Low-Carbohydrate Diet

Low-Carbohydrate Diet: Main Image

Best Bets

The human body works best with a diet that includes some carbohydrate. Recently a Recommended Dietary Allowance for carbohydrate was set at a minimum of 130 grams per day. This would represent 26% of the calories in a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, which would still be considered a low-carbohydrate diet, but would avoid the potential hazards of more restrictive diets, including symptoms of ketosis (nausea, weakness, dehydration, light-headedness, and irritability) and loss of body protein.

Certain dietary fats and their food sources are associated with good health and reduction of disease risks. Foods high in unsaturated fats that are free of trans fatty acids have been associated with protection from atherosclerosis, heart disease, insulin resistance, and other health concerns. Examples of these foods include olive oil, fatty fish, flaxseeds, and nuts. However, replacing high-carbohydrate foods with these foods may increase calorie intake if portion sizes are not kept moderate.

Certain sources of dietary protein are more healthful than others. Protein foods containing significant amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol have been associated with many diseases, including heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and gallstones; choosing low-fat and low-saturated-fat protein foods can minimize these risks. High meat intake, even of leaner cuts, may increase risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones. Well-done meat or meat that has been preserved with nitrites should be avoided, or kept to a minimum, due to links with cancer. The most healthful choices for increasing protein intake are fish and seafood, low- or nonfat dairy products, legumes (including soyfoods), nuts, and seeds.

Even a low-carbohydrate diet should emphasize healthful carbohydrate sources. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables supply fiber and many important micronutrients. People with diabetes or insulin resistance may find that choosing carbohydrate foods with a low-glycemic index improves their blood sugar, blood cholesterol, and triglycerides; helps them better control their weight; and improves symptoms associated with their health conditions.

Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta:

Dairy products and dairy substitutes:

Fats and oils:

  • Non-hydrogenated olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil
  • Non-hydrogenated corn oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil, pumpkin seed oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil

Protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans):

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.