The Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet: How to Get Started

A low-carb diet is a dietary approach that limits the intake of carbohydrates, usually to less than 130 grams per day. This type of diet can help you lose weight, improve mental clarity, and reduce blood sugar levels. It can also be beneficial for those with digestive issues. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 45-65% of daily calorie intake come from carbohydrates.

For a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, that translates to around 900 to 1300 calories from carbohydrates, or 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates. Low-carb eating patterns usually limit carbohydrates to 26% of daily calorie intake, or less than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. When following a low-carb diet, it's important to understand the different types of diets available and how they work. A daily limit of 0.7 to 2 ounces (20 to 57 grams) of carbohydrates is typical on a low-carb diet.

These amounts of carbohydrates provide 80 to 240 calories. Some low-carb diets greatly restrict carbohydrates during the initial phase of the diet and then gradually increase the amount of carbohydrates allowed. A ketogenic diet is a common name for a very strict low-carb diet, which contains very few carbohydrates, usually below 20 grams of net carbs per day. This type of diet can help you lose weight because it activates fat burning processes, known as dietary ketosis.

These ketones are also thought to have an appetite-suppressing effect. Fiber can have both beneficial and some possible negative effects on gut health, but it generally has no major impact on the effects of a low-carb diet. Another strong option is to simply have a cup of coffee, as many people are less hungry on a low-carb diet and may not need breakfast. When it comes to food choices on a low-carb diet, there are many options available.

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:

  • Foods to eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables growing above ground, natural fats (like butter), nuts and seeds.
  • Foods to avoid: Sugar and high-sugar foods (like cakes and sweets), grains (like wheat and rice), legumes (like beans and lentils), potatoes.
Whether you're looking for strict, moderate, or liberal low-carb recipes, there are more than 700 delicious recipes to choose from. This approach includes 50 to 100 g of carbohydrates per day; this is where many people start because it's less restrictive than a ketogenic diet meal plan, but it can still deliver results. Weight loss, lower blood sugar, improved mental clarity, and a calmer digestive system are the most commonly cited benefits of low-carb eating. Another hypothesis holds that low-carb diets can produce greater metabolic burn than high-carb diets. Get instant access to healthy low-carb and ketogenic meal plans, quick and easy recipes, medical expert weight-loss tips, and more. Since 1860, and more recently in 1972, low-carb diets have been a weight-loss strategy.