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Low carb diets have been a popular trend for several decades. While they used to be highly debated, they have gained more mainstream acceptance in recent years.
In fact, it is often noted that low carb diets result in greater weight loss, especially in the short term, as compared to low fat diets.
Additionally, low carb diets are known to positively impact several health indicators, including blood triglyceride levels, HDL (good) cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure according to these studies. Study 1, Study 2, Study 3, Study 4, Study 5.
Moreover, there are several methods of this dietary approach.
Let’s take a look at the 8 best methods most commonly used to follow a low carb diet:
1. A Normal Low Carb Diet
There isn’t a specific definition for a low carb diet, as it can vary depending on the particular method or plan followed.
Usually, it involves reducing carbohydrate intake and is sometimes referred to as a low-carb or carb-restricted diet.
Compared to a typical Western diet, this eating pattern typically involves consuming fewer carbohydrates and more protein. It generally emphasizes foods such as meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.
The idea behind this diet is to limit consumption of high-carbohydrate foods, such as grains, potatoes, sugary beverages, and junk foods high in sugar. The goal is to reduce carbohydrate intake and focus on other nutrient-dense foods.
The daily recommended carbohydrate intake can vary based on individual goals and preferences. A typical guideline for carbohydrate intake may be structured as follows:
- 100-150g (grams). A daily carb intake range of 100-150g (grams) is recommended for weight maintenance or frequent high-intensity exercise. This range allows for consumption of fruit and some starchy foods like potatoes.
- 50-100g (grams). To achieve gradual weight loss or maintain current weight, a carb intake range of 50-100g (grams) is suggested. This includes plenty of vegetables and fruit.
- 50g (grams). For fast weight loss, a carb intake below 50g (grams) is recommended. The focus should be on consuming plenty of vegetables with limited fruit intake, preferably berries that are low on the glycemic index (GI).
2. Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, very-low-carb eating pattern that aims to induce ketosis, a metabolic state in which the body releases significant amounts of fatty acids from its fat stores.
By restricting carb intake, insulin levels decrease and the body relies on fat as its primary fuel source.
When you follow a very-low-carb, high-fat diet, your liver converts many of the released fatty acids into ketones.
These water-soluble molecules can enter your brain and serve as an alternative source of energy, replacing the carbohydrates that were once its primary fuel.
Gluconeogenesis allows your body to produce the small amount of glucose still needed by the brain. In some variations of this diet, protein intake is also limited to prevent a reduction in ketone production.
The ketogenic diet was originally developed as a treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy in children, but it has since been found to have potential benefits for other neurological conditions and metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes. There are multiple sources that support this claim. Study 1, Study 2, Study 3, Study 4.
A ketogenic diet emphasizes on high protein foods and fat, while limiting carbohydrate consumption to under 50 grams per day, sometimes even as low as 20-30 grams per day.
The typical or usual ketogenic diet is commonly known as the standard ketogenic diet (SKD).
However, there are alternative approaches to the standard ketogenic diet that involve incorporating carbohydrates strategically such as:
- Targeted ketogenic diet (TKD). This variation involves adding small amounts of carbs around workouts.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD). This type of keto diet has you following a ketogenic diet most days but switch to a high-carb diet for 1–2 days each week.
3. Low-Carb, High-Fat (LCHF)
LCHF is an abbreviation that stands for “low-carb, high-fat.” It is a type of very low carb diet that puts a stronger emphasis on consuming whole, unprocessed foods.
The main components of the diet include meats, fish, shellfish, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, berries, and dairy products.
The recommended amount of carbs on this diet can vary between 20 to 100g (grams) per day.
4. Low Carb Paleo Diet
The paleo diet is a popular eating approach that emphasizes consuming foods that were likely accessible during the Paleolithic era, before the advent of agriculture and industry.
Supporters of the diet argue that it can enhance health because humans are believed to have evolved and adapted to this type of eating pattern.
A paleo diet doesn’t necessarily have low carb as its defining feature, but in practice, it often involves limiting carbohydrate intake.
The paleo diet puts a strong emphasis on consuming meats, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, tubers, nuts, and seeds. Processed foods, added sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy products are typically eliminated in a strict paleo diet.
There are other well-known variations of the paleo diet, including the primal blueprint and perfect health diets, which are also typically low in carbohydrates compared to the standard Western diet.
5. The Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet is a well-known eating plan that it’s main focus is the low-carb intake. It requires to limit high carb foods while allowing unlimited amounts of protein and fat.
The Atkins diet consists of four distinct phases:
- Phase 1: Induction – Limit carb intake to 20 grams per day for two weeks.
- Phase 2: Balancing – Gradually introduce more low-carb vegetables, nuts, and fruits.
- Phase 3: Fine-tuning – Increase carb intake until weight loss slows down, as you approach your weight goal.
- Phase 4: Maintenance – Consume a healthy amount of carbs that your body can tolerate without re-gaining the lost weight.
The Atkins diet was initially criticized, but recent studies suggest that it is a safe and effective diet, provided that enough fiber is consumed. This diet remains popular nowadays.
The Eco-Atkins diet is a plant-based/vegan variation of the Atkins diet, which includes high protein and fat plant-based foods like gluten, soy, nuts, and plant oils.
Approximately 25% of the calories in the Eco-Atkins diet come from carbohydrates, 30% come from protein, and 45% come from fat. While it contains more carbs than a typical Atkins diet, it still contains significantly fewer carbs than a standard vegan diet.
In a six-month study, it was found that an Eco-Atkins diet resulted in more weight loss and better improvement in risk factors for heart disease than a high-carb vegetarian diet.
7. Zero Carb Diet
Some individuals choose to follow a diet that completely eliminates carbohydrates, which is commonly referred to as a zero-carb diet. This type of diet typically consists of only animal-based foods.
Those who choose to start a zero-carb diet consume animal-based foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and animal fats like butter and lard. In some cases, they may also include salt and spices in their meals.
There are currently no recent studies that demonstrate the safety of a zero-carb diet. A single case study from 1930 is the only available evidence in which two men consumed only meat and organs for a year and appeared to maintain good health.
8. Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a highly popular eating plan, particularly among health experts.
It is inspired from the traditional foods consumed in Mediterranean countries during the early 1900s.
A low carb Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional Mediterranean diet but restricts high-carb foods such as whole grains. It prioritizes fatty fish over red meat and uses extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or other fats, in contrast to a typical low carb diet.
A low-carb Mediterranean diet may provide more benefits for preventing heart disease than other low-carb diets, but further research is needed to confirm this.
If you’re considering a low-carb diet, it’s important to choose a plan that aligns with your lifestyle, food choices, and health objectives.
What works for one person may not work for another, so the ideal diet is the one that you can support in the long run.