Low-carb diets work by restricting your intake of carbohydrates, the body’s usual fuel, thereby forcing your body to burn its stored fat instead. Although some carbohydrates are a good source of vitamins and minerals, some are highly processed and have virtually no nutritious value, so cutting these out is a no-brainer.
The benefits of a low-carb diet have been debated for some time, especially since the rise of the Atkins diet in 2003, and with varying results. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2003 that compared two groups of obese adult participants, one on a low-fat diet, and the other on a low-carb diet, and found that the low-carb group lost three times as much weight within a six month time frame than the low-fat group.
Another, by the Journal of Pediatrics, found similar positive results in adolescents. However, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism published a study in which there was no notable difference in weight loss between the two groups, although both groups were successful in losing around fifteen pounds in ten weeks.
The countless studies can be confusing, so it is worthwhile to take some time to research if this is the type of diet for you. Added to that, there are plenty of popular low-carb diets out there, each with different restrictions on how much and what kind of carbohydrates you should eat, so it’s important to find one that suits your lifestyle and goals. With that in mind, here are some foods that are low in carbs to get you started.
Virtually all kinds of meat contain no carbohydrate, so feel free to make this the main ingredient in your meals. Lamb, beef, pork, chicken, turkey and other fresh meat is all fine, just watch out for some processed meats such as bacon, ham and cold cuts, as they may be cured with sugar, or contain added nitrates.
Vegetables are high in carbohydrates, however most low carb diets require you to eat around 15 grams per day of net carbs in the form of vegetables, in order to attain essential nutrients. These can be in any form other than potatoes or yams, but look up the carb content of whatever vegetable you choose, as they vary wildly. Some of the lower carb vegetables include:
- Lettuce (0.2g per cup)
- Celery (0.8g per stalk)
- Mushrooms (1.2g per 1/2 cup)
- Bok choi (0.4g per cup)
- Cucumber (1g per 1/2 cup)
- Radishes (0.5g per 6 radishes)
- Cheese – Keep in mind that cheese does contain carbs, however most low carbohydrate diets do allow for a small amount, usually around three to four ounces per day, which is about three individually wrapped slices. Types of cheese with the lowest amounts of carbohydrates include goat cheese, cheddar, blue, gouda, and mozzarella, with around 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per ounce.
- Butter contains no carbs, but should still be used sparingly as it is extremely high in saturated fat. Try to stick to a serving of around one tablespoon.
- Eggs are a great nutritious food, as they contain no carbohydrates, and are high in riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorous and protein. Try them boiled, poached, scrambled, or as an omelette with your favorite low carb vegetables.
- Fish including salmon, herring, tuna, and cod are all high in protein and contain no carbohydrates. Many kinds of seafood are also a good alternative, including crabmeat, lobster, shrimp, and squid.
- Caesar dressing – If you’re trying to choose a dressing for your salad, go for caesar. Two tablespoons contains only 0.5 grams of carbohydrates, five times less than french or thousand island dressing.