What are the benefits of a low carb diet? There are many! Read on to see how people can improve their health and well being when following a low carb diet.
“How can you give up so much?” asked a friend recently. We were having lunch together. On her plate: pasta bolognese. On my plate: ribeye and creamed spinach.
My completely honest answer: “I’ve gained so much more than I lost on a low carb diet. I don’t eat pasta anymore, true, but who cares about pasta when I can tuck into a juicy 1-lb. ribeye?”
The benefits of a low carb diet are many, and they far outweigh the challenge of giving up carbs (and I do NOT underestimate the difficulty of doing that!)
This is one of the main benefits of a low carb diet, and the main reason most people start such a diet. Most people lose weight effortlessly on a low carb diet. part of it is water weight, but beyond that, there’s a very real weight loss with no hunger.
Not everyone is in agreement on why low carb diets are so effective at promoting weight loss, but some of the possible reasons are that people are less hungry so they naturally eat less; that there’s a metabolic advantage to eating fewer carbs – with less insulin secreted, there’s less fat storage; and that low carb diets switch the body into burning fat instead of glucose, thus (if one doesn’t overeat) the body burns its own excess fat and uses it for energy.
It IS possible to gain weight on a low carb or keto diet, but I don’t believe this is the case for most people on this diet.
Better blood sugar control
This was the reason my husband and I started a low carb diet. We were both normal weight, but he had elevated blood sugar, and I had frequent, sometimes debilitating hypoglycemia episodes.
Dramatically lowering our carb intake brought my husband’s blood sugar levels down to normal levels. This was after three years of trying other methods, with no success.
As for me, I needed to tweak my carb intake quite a bit over the past five years, but ever since I started eating low carb, I no longer suffer from hypoglycemia and I have amazing energy throughout the day, especially when I stick with no more than 70-80 grams of carbs per day.
Lower blood pressure
For many people, a low carb diet lowers their blood pressure enough that they can get off their blood pressure medications, or at the very least reduce them.
Improved cholesterol numbers
One of the most amazing benefits of a low carb diet is that contrary to what the old school medicine would have us believe, for most people, a low carb diet improves cholesterol levels, by lowering triglycerides and elevating HDL levels (the “good” cholesterol.”)
Having said that, for a small percentage of low carbers, the low carb diet, and especially a very low carb, high fat, ketogenic diet, dramatically raises their LDL cholesterol. This is the case for me, and the reason I decided to move from a very low carb diet to a moderate low carb diet. No one knows for sure if high LDL is dangerous in the context of a healthy, fit person with normal weight, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar and great triglycerides and HDL. Perhaps in this context it is not dangerous. But since the doctors simply don’t know, I decided to tweak my diet just a little, to be on the safe side.
The body processes refined carbs quickly, which means a quick elevation in blood sugar. This sugar promotes inflammation in the body, which can increase our risk for serious diseases, including heart disease and even cancer.
One of the most important benefits of a low carb diet is that it reduces overall inflammation. This is one of the reasons some say that high LDL is not dangerous in the context of a low carb diet – in order for the LDL particles to cause atherosclerosis, inflammation needs to be present, and low carb diets are anti inflammatory.
Thus, if you have specific conditions that are caused by or are related to an inflammatory process in the body, including Crohn’s disease and arthritis, it’s probably a good idea to try a low carb diet. You might discover that your condition is greatly improved, especially on a very low carb, ketogenic diet.
Improvement in migraines
Some research shows that a ketogenic diet can help migraine patients who were not helped by standard treatment. This is purely anecdotal of course, but my mother, who had suffered debilitating migraines for many years, was miraculously cured of her migraines a few months after starting a low carb diet. She started the diet when it was discovered that her blood sugar was elevated – and a happy side effect was the disappearance of her migraines.
Protection from glaucoma
This is of special interest to me, because I have a family history of glaucoma. Initial research shows that a low carb diet might provide protection from several serious eye diseases and conditions, including glaucoma.
Last but not least: finally, you can enjoy fat!
You gave up a lot on your low carb diet. You gave up your favorite foods – the ones that got you into metabolic trouble. You gave up bread, pasta and potatoes. You don’t touch cakes (except for low carb cakes), donuts and candy. That’s true. But for most of us, going on a low carb diet means that for the first time in our life, we get to eat fatty foods. Fat is so satiating, so delicious, that when you indulge in it freely, it’s very difficult to feel deprived.
If your low carb diet consists of baked chicken breasts and salads with minimal dressings, you’re doing it wrong. This is low-carb AND low-fat, and it will lead to misery – hunger, weakness, and a slowed metabolism. A properly formulated low carb diet needs to have adequate fat, and many believe that it really should be high in fat.
When I ate a high-carb, low-fat diet, I never touched foods like fatty beef or bacon. If I had a steak, I ordered lean sirloin; I ate a lot of chicken breasts (can you say bland and boring!); I limited butter, mayonnaise and dressings.
These days, I eat lots of eggs cooked in butter, bacon, fatty beef such as ribeye steaks and back ribs; I enjoy spareribs and pork belly. And I add butter liberally to my vegetables. My meals are more flavorful and enjoyable than they’ve ever been!
As you can see, the benefits of a low carb diet, for most people, are numerous. But everyone is different, so I would encourage you to find a keto-friendly doctor and work with them on tailoring the low carb diet to your specific needs.