In general, compared with a low-fat, high-carb diet, a low-carb diet plan has a very obvious weight loss effect and other health benefits.
In today’s increasingly “fat” world, many people are constantly searching for the secrets of successful weight loss. Whether it is losing weight for the health of your body or you are just trying to eat more correctly, weight loss is an indispensable lesson in our lives.
From rapid weight loss to long-term maintenance of a healthy weight, countless people in the world have practiced and proved the success of a low carbohydrate diet.
We all know that there are roughly three sources of energy for the human body: protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Which of these three nutrients is more important?
In the 1980s, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued guidelines for high-carb and low-fat diets. Although the USDA is not a department that specializes in nutrition and health, the guidelines developed by them are still sought after and copied by many other countries.
However, these dietary guidelines, which have been used for decades, have been proven to mislead millions of people in recent years and are directly responsible for the outbreak of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases in the United States.
The figure below shows the development trend of overweight/obesity rates in the United States since the “Guidelines” were issued.
Although the New American Dietary Guidelines, published in the fall of 2015, are still controversial, it clarifies the harm caused by consuming too many refined carbohydrates such as bread, rice and sugar. An appropriate increase in healthy fat intake has also been written into the latest guidelines.
With the advent of this new dietary guideline, the United States has set off a wave of low-carb diets, which have spread across the world.
In fact, low-carb diets have existed since ancient times. However, with the development of human societies and the acceleration of the process of agriculture and industrialization, low-carb diets have gradually faded out and have even been rejected. Only in recent years has it started to again be recognized by more and more scientists and mainstream society.
Compared to a low-fat diet, a low-carbohydrate diet is more effective in reducing weight. In addition, it can have a positive effect on improving triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), blood sugar, blood pressure and other health indicators.
However, not all low-carb diets are the same. Despite being given different names, the single most important thing they all have in common is:
A focus on eating more real food.
The Most Popular Low-carbohydrate Diets In The World:
There are many low-carb diets, but the most popular in the world today are the following six:
- Keto Diet
- Atkins Diet
- Primitive People Diet (Paleo Diet)
- Low Carb Mediterranean Diet
- Zero Carb Diet
- South Beach Diet
Let’s first understand what a low-carb diet is?
A low-carb diet is also called a low-carbohydrate or carbohydrate-restricted diet.
Compared with a typical “Western” high-carb diet, this diet has lower carbohydrate content and higher protein and fat content. This diet is usually based on meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats.
It minimizes the intake of high-carbohydrate foods such as cereals, sugary drinks and high-sugar junk foods.
Generally speaking, the recommended daily carb intake depends on personal goals and preferences, but most of them are based on the following guidelines:
- 100-150 grams: If you want to maintain your weight or do high-intensity exercise regularly. There are no restrictions on fruits and vegetables. You can even eat some starchy foods, such as potatoes and whole grains.
- 50-100 grams: This range can make your weight drop slowly and steadily, or can maintain weight. With this approach, you can eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
- 0-50 grams: If you want to lose weight quickly in a short period of time, you need to strictly control your carb intake. With this option, you can eat green leafy vegetables, low GI (glycemic index) fruits, such as blueberries or cherry tomatoes. All other foods containing starch and sugar are not allowed.
What are the characteristics of the six most common low-carb diets? What is the weight loss result?
1. Keto Diet
A ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet.
Its dietary ratio is：
- 5-10% carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, and 70-75% fat.
The goal of a ketogenic diet is to get the body into a metabolic state called ketosis by maintaining a low carbohydrate intake.
When the carbohydrate intake is very low, insulin levels will drop and the body will release a lot of fatty acids. These fatty acids are converted into ketone bodies by the liver[*].
Ketone bodies or ketones are water-soluble molecules that can cross the blood-brain barrier to provide energy for the brain.
At first, the keto diet was used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy in children[*]. It is also beneficial for other neurological diseases and metabolic problems such as type 2 diabetes.
Because the ketogenic diet can quickly convert the body from glucose metabolism to fat metabolism, its short-term weight loss effect is very obvious. Many Hollywood stars and fitness experts also use ketogenic diets to keep in shape.
2. Atkins Diet
The Atkins diet was developed in the 1970s by American cardiologist and nutrition expert Dr. Atkins (Robert Coleman Atkins, October 17, 1930-2003). April 17 was when it was first proposed. As soon as it came out, it caused huge and widespread controversy.
Despite the controversy, the Atkins diet is still one of the most popular low-carb diet plans in contemporary times.
When this kind of diet first appeared, the idea was to completely cut out carbohydrates, without restricting protein and fat intake. However, it can be very difficult to implement.
After continuous upgrading and improvement, the popular Atkins diet is now available.
It is divided into four stages:
- First stage: The daily intake of carbohydrates is kept below 20 grams. This diet is maintained for 2 weeks.
- Second stage: During this stage, the concept is to gradually add lower carbohydrate vegetables and fruits to the diet. Nuts may be added as well.
