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What is a Low Carb Diet?

A low carb diet is a type of eating plan that restricts carbohydrate intake, typically for the purpose of weight loss. Carbohydrates include starchy foods such as bread, pasta, grains, and rice, as well as fruit and vegetables. Restricting these foods theoretically affects the levels of insulin in the body, leading to lower blood sugar, which encourages the body to break down fat rather than storing it.

A low carb diet virtually always goes hand-in-hand with a high protein diet. Carbohydrates are replaced with proteins found in meat, dairy, fish, and soy products, as well as some leafy green vegetables. This is simply the basic premise of a low carb diet, but there are many variations. A couple of notable examples in the field of low carb dieting, especially popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, are the Atkins Diet™ and the South Beach Diet™.

Nutritionists and scientists remain relatively uncertain about the health impact and long-term effects of remaining on a low carb diet. Though it may encourage weight loss, it may also increase cholesterol levels due to the levels of saturated fats found in many meat, poultry, and dairy products. Another side effect of some particularly restrictive low carb diets is a body state known as ketosis, wherein the body is using fat stores for energy and releasing acetone in the breath and urine, which can cause unpleasant odor. Though some say ketosis is a potentially harmful state for the body, this assertion remains relatively unproven.

It is not necessary to follow a particular diet plan to live on a low carb diet, or even to slightly decrease the carbohydrates eaten overall. Many people find success in weight loss by just cutting out the carbohydrates found in sugary, starchy foods, such as donuts, white breads and rice, or sodas. It is generally considered healthy to eat fruits and vegetables, even on some low carb plans. Foods made with white flour may be replaced with whole grain products, and other foods containing more fiber.

When deciding to try a low carb diet, it is a good idea to do as much research as possible to find a diet most likely to work in a particular lifestyle. Keep issues such as meal planning, snacking, and food restrictions in mind. Most encourage calorie restriction, which may encourage weight loss, but which may be more difficult to maintain over time. Keep in mind that exercise is generally a necessary component of any diet encouraging weight loss, and is often a factor more likely to lead to success overall when used in conjunction with a healthy eating plan.

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