster but also makes it easier to keep the weight off in the long run.
There are many different types of exercise that can be beneficial for people following low-carb diets. Resistance training (such as lifting weights) builds muscle mass and strength, which will help reduce overall body fat levels even if they’re not performing cardio exercises like running or cycling every day. Some people prefer doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts because they’re less time-consuming than traditional aerobic activities such as jogging at a moderate pace for 30 minutes at a time; on average, HIIT workouts take about 20 minutes from start to finish!
How Much Weight Can You Lose?
It is important to note that weight loss can vary greatly depending on your starting point, so results may not be the same for everyone.
If you are overweight and have been eating a high-carb diet, or if you are simply looking to lose a few pounds, you should expect to see at least 5 pounds lost in the first week of following a low-carb diet. This is because when your body goes into ketosis—the process of burning fat instead of carbs—it will release excess water weight built up around organs and muscles.
If you are already fit and healthy but want to lose some extra fat, then one pound per week is more realistic, as it takes longer for your body to adjust to burning fat instead of glucose (sugar).
Potential Downsides of the Low-Carb Diet
It’s important to note that the low-carb diet isn’t for everyone. Some people have difficulty tolerating it, and others may find it difficult to stick to. Because of this, many people new to the diet look for additional resources and sources of support to ensure they’re getting enough nutrients from their food.
Some people enjoy shopping at health food stores or buying organic produce from farmers’ markets. However, if you don’t live near these stores or have access to fresh produce at reasonable prices, shopping at supermarkets can be just as easy—and much more convenient! It’s also worth noting that while most foods on a low-carb diet are likely healthier than their carb-heavy counterparts, some people may struggle with how expensive this way of eating can be due to its focus on higher-quality ingredients (e.g., grass-fed beef instead of regular ground beef).
Finally, although there aren’t any specific rules about what types of meals should be eaten during your first month as low carb (aside from avoiding added sugars), many find it helpful if they base each meal around one protein source; start with something like grilled chicken breast followed by steamed broccoli before finishing up with baked salmon topped with lemon juice or salsa verde sauce!
In addition to these potential downsides seen after starting on this plan:
- It’s hard to follow long-term. If you cut out carbohydrates from your meals entirely, you’ll need to plan out every meal carefully, because there are so many foods that have carbohydrates — even vegetables! And if you’re hungry between meals, you won’t be able to fill up with protein shakes or other snacks because most of them have carbohydrates too. You’ll need to eat regularly throughout the day just like everyone else.
- It may lead to nutrient deficiencies over time, especially if your body isn’t getting enough fiber from fruits and vegetables or enough vitamins from whole grains and legumes (which are high in fiber). You’ll also need to take vitamin supplements if you’re following a very-low-carbohydrate diet plan.
- You might feel fatigued because your body hasn’t fully adjusted yet; try walking more throughout the day to get some exercise even when tired!
- If you notice constipation symptoms (elevated heart rate/pulse rate) without taking stimulant drugs such as caffeine before bedtime, consider switching brands.
Tips for Digesting Carbs Better and Reaching Ketosis Faster
- Eat more fiber: Eating more fiber-rich foods may help you feel better if you have digestive issues. Studies show that the average American only consumes about 20 grams of fiber per day—about half of what is recommended by the Institute of Medicine. You can get some from whole grains and veggies, but most people don’t eat enough beans to make up for their lack of whole-grain intake.
- Eat more fat: Fat helps slow digestion and keep your blood sugar levels steady, which means it will help minimize cravings and prevent sharp drops in blood sugar after meals (which we’ll explain below). Low-carb diets recommend getting at least 30% of your daily calories from healthy fats like avocado oil, salmon oil, or coconut oil. If that sounds like too much fat for you, start with 10% and build up over time until you reach 30%. It’s easier than it sounds! Most people feel better when they eat this way than with lower fat diets because their energy levels are stable throughout the day rather than constantly going up and down depending on what type of food they ate last night before bedtime. “
A low-carb diet is an effective way to lose weight and improve health.
A low-carb diet is an effective way to lose weight and improve health. Some studies have shown that low-carb diets can help you lose more weight than other types of diets and improve your health in other ways.
Low-carb diets tend to be high in fat and protein but lower in carbohydrates, significantly refined sugars, and grains. Most people don’t eat enough vegetables or fruits regularly, so it’s essential to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients from those sources when following a low-carb diet plan.
One study found that participants who followed a Mediterranean diet lost eight pounds over three months compared with four pounds for those following the Atkins Diet; both groups had similar reductions in body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
A low-carb diet may be right for you if you’re serious about losing weight and improving your health. Low-carb diets have been gaining popularity over the past several years. The positive benefits of lower-carb diets have been extensively studied in recent years, indicating that eating fewer carbohydrates may be beneficial for health. Eat fewer carbs, lose more weight, and maintain a healthy lifestyle!