- Third stage: When your target weight is in sight, it is now time to add more carbohydrates to the diet until the weight loss slows down.
- Fourth stage: At this stage, you can eat healthy carbohydrates at will, such as from healthy resources such as fruits and vegetables. It is necessary to avoid refined carbohydrates though. During this stage, you can keep your weight from fluctuating significantly.
From it’s controversial beginning to being widely popular, The Atkins Diet has lasted decades and been used by countless people. Modern science has also proven out its safety and effectiveness.
3. Paleo Diet
This diet is currently one of the most popular diet methods in the world. It originated from the diet structure and eating habits of ancient humans.
Scientists have reproduced the diet structure of prehistoric humans. Through a series of archaeological studies, they confirmed that before humans entered the farming society, they had always relied on meat, vegetables, and fruits as their staple food. That is a low carbohydrate diet.
S. Boyd Eaton, Professor of Anthropology and Doctor of Medicine at Emory University, pointed out in his 1988 book “Traditions of the Paleolithic Age” that we humans are not suited for modern diets and many popular chronic diseases are related to modern diet habits.
Specifically, most of the diets of human ancestors consisted of meat, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
The strict modern primitive diet also completely avoided processed foods, added sugars, grains, beans and dairy products.
The primitive diet is helpful for weight control and alleviation of some obesity-related diseases.
4. The Low Carb Mediterranean Diet
This diet is very popular among health professionals. The dietary categories it relates to are derived from the dietary habits of Mediterranean countries in the early twentieth century.
The Mediterranean low-carb diet is similar to the ordinary low-carb diet, except that it emphasizes eating more fish and less red meat. It also replaces butter with extra virgin olive oil.
Studies have shown that compared to other types of low-carb diets, the Mediterranean diet may be more helpful in preventing heart disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Recently, scientists conducted a diet study between Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Harvard University and published the results in the Journal of the American Heart Association. This study measured changes in body and organ fat over an 18 month period of people using a Mediterranean low-carbohydrate diet.
The Mediterranean low-carbohydrate diet is significantly better than the low-fat diet in reducing fat storage, including visceral (deep belly), liver and heart fat.
High visceral fat has been shown to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, inflammation, cardiovascular disease and diabetes[*].
The low-carb Mediterranean diet is usually rich in healthy plant foods, with animal foods consisting of mainly fish and seafood.
5. Zero Carb Diet
The characteristic of this diet is to completely eliminate the intake of carbohydrates and only eat meat, fish, eggs, and animal fats.
At this time the scientific community has not yet come to a satisfactory conclusion, regarding the safety of the zero-carb diet. Most medical experts believe that this diet is not suitable for most people because this diet lacks some important nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.
However, there are still a lot of people who are willing to practice a zero-carb diet. They feel that once they adapt to this diet, in addition to significant weight loss, their health will also greatly improve.
Interestingly, Inuit people living in Alaska eat a zero-carbohydrate diet for most of the year and their health is very good.
However, whether a zero-carbohydrate diet is suitable for you still needs to be determined according to your physical condition. It is always best to proceed under the guidance of a doctor.
6. South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet is a commercial diet weight loss program created by cardiologist Arthur Agatston in 2003.[*]
With this diet, the low carbohydrate content is reduced, while your protein and healthy fat content are higher than the typical American diet.
The South Beach Diet’s three stages help the body adapt to the new diet and eating habits step by step.
- The first stage: reset the body system to reduce weight.
During this stage, you can eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, including a lot of lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood and soy products.
- The second stage: steady weight loss.
This stage allows the consumption of healthy carbohydrates. The main sources of these are whole grains, beans, low GI fruits and non-starchy vegetables;
- The third stage: maintain weight.
In the final stage, all foods can be eaten in moderation, but they should consist of mainly protein. It should be noted that refined processing and high-sugar foods should still be avoided.
One advantage of the South Beach diet is that it is easier to implement.
The main disadvantage is that the excessive protein intake will also be converted into glucose in the body and carbohydrates in grains may cause blood sugar to spike.
Which Low-carb Diet Plan Is Better?
There are many low-carbohydrate diet methods. The ones mentioned above are just the most mainstream methods.
Which one is the best for weight loss?
In general, compared with a low-fat, high-carb diet, any low-carbohydrate diet has a very obvious weight loss effect and other health benefits.
For most people, there is no definite conclusion about which low-carb diet is the best, because everyone’s physical condition and living habits are different. In addition, their corresponding adaptability for food absorption will also be different.
However, no matter which method you choose, you should think about these points as much as possible:
- Is it easier to persist for a long time?
- After a period of time, can the body adapt?
- While losing weight, has your health improved at the same time?
- After reaching your target weight, can it be easily maintained? (This involves whether you can persist for a long time).
In short, no matter which one you choose, you must follow a diet that you can stick to. You must make sure that changing your lifestyle with a new diet will not make you miserable.
The key to successful weight loss is to choose a method that can be sustained for a long time.