If you have ever been on a ‘diet,’ you will know how frightening that word is. Diet means deprivation, right? Wrong. With a low-carb diet, there is no deprivation. In fact, you have the freedom to eat a lot of stuff that traditional diets do not allow. You only need to go light on the carbs! Carbohydrates (or carbs as they are lovingly called) are a type of complex sugar. They are ‘complex’ because they have a kind of wrapping that needs to be broken down by the body. Carbohydrates are found in almost any kind of food – bread, pasta, vegetables, and fruits. Carbs are stored in the liver where they are then broken down to form simple sugars called glucose. A diet rich in carbohydrates supplies a surplus of sugar to the body. This leads to obesity, diabetes, hypoglycemia, hypertension, and type II diabetes. Research has proved that the traditional low-fat, low-calorie diet is ineffective in reducing weight.
In a low carb diet, the carbohydrates in the diet are replaced with fat and proteins (poultry, cheese, meat, fish, and eggs; along with lots of vegetables). Carbohydrates should ideally make up only 5-10% of the daily calorie intake. The reasoning behind this diet is that carbs are readily converted into fat due to the action of insulin. Elevated insulin levels cause fat to be deposited in the body. So you become fat. High sugar in the blood also stimulates hunger signals in the brain. This is what produces the hunger cravings that lead you to binge on more carbs. So, it’s really a vicious circle, where the more you eat, the more you want.
The only way to put an end to this vicious cycle is by limiting the carb intake. Soon, the insulin levels start to fall and glucagons are produced. Now, glucagons are the nice guys – they burn fat and unclog the arteries. Low carb diets facilitate quicker weight loss and stabilize the blood sugar level (diabetics, are you listening?).
How to start a low carb diet:
-Consume lots of water as constipation may set in at the beginning of the diet
-Fiber and vitamin supplements need to be taken
-Sugar, pastries, and white flour are all taboo
-Avoid saturated fats
A word of caution:
Many items in the market are marked “sugar-free”. But these items are to be avoided. Sugar-free does not make it carb-free. Sugar-free cakes, biscuits and snacks still contain starch, which gets converted to sugar. Beware of the ‘no sugar added’ labels. This just means the manufacturer has not added any extra sugar to the product.
Fibers are good for you. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are necessary for good health.
It is quite normal for your body to become smaller without you losing weight. So, take your body measurements. Do not starve yourself or go hungry. Eat smaller meals and increase the frequency. Do not restrict the calorie intake, as this will slow down metabolism and force the body into ‘starvation mode.’ Instead, increase the fat and protein in your diet.
A diet without exercise is like a ‘10’ without the ‘1.’ Bump up your exercise level and add some weightlifting to your routine. Keep a diet diary, and meticulously and honestly keep records of what you consume.
Once the excess weight is gone, and your blood chemistry and energy levels have stabilized, you may start adding more carbs back into your diet.