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What are the Different Types of Carbohydrate Diets?

By Summer Banks
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are typically three types of carbohydrate diets — those that include low, moderate, and high amounts of this dietary component. Healthy carbohydrates or whole grains may also be consumed as part of a healthy eating plan. Carbohydrate diets can also be used for weight loss or glucose control for diabetics.

Low carbohydrate diets are widely recognized as weight loss plans. U.S. diet creator Dr. Robert Atkins created his classic low carbohydrate diet in 1972. This plan was made popular with publication of his book, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.

The book included step-by-step instructions on how to reduce carbohydrate intake to force the body into ketosis. This is a state of energy metabolization wherein stored fat is used for energy in the absence of carbohydrates. Research has proven low carbohydrate plans are safe over long-term periods, contrary to the opinions of many doctors since the inception of Atkins’ diet plan.

Moderate carbohydrate diets tend to follow many of the same rules as low ones, with slightly higher carbohydrate intake. According to Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution, readers who have fewer pounds to lose can reduce carbohydrate intake to a moderate level — between 60 and 100 grams per day. Following this type of plan may result in weight loss or maintenance.

Bodybuilders and fitness professionals typically follow high carbohydrate diets on select days. Ketogenic diets, or low carbohydrate plans, are commonly followed for a certain number of days per week to increase fat loss and spare lean muscle. Low carbohydrate diets, however, are not typically able to support the high calorie burn associated with lengthy workouts and high intensity weight lifting. Therefore, high carbohydrate diet days are used to supply the much needed energy to muscles, for growth and rejuvenation.

Some low carbohydrate plans, like the South Beach Diet®, have rewritten diet guidelines to support moderate intake from a list of healthy carbohydrates. Whole grain foods, or those prepared with whole wheat or other grains, may be found on such food lists. These grains are not processed to remove high-fiber outer shells, and therefore supply both soluble and insoluble fiber to the body.

Diabetics may choose to follow low, moderate, or healthy carbohydrate plans to control blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are sugars and, as such, can cause spikes in blood glucose. Diabetics following reduced carbohydrate menus may choose slow-digesting carbohydrates, or meal plans with fewer carbohydrates spread throughout the day. This latter method may allow for better control of blood sugar amounts.

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