Everybody is on a low-carb diet these days. What does that mean? Low-carb can be defined in different ways. The Obesity Medicine Association defines low-carb within the parameters of a restricted carb diet:
- Low Glycemic Index diet – Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of carbs in foods according to how they affect blood glucose (sugar) levels. Carbs with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood sugar, where carbs with a high GI value cause spikes in blood sugar and spikes in insulin levels.
- Low-carbohydrate diet – 50-150 grams of carbs/day
- Very low carbohydrate diet – < 50 grams of carbs/day
Casually, sometimes a person who says he or she is eating “low-carb” means reducing overall carbohydrate consumption but not necessarily following actual carbohydrate counts or numbers. This mainly focuses on reducing or eliminating added sugars or other refined sugars. This includes the “no white foods” approach of eliminating white rice, white potatoes, and white flour.
“Good” Carbs & “Bad” Carbs
Refined carbs are forms of sugars and starches that don’t exist in nature. Refined carbs are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. The more insulin we secrete, the more fat we store and the more fat is prevented from breaking down. A diet that lowers the amount of insulin secreted is beneficial for weight loss.
Foods on a low-carb diet include non-starchy vegetables, meats and/or eggs and other sources of protein, low-sugar fresh fruits such as berries, dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt, nuts and seeds, and foods with healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil. Low-carb tortillas, condiments, and even baked goods and desserts are available. Spaghetti squash is a healthy eater’s favorite. Kitchen goods such as the Spiralizer have made it handy to use vegetables (such as zucchini) as a pasta substitute. Cauliflower can be used in mashed potatoes, rice, pizza crust, and bread recipes. It is not about eliminating carbs completely; it is about reducing overall carbs and eating better carbs.
Lowering your carb intake will help facilitate weight loss, but remember that when you add in carbs, add them in slowly to allow your body to adjust to some initial water weight gain. Stick to low glycemic index carbs. Avoid carb binges. Keep an eye on calorie intake. The more conscious you are about carb intake, the better success you will have at losing and maintaining weight.
Dr. Theresa Garza is a Dallas Weight Loss Specialist who is Board-Certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. She has been in private practice for weight management for eight years. Dr. Garza specializes in non-surgical weight loss, weight management programs, and metabolism testing. Dr. Garza has been named Top10MD – an honor 1-in-3 doctors succeed with in the United States. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Garza, click on her profile or call her office at 972.303.8955.