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Low-Carb Foods

Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet

A low-carbohydrate diet limits dietary carbs, such as grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits. This dietary plan emphasizes dietary protein and fat and it is used for weight loss and to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

As the name implies, a low-carb diet restricts your consumption of carbohydrates, a type of macronutrient. Common foods that contain carbs include grains, seeds, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and milk. Your body needs some carbs for fuel. Sugars and starches are broken to simple sugars during the digestion process. They go into the bloodstream to form glucose and enter the cells of the body. Extra glucose is stored in the muscles and liver for later, or it is converted to adipose tissue (fat).

Low-Carb Diet Theory

The theory behind the low-carb diet is that insulin prevents the breakdown of fat by allowing sugar to be used for energy. By decreasing carbs, you have lower insulin levels, which allow the body to burn stored fat and shed excess pounds.

Low-Carb Menu

The low-carb diet plan allows for certain vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The daily limit for carbohydrates is 50 to 150 grams. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that your carbohydrate intake make up around 50 percent of your total daily calorie needs.

Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet

There are two main benefits of the low-carb diet: weight loss and prevention or control of certain diseases.

  • Weight Loss – Many people can lose weight on the low-carb diet. Studies show, that you must continue to follow this dietary plan in order to maintain your weight. Those who continued for two years lost an average of 9 pounds. Researchers believe that this diet works because the extra protein keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time so you don't eat as often.
  • Prevents or Controls Diseases – Any diet that helps you lose weight will reduce or even reverse the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Also, the low-carb diet improves HDL cholesterol, the good kind of cholesterol that helps the body eliminate fat buildup.

The Disadvantages of the Low-Carb Diet

As with most other diets, the low carb diet has some disadvantages. These include:

  • Side Effects – When you suddenly restrict or drastically eliminate carbs, you could experience a variety of temporary health side effects. These include dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and constipation.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies – With this dietary plan, you could suffer certain nutritional deficiencies, as well as insufficient fiber. To avoid this, take vitamins or supplements while you are cutting out carbs.
  • Ketosis – When you do not have enough glucose for energy, the body breaks down stored fat. This causes ketones to build up in the body, a condition known as ketosis. Restricting carbohydrates can cause ketosis, and symptoms include nausea, bad breath, and mental fatigue.

Studies Find that Low-Carb Diet Helps Overall Health

A recent review of 17 different studies that followed obese people on low-carb diet plans found that dieters lost around 18 pounds during a six month to one year period. Overall, these participants showed improvement in blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, waist measurement, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol. One small study found that dieters who were trying to maintain weight loss burned more calories each day by eating a low-carb diet.

Low-Fat Low-Carb Recipes

From: CalorieKing.com

Cheesy Eggplant Casserole
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 small to medium eggplants, peeled and sliced, about 1/2-inch thickness
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (red or green), diced
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 (14 oz) can no-salt added diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 cup low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Sprinkle salt over eggplant and set aside.

SAUCE: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Sauté onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, and garlic until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add Italian seasoning, tomato purée and diced tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 22 minutes.

EGGPLANT: Coat eggplant with flour, front and back. Coat skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add eggplant slices in batches and cook, covered, until browned, turning once - about 3 to 5 minutes per side.

CASSEROLE: In a 7 x 11-inch casserole dish, spread about 1 cup sauce. Add a layer of eggplant. Top with 1 cup cottage cheese, more sauce and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat again, placing a layer of sauce on top. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake uncovered in preheated oven, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Asparagus Chicken
  • 1 Tbsp oil, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 14 oz skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody base removed
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 8 fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pinch salt

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of the oil with the ginger in a non-stick pan. Add chicken. Stir constantly for 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.

Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil to pan. When heated, add asparagus. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add green onions and mushrooms. Stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan. Add salt. Cook a further 3 minutes.

Black Beans with Figs and Bell Peppers
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp corn oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 12 medium California figs, sliced
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 cup cooked black beans

Melt the butter (or heat the oil) in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, cloves, cumin and cilantro. Cook by stirring often until the onion softens, which is about 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the diced figs, lemon juice and brown sugar to the onion-pepper mixture. Add the beans, cover and cook over low heat until the peppers are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking.

Sources

AHA (2013). High Protein Diets. Retrieved from:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/High-Protein-Diets_UCM_305989_Article.jsp

Centers for Nutrition (2013). 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from:
http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm

Hellmich N (2012). Low-carb diet gets more support from new analysis. Retrieved from: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-08-30/low-carb-diet/57444292/1

Healthy Eating