Low-carb diets have been around long enough that they are no longer just a fad. Lots of research and studies have been done on the subject since the Atkins diet first came on the scene in 1972. While those early suggestions to lower carbs may have been based on dubious conclusions about weight loss, today we know that there are some legitimate benefits to cutting carbs. From weight management to hormonal balance, some of these benefits may surprise you.
6) Weight management
We’ll start with the most well known claim of low-carb diets: They can help you lose weight. This is true but there’s more to it that just banishing your daily bread. The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume every day. You could theoretically lose weight eating nothing but carbs, but since carbs break down into sugar which is quickly digested, they don’t leave you feeling as full for as long. Carbohydrates are also high in calories, so if you’re trying to manage your weight, carbs will add lots of energy to be stored as fat and leave you craving even more food a short time later. Carbohydrates are essential for managing insulin and maintaining a healthy brain, but cutting some carbs leaves more room in your daily calories for things like protein and healthy fats which keep you feeling satisfied for longer and help control cravings.
5) It can lower bad cholesterol
For years we have been told that LDL is the bad cholesterol and it’s still true, but we know even more about cholesterol now. LDL and HDL are not actually cholesterol, they are proteins that carry cholesterol, and it turns out size matters. The size of the protein will determine whether it is able to carry cholesterol or not. Smaller particles can carry more cholesterol, large particles can carry less or none. Low-carb diets have been shown to reduce the size of LDL particles while decreasing the amount of LDL overall.
4) It heightens good cholesterol
HDL or the good cholesterol carrying protein carries cholesterol away from your other organs and into your liver. The liver then reuses or excretes it in accordance with maintaining proper cholesterol levels. Eating healthy fats like avocados, nuts, fish, and non-hydrogenated, liquid vegetable oils increases your HDL levels. But since even healthy fats are high in calories, you may not have enough room in your diet for them if you fill it up with carbs. Cutting carbs leaves you more room for healthy fats and less room for cholesterol.
3) It lowers blood triglycerides
Carbs heighten blood triglyceride levels which if left unchecked, can lead to heart disease. Triglycerides are fat molecules in the bloodstream. Any food energy not used right away is converted into triglycerides to be stored for later use. Even the most fit people have triglycerides and stored fat because our bodies can’t use all of the food we consume as energy right away (unless you’re The Flash). Even if you’re running a daily calorie deficit, most of the food you eat is still stored via triglycerides before it is burned as energy. So if you are eating more calories than you burn, your triglyceride levels will be high and so will your risk of heart disease. Since carbs are such an efficient food, more of their energy is stored.
2) Reduced inflammation
Some carbs -particularly the high-glucose ones that low-carb diets urge us to avoid- can cause inflammation. This is because when your body stores these types of carbohydrates, it turns them into palmitic acid which has inflammatory effects. The carbohydrates in whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables are safe and will not cause inflammation and can even be anti-inflammatory.
Low-carb means pro-experimentation. Any kind of dietary switch requires learning some new recipes and kitchen tricks, and low-carb cooking is full of opportunities to stretch your spatula and try new things. Flourless cookies, Zucchini noodles, ratatouille, flourless pancakes, and even seaweed pizza crust are just a few of the new experiences low-carb diets have to offer.
These are just a few things to think about if you’re considering a low-carb diet. Each body is different and there are slight differences in the way our bodies process nutrients. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes.