A common question that people ask when on a low carb diet is, “What should I eat?” Most low carb diets restrict carb consumption substantially relative to the typical Western diet. Foods high in carbs are restricted, and substituted with low or no-carb foods containing higher amounts of protein and fat, respectively. Protein and fat are essential in maintaining overall health, but many do not recognize that they should be limited or eliminated entirely. With a proper low carb menu, most people can maintain adequate nutrition while reducing their intake of carbs.
Many low-carb dieters mistakenly believe that all carbohydrates are bad. The key distinction is that there are some types of carbohydrates that are better than others. Foods containing glucose are better for you than starch-based foods, such as pasta and potatoes. Foods with fiber, like whole grains, are also better than simple carbohydrates like white bread.
Most people know that cutting back on carbohydrates forces them to consume more protein and vegetables. However, these two food groups are not the only ones that should be reduced. Many sources of carbs contain large amounts of protein and fiber, but none of these substances are essential for optimal health. One nutrient that most dieters tend to completely overlook is dietary fat. A low-carb, low-fat, high-fiber diet prevents diabetes and heart disease.
The difference between starchy and unrefined carbs lies in the method of how they are converted into energy. Starchy carbs are quickly digested and turned into glucose (blood sugar). Unrefined carbs, on the other hand, take longer to reach the bloodstream and are stored as fat. The body then uses this extra fat to compensate for the lack of immediate energy. This means that the next time you want to get a snack, you have more options. Instead of reaching for a candy bar, you can opt for a banana or carrot.
As a general rule, the less starchy a carbohydrate, the better. For example, the carbohydrates found in whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread are relatively low in fat. Brown rice has a high content of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are essential to good health. Whole wheat bread contains a high level of both polyunsaturated and mono unsaturated fats, which are also essential. Therefore, switching to whole grains may help prevent diabetes and heart disease.
Low-carb foods also provide more variety. Unlike high-carb foods, you can eat more types of carbohydrate without being constipated. For example, you can munch on bran muffins, walnuts, almonds and pecans. If you love pasta, you can eat spaghetti and lasagna. You can even mix up your high and low-carb cheeses!
Another great thing about eating a diet low in carbs is that you won’t feel so hungry all the time. When you eat high-carb foods, your blood sugar will rise. This causes a rapid drop in your energy levels. As a result, you will feel very sluggish throughout the day. Since low-carb diets keep your blood glucose low, you will notice that you feel more energized and are able to have a more regular, disciplined job.
The best foods for replacing high-glycemic carbohydrates include those that are high in unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are similar to the proteins found in meats, poultry and fish. By replacing those high-glycemic carbohydrates with unsaturated fats, you will greatly improve your health. Some of the most healthful unsaturated fats include coconut oil, palm nuts and olives.
For a meal that is satisfying without overloading on the carbohydrates, try serving yourself a low-carb dinner of steamed broccoli, carrots, zucchini, brown rice and eggs. Eggs are great, but if you’re a fan of greasy starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams, be careful not to overload yourself with those foods. Replacing your high-glycemic carbohydrates with starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, peas, brussel sprouts, onions and mushrooms will help you get the nutrients that you need without having to give up the delicious taste of eggs. Also, be sure to cut back on your consumption of fatty snacks and breads.
The best way to maintain your good health through this diet is to learn how to calculate your total carbohydrates intake. The best way to do this is to use the Glycemic Index, which is a chart that ranks carbohydrate foods based on the effects that they have on blood sugar levels. The higher the number, the more quickly the blood sugar level rises and the more easily it gets lost. Using this index, you can quickly find out what kinds of carbohydrates are higher in the index and therefore should be consumed for maximum effects.
One of the things that you may want to keep in mind when learning about low-carb diets is that the recommended amount of carbohydrates is still a minimum of one serving a day. If you can’t take one serving of pasta or potatoes every other day, be creative by finding other sources of carbohydrates that don’t require as much preparation time. Things like corn chips or low-fat yogurt make great substitutes for traditional carbohydrates. Another option is to use low-fat “light” or skim milk instead of regular milk, which will help you reduce your carbs even more. Finally, don’t forget that fruits and veggies are still excellent choices for a low-carb diet. They provide necessary fiber and are high in vitamins and minerals.