How to Start a Low Carb Diet: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you looking to start a low carb diet but don't know where to begin? This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the information you need to get started. Carbohydrates are found in many foods, including cereals, starchy vegetables, legumes, fruits, and milk. Proteins such as chicken, fish, seafood, beef, and eggs, as well as fats like butter and oil, do not contain carbohydrates. Nonstarchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, and bell peppers contain some carbohydrates but are usually not great sources for most people.

When starting a low carb diet, it's important to choose a daily net carbohydrate limit that is feasible for your lifestyle. Some people start with a daily limit of 20 grams (g) and then slowly increase by adding 5 g to their daily limit each week. Do what works for you as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a low-carb lifestyle. Most low-carb diets only allow 20 to 50 g of carbohydrates per day.

It's essential that people on low-carb diets choose foods that have a lower carbohydrate count but a high nutritional value per serving. A 2003 research in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people on a low-carb diet lost more weight than those on a low-fat diet after 6 months, but not after 12 months. A low-carb diet limits carbohydrates and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. There are many types of low-carb diets and each has varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates you can eat.

If 20 g doesn't work for you, choose an upper limit. You don't have to jump with both feet; try to eat less than 200 g of carbohydrates a day initially (a moderate carbohydrate diet) and then adjust the amount based on how you feel. For some people, this is the best part of lowering carbohydrates and usually occurs within the first few days or the first week of starting the diet. Since carbohydrates are highly restricted on the ketogenic diet, it is considered a low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet.

Plan ahead for anything high in carbohydrates to go away or be consumed by the time you plan to start this diet. Due to carbohydrate restriction, the body will have low glucose availability which also occurs during fasting. While food lists for low-carb diets vary by plan, here's a look at the foods you would normally eat and avoid following a traditional low-carb diet:

  • Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables growing above ground, natural fats (like butter), nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid: Sugar and sugary foods (like cakes and sweets), grains (like wheat and rice), legumes (like beans and lentils), potatoes.
Some of these low-carb diets are ketogenic (“keto”) diets because they restrict carbohydrate intake enough to cause ketosis. For example, the induction phase of the Atkins diet is considered a ketogenic diet.

A low-carb diet is always relatively low-carb but not necessarily low enough for people to reach ketosis. Low-carb diets can help lower or even normalize blood sugar and therefore reverse type 2 diabetes. The following links share more scientific research as well as inspiring testimonials on potential low-carb benefits:

  • Low Carb Health Benefits
  • Low Carb Diet Research
Your first task is to take a look at these documents to understand why a low-carb diet is well supported by numerous scientific studies.