chicken salad with red onion

Should i go on a low carb diet?

We tend to think meat is important because it provides us with protein. In recent times, protein has become more popular than ever. People are eating more protein, but far less carbs. They are drawn to the low carb diet. They’ve heard all the hype, seen the success stories and think of it as a golden ticket, the perfect solution. A diet which does what it says, reduces excess weight thereby improving shape, but is it all that it’s cracked up to be?

It’s true, eating less carbs can be helpful when it comes to reducing weight. It is especially helpful in cases of low activity, a good choice for anyone with limited time or ability to exercise. That’s because exercise is not a requirement for success. Despite it’s effectiveness, It is not without side effects. As such, it cannot be described as perfect.

A low carb diet is one which consists of mostly meat and fish (also nuts), but very little carbohydrate foods. You can still eat fruit and vegetables/salad, but you must choose low carb varieties like mushrooms, courgettes and peppers and avoid high carb items like potatoes and rice. In effect it is a high protein diet.

The benefits of a low carb diet

This type of diet helps in 2 ways.

1/ reducing carbs helps by encouraging the body to burn fat, rather than glycogen for energy.

2/ eating meat (protein) helps by making you feel fuller for longer. That’s because meat takes longer to digest than other foods.

One other benefit concerns pain. Some people go on a low-carb diet to help reduce migraines and other pain related conditions.

But there is a downside. If you’re considering a low-carb high protein diet, you should know there are one or two drawbacks.

doctor with clipboard and fruit

The risks associated with high protein diets

The main problems with eating a high protein diet are:

1/ it may not be that good for your health.

Meat provides essential nutrients like protein, but it is an acid food, as such, it encourages inflammation in the body, rather than removing it, making us more prone to ailments and disease. If you suffer with arthritis for example, your doctor may advise you to eat less red meat. Red meat also contains saturated fat which isn’t best for the heart.

2/ the impact of eating low carb, that is, cutting down on your main energy source is less energy  is available. Feeling less energetic could cause a reduction in your activity levels. Protein is harder to digest so, on top of this, eating lots of meat can make you feel constantly bloated and lethargic. A diet like this may also lower your mood, which can lead to food cravings and binge eating.

3/ eating meat (protein) is one way people try to lose weight, but excessive consumption can effect your kidneys. One problem associated with protein consumption is kidney stones. This is a painful condition, whereby a hard mass (calcium deposits) form in the kidneys.

Improving potassium and phosphorus levels can help to mitigate the risk. Do this by eating plenty of these foods – bananas, peaches, papaya, apricots, oranges, tomatoes, red peppers, spinach, watercress, nuts and seeds eg. sunflower seeds. Alternatively, take a supplement.

woman cooking a meal in the kitchen

What should you do?

The important thing is not to use a low carb diet long term. Most low-carb diets aren’t suitable as a long term solution. They must be carefully designed for sustainability with the inclusion of modest carbs to prevent boredom. Ideally, they should be developed with the above issues in mind.

When deciding on a low carb diet, look for one which includes a modest amount of carbs or one which introduces carbs at some point during the plan. Any diet which is extreme in nature should be given a wide berth.

A diet which cuts out a food group entirely without considering potential problems or pitfalls, should be treated with great caution. It is best to avoid extreme versions, as these may not be healthy or even safe. Low carb diets can be highly effective and safe when done correctly.

A modest increase in protein for a short period (4 weeks) is unlikely to cause problems, but the longer you continue on a diet like this, the more likely you are to get kidney stones or some other condition. Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables and salad, avoid eating too much meat, too few carbs or eating low carb for too long.

Some people mitigate the risks associated with a dramatic lowering of carbs by having a short break or breaks before going back on the diet. Some practice low carb 2 times a year, more aggressive dieters do one month on one month off. I would advise you check with your doctor before embarking on this type of action.

Going low carb for any length of time can take some getting used to, but it is a great way to get weight-loss started. In addition, it can be helpful for anyone with or concerned about getting diabetes.

asparagus avocado tomatoes and garlic on table

Our diet plan

Our carefully crafted meal plan (diet) has been well thought out. One important aspect of the plan is the introduction of carbohydrate foods at various stages. The diet has a good balance of macro-nutrients with minimal calories, modest carbs and it was created with sustainability in mind. With our diet, the inclusion of carbs ensures any risk is minimal. If you’ve ordered a plan, check the carbs guide included to see which carbs are allowed and when. Despite the minimal risk, we suggest any low carb diet is short term for the reasons outline above.

We are always amazed at how much money people waste on diet pills that don’t work and gym memberships they never use, when they could just get our meal plan for a one off payment. It’s madness when you think about it.

There is another way

1/ An alternative diet – the vegan diet

A good alternative to a low-carb diet is to do the complete opposite, to eat less meat by going on a vegan diet. We’ve created one and will be launching it very soon.

The vegan diet works because vegan dishes tend to be packed full of healthy low calorie vegetable and salad items. The only issue with this diet is the lack of meat means you may not feel as full after every meal. You must also avoid the temptation to fry all your food in oil. Deep frying your vegetables or including chips with your meal is likely to end in failure.

When considering any change to your diet, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. Inform him/her of your plans and say you’re concerned about the risks. See the Vegan Society

glass jugs filled with smoothies and juices

2/ Eat purposefully

Another way is to eat more purposefully with natural whole foods instead.

Not everyone wants to eat more of something which might have a negative impact on health, but what’s the alternative?

People with cancer are often advised to cut out meat from their diet, but why wait for this to happen, when you could potentially prevent it, by restricting consumption now or better still cutting it out all together.

Improving your health, by increasing the amount of natural (un-processed, unrefined) foods which are alkaline in nature, is a much better way to go. Then you’ll have more energy and more focus, sleep better, reduce digestive problems like bloating. You’ll likely see improvements in the condition of your hair and skin and you’re more likely to lose weight because you’re eating more purposefully.

People who eat purposefully want their body to function at it’s best. When you learn about better food choices, you want to eat these foods in abundance. Choosing to give greater consideration and thought to what you put in your body is never a bad thing.

Conclusion

When you start eating natural whole foods, the outcome is usually a reduction of sugar, fat and salt in the diet and fewer visits to the doctor. There is a tendency to start avoiding sugary products and junk food completely. What follows is healthy gradual weight-loss.

Once you realise you can harness the power of food to look and feel better, you’ll never look back. All it takes is a better appreciation of what’s in your food and a slight change in mindset and eating habits.

I always suggest, only going on a low-carb high protein diet as a last resort and in consultation with your doctor. If you’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked, it’s worth trying. But once you’ve lost weight, it would be wise to revert back to healthier eating practices..

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