There are many reasons for cutting carbs from your diet, and while many people begin a low-carb diet with the intention of losing weight, there are other health benefits that come along with it.
That’s right. Going on a low-carb diet has many health benefits, including being highly effective at eliminating visceral fat and improving overall health.
In this post, we will explain the benefits of a low-carb or ketogenic diet so you can decide if this is a lifestyle choice you should adopt.
*Please note that this blog post is for informational purposes only. It should not be treated as medical advice.
What Exactly Is A Low Carb Diet?
A low carb diet is a system of eating where carbohydrates are significantly cut from the diet. In a ketogenic diet, carb intake is limited even more drastically.
Cutting down on carbohydrates encourages the body to get its energy from stored fat rather than from the glucose that carbohydrates produce.
Thus, in a low-carb diet, starches and sugar carbohydrates, such as sugar, pastries, pasta, bread, cereal, and beans, are substituted with healthy fats and a moderate protein intake.
A low-carb diet is filled with non-starchy vegetables, and fatty foods such as butter, fatty fish, oils and some dairy, along with a healthy amount of protein from eggs, steak, chicken, seafood and other protein sources.
What Are the Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet?
Research has shown that reducing carb intake is one of the most efficient ways to lose weight and reverse obesity. There are a number of reasons why that is the case.
1. It Helps You Lose Weight
The number one health reason that people adopt a low-carb or keto eating style is to lose weight. If this eating style didn’t produce significant weight loss, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is today.
If you’ve tried a number of traditional ways to lose weight, like cutting calories, eating less, and exercising more with no luck, you might just find that a low-carb diet is the one thing that helps you lose weight.
Where other diets fail, a low-carb diet almost always works. You may need to do some trial and error to figure out the perfect level of carbs for your body, whether that be a strict keto diet, or a less stringent low-carb plan, but it is unlikely that this diet doesn’t produce results.
Check out our handy infographic to see the ways in which a low-carb diet helps you lose weight.
2. It Lowers Water Retention
In the first few days or weeks after starting a low-carb or keto diet, a person generally experiences a loss of water weight. When carb intake is restricted for a few days, glycogen stores in the muscle are reduced. Since glycogen is responsible for water retention, when these levels fall, so does water retention.
3. It Burns Fat Instead of Glucose for Energy
The letogenic diet lowers carb intake more drastically, in order to induce ketosis, which is a metabolic process that burns stored body fat instead of dietary carbs for energy.
Ketosis is the reason that many dieters have found success in losing weight and keeping it off by simply reducing carbs and increasing fat intake.
When the body has an abundance of carbohydrates and insulin surplus, our body holds on to fat for storage, resulting in both increased fat mass and circulating triglyceride levels.
When carb stores are depleted, as occurs on a keto diet, fat is liberated from its stores, to be oxidized for fuel. The result is improvement in cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
On a keto diet, you can expect to eat around 20 grams of carbs per day, on average. Your optimal carb intake really depends on your goals, those who are obese or have a lot of weight to lose may find the more strict plans to be most effective. The ketogenic diet is very strict in carb intake.
Conversely, someone who has a high amount of muscle mass, and does a lot of anaerobic work, such as lifting weights, is going to be able to tolerate a much higher amount of carbs than someone who is sedentary.
4. It Eliminates Insulin Trigger Foods
Starch and sugar carbs are insulin triggers that cause blood sugar spikes that lead to weight gain. While on a low carb diet, these insulin triggers are eliminated so the body can burn fat instead of storing it.
This is good news for anyone who suffers from diabetes, erratic blood sugar levels, and sugar cravings. A low-carb diet has the potential to reduce symptoms and improve blood sugar.
5. It Regulates the Appetite and Reduces Hunger
A study conducted by the Department of Experimental Medicine of University of Lund, Sweden, showed that the main reason why you can achieve rapid weight loss with a low-carb diet is because of appetite suppression. The study lists three reasons behind the suppressed appetite:
- The high-protein content of the diet
- The ketogenic nature of the diet
- The absence of hunger-promoting carb components like fructose and/or sucrose
A low-carb diet naturally regulates the appetite because insulin-triggering foods that wreak havoc in the blood stream and cause erratic hunger and cravings are eliminated.
Additionally, researchers found that the hunger regulating hormone leptin is positively affected by the low carb diet’s ability to reduce triglyceride levels in the body, which allows that hormone to work more effectively in regulating the appetite.
When people embark on a low carb diet, their appetite drops, and they naturally feel satisfied with less food, resulting in weight loss as they eat less calories without feeling deprived.
6. It Improves Cognitive Health
Like drugs, sugar is addictive and therefore has a negative impact on the brain, causing erratic cravings for sugar and food in general, fatigue and crashes, and even anxiety.
On the other hand, certain fats are healthy and benefit the brain in improving memory, energy levels, mood, and learning.
A report published in The Journal of Physiology illustrates these points and reports that a diet high in sugar and low in healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids was associated with insulin resistance as well as lower cognitive scores.
7. It Reduced Risk Of Metabolic Syndrome And Heart Disease
Another 2012 study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found low-carb diets to be more efficient at reducing metabolic syndrome and heart disease risk factors versus low-fat diets.
The study conducted twenty-three trials with a total of 2,788 participants from several different countries. It also found that compared with participants on low-fat diets, persons on low-carbohydrate diets experienced a slightly but statistically significantly lower reduction in total cholesterol
8. It May Help Reduce Cancer Risks
Diets that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugars contribute to free radical damage in our bodies. This damage feeds cancer cells and potentially helps them to proliferate faster.
In a low-carb diet, the levels of glucose are decreased, and since cancer cells feed off glucose, they aren’t able to experience the growth they may have following a traditional western diet.
In addition to reducing risk, a ketogenic diet may also help improve tumor response, when combined with standard chemotherapeutic and radiotherapeutic options, according to Dr. Jocelyn Tan-Shalaby. Read more here.
9. It Improved Digestive Function
Sugar promotes the growth of bad gut bacteria and a diet that has a high sugar intake makes you more prone to candida virus, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and exacerbates the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.
The Journal of the American Gastroenterological Association published a study that showed that people with IBS showed significant improvement in their stool habits, stomach pain, and even quality of life when they followed a low-carb plan for just four weeks.
10. It Improves Hormone Function
Researchers from the Discipline of Psychiatry and School of Medicine at the University of Adelaide conducted a study that compared the psychological and hormonal effects of diet on women suffering from hormonal polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
One subject group was given a low protein, high carb eating plan, while the second subject group ate a high protein, low-carb diet.
After sixteen weeks, those subjects on the high protein and low carb plan were found to have a significant reduction in depression and overall improvement in self-esteem.
In conclusion, low carb diets aid weight loss by triggering ketosis, a metabolic state where the body uses stored fat as its source of energy.
A low carb diet does a great job of regulating appetite and reducing hunger, while still feeling satisfied. The diet also promotes healthy brain function, metabolic response, and digestion.
Low carb diets are not fads, but lifestyles that have helped thousands of people reverse obesity and improve their health. It may just do the same for you.