If weight loss is something you’re looking to achieve, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends patients opt for a diet that is low in carbohydrates. Not only will a low-carb diet help you lose weight (and maintain that weight loss in the long run), but it will also improve your overall health; such as your HDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar. The question is, where do you even begin? It’s a very good question to ask, especially considering the many variations of low-carb diets that are being promoted today.
First, there’s the typical low-carb diet. Sometimes referred to as a carb-restricted diet, the focus is on restricting carbohydrates and increasing things like meats (grass-fed chicken, beef, lam, pork), fish (wild-caught salmon, haddock or trout), seeds (sunflower or pumpkin seeds), nuts (almonds, walnuts), fruits (strawberries, blueberries, apples and oranges) and vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach and cauliflower), while decreasing your intake of foods that are high in carbohydrates such as potatoes, grains, junk food, and sugary beverages. Depending on the weight loss goals you want to achieve as well as personal preference, the recommended carb intake per day can range anywhere from 50 to 150 grams.
Then there’s the ketogenic diet; a very strict, low-carb diet that turns the body into a fat-burning machine. To understand a ketogenic diet, it’s also important to understand what the word “keto” means. “Keto” comes from the word ketones. Ketones are small molecules that are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver, which help us survive when our food intake becomes low. With a ketogenic diet, you are essentially forcing your body into this metabolic state, and while it might sound like starvation, you’re actually only starving yourself of carbohydrates and replacing them with things like natural fats (which can come from meats, fish and eggs), leafy green vegetables, high-fat dairy products, water, coffee and tea. On a ketogenic diet, your carbohydrate intake is generally less than 50 grams per day.
The paleo diet, also known as the hunter-gatherer diet, comes from the pre-historic Paleolithic era and was established based on the lifestyles of our prehistoric ancestors. During this era, processed foods and much of the ingredients that we ingest today did not exist during this time. Instead, the food had to be hunted. A paleo diet primarily consists of grass-produced meats, omega-3 fatty acids, and foods that are rich in antioxidants, while excluding things like dairy products, grains, salt, sugar, and processed foods.
Another long-known low-carb diet plan is the Atkins diet. Developed in the 1960s by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins, this diet restricts carbohydrates and puts the emphasis on proteins and fats. The Atkins diet is split into four different phases: Induction. Balancing. Fine-tuning. Maintenance. During phase 1 (induction), you eat under 20 grams of carbohydrates per day for 14 days. During phase 2 (balancing), you slowly begin to add low-carb fruits, vegetables and nuts into your diet. During phase 3 (fine-tuning), you’ll start to notice weight loss and can slowly add in even more healthy carbs. Finally, phase 4 (maintenance), you should be able to eat as many healthy carbohydrates as your body allows without gaining back any weight. There’s also the eco-Atkins diet, which is a vegan-friendly version that incorporates high-protein foods and fats such as nuts, soy and gluten.