A low-carb diet is all about cutting back on simple carbs, like white rice, pasta and bread. To compensate this reduction, it is advised to increase the intake of proteins, such as meat and eggs, and healthy fats, which are present in foods like avocados, chestnuts, olive oil and fish like sardines and salmon.
This diet is very effective for losing weight, because the metabolism works better with an increase in protein and healthy fat intake, helping to reduce the body's inflammation and fight fluid retention.
How to do a low carb diet
To start a low-carb diet, first you must eliminate simple carbohydrates from your diet, like sugar, white flour, white rice, soft drinks, sweets and salty foods. In some cases, it may also be necessary to cut back on good carbohydrates, like whole grain bread, oats, sweet potatoes and yams.
The amount of carbs that are eliminated from your diet depends on your metabolism and the cutback should be gradual so that the body can adapt gradually to the changes and avoid side effects like headaches, dizziness or mood swings.
Snacks should include eggs, cheese, nuts, avocado and coconut. You can balance these foods with 1 slice of whole grain bread or a piece of fruit, for example. Lunch and dinner should consist mainly of salads, meat and olive oil, and may contain small amounts of carbs like rice or whole grain pasta, beans, pumpkin and potatoes.
1. Foods allowed
The foods allowed in a low-carb diet are:
- Fruits and vegetables;
- Meat, chicken and fish;
- Olive oil, coconut oil and butter;
- Nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts;
- Seeds in general, such as chia seeds, flaxseed, sunflower and sesame;
- Coffee and tea without sugar;
- Water, 2 to 3 liters a day.
In addition to being used to lose weight, this diet can also be recommended for the treatment of problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes, high triglycerides and high blood pressure, and is a great way of reviewing cases of pre-diabetes.
2. Forbidden foods
This diet means avoiding all foods that contain high amounts of carbohydrates. To ensure you are choosing good sources of nutrition, it is important to check food labels before buying the products. However, here are some examples of foods that should be avoided:
- Sugar: including soft drinks, fruit juices, sweeteners, sweets, ice creams, cakes and biscuits;
- Flour, such as wheat, barley or rye, and foods such as bread, biscuits, savouries, toast;
- Trans fats: packaged crisps, frozen ready-to-eat foods, margarine;
- Processed meats: ham, turkey breast, sausage, salami, mortadella, bacon;
- Others: white rice, white pasta, cassava, tapioca and couscous
An important tip is to avoid all types of processed food, because they contain high amounts of carbohydrates, giving preference to natural products and fresh vegetables.
3. Foods allowed in moderation
These foods can be eaten once or twice a day, balancing them with protein and healthy fat intake:
- Whole grain bread;
- Grains: whole grain rice, whole grain pasta, corn, beans,
- Milk and yoghurts;
- Tubers-vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and manioc.
In general, people who practice sports regularly tolerate higher quantities of carbs in their diet without gaining weight so easily.
It is also important to remember that unlike the Ketogenic Diet, a Low-Carb Diet allows for a small daily consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods.
3-day low carb diet plan
The following table shows a 3-day example of a low-carb diet plan:
|Meal||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
|Breakfast||2 fried eggs with cheese + 1 teaspoon sesame seeds +sugar-free coffee||1 cup of sugar-free coffee + 2 scrambled eggs with tomato and basil||Sugar-free tea + 1 slice of low carb bread with cheese and a drizzle of olive oil|
|Morning snack||1 apple + 7 cashew nuts||1 glass of green juice with cabbage, pineapple, lemon and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds||1 mashed banana + 1 tablespoon peanut butter|
|Lunch/Dinner||zucchini spaghetti + 120 g of meat + green salad with olive oil||salmon fillet + vegetables, braised with olive oil||pumpkin puree + 130 g pork loin + braised cabbage with olive oil|
|Afternoon snack||sugar-free coffee + vegetable omelet made with 2 eggs||sugar-free tea + 1 slice of low carb bread with peanut butter||avocado vitamin with chia seeds and vegetable milk (like soy, almond, coconut)|
While on a low-carb diet, you must drink 2 to 3 litres of water every day, because this diet is rich in fibre. It is also important to include healthy fats, so you should increase the intake of olive oil, chestnuts, peanuts, avocado, coconut and fish.
Benefits of a low-carb diet
Following a low-carb diet brings health benefits like:
- Higher levels of satiety, because by increasing protein and fat in your diet you feel fuller for longer;
- Lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides;
- Help in controlling diabetes;
- Bowel function improvement, because this diet contains more whole foods.
The amount of carbohydrates in a low-carb diet varies according to the individual's needs and the amount of physical activity they practice, but carbs should make up less than 40% of the calorie intake of a low-carb diet.
In general, the less carbs in the diet, the more weight loss potential, but this reduction should always be done with the help of a nutritionist, as it can cause problems, such as mood swings, weakened immunity system and headaches.
Low-carb recipe options
1. Zucchini noodles
A portion of 100 g of these noodles has about 59 calories, 1.1 g of protein, 5 g of fat and 3 g of carbs.
- 1 small zucchini cut into thin strips;
- 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or olive oil;
- Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste.
Slice the zucchini length-wise into spaghetti-like strands. There are also special slicers that cut vegetables so they look like spaghetti strands. In a frying pan, heat the coconut oil or the olive oil and add the zucchini noodles. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until the zucchini begins to soften. Season with salt, garlic and black pepper. Remove the frying pan from the heat and add meat and tomato or pesto sauce and stir.
2. Spinach tortilla
A portion of 80 grams (¼ of the Spanish omelette) has approximately 107 calories, 4 g of protein, 9 g of fat and 2.5 g of carbohydrates.
- 550 g of spinach or chard leaves;
- 4 egg whites slightly beaten;
- ½ chopped onion;
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives;
- Pinch of salt and pepper;
- Olive oil.
Put the spinach leaves in a frying pan, cover and keep over a medium heat until they wilt, uncovering and stirring from time to time. Then, remove from the pan and let stand for a few minutes on a plate.
In the same frying pan, put a drizzle of olive oil, onion, chives, salt and pepper, and let the onion cook until slightly golden. Then, add the egg whites and spinach, letting them cook for another 5 minutes, until the Spanish omelette is golden brown underneath. Flip the Spanish omelette over and cook it for another 5 minutes on the other side.
3. Stuffed cherry tomatoes
A serving of 4 cherry tomatoes (65 g) has about 106 calories, 5 g of protein, 6 g of fat and 5 g of carbohydrates.
- 400 g cherry tomatoes (24 tomatoes, approximately);
- 8 tablespoons (150 g) goat's cheese;
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil;
- 1 clove garlic, crushed;
- Salt and white pepper to taste;
- 6 basil leaves (topping)
Wash the tomatoes and cut out a small lid on the top, remove the pulp from the inside using a small spoon, being careful not to cut into the tomato’s skin. Stuff the tomatoes with the goat’s cheese.
In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil with the garlic, salt and pepper and drizzle the seasoning over the tomatoes. Put the basil leaves cut into slices on top.
4. Strawberry and fruit gelatin
A portion of this jelly of about 90 g (1/3 cup) has approximately 16 calories, 1.4 g of protein, 0 g of fat and 4 g of carbohydrates.
Ingredients (for 7 servings)
- ½ cup chopped strawberries;
- ¼ chopped apple;
- ¼ of chopped pear;
- 1 cup hot water;
- 1 sachet of strawberry gelatin powder (without sugar)
- ½ cup cold water.
Put the gelatin powder in a container and then add the cup of hot water. Stir until the powder is completely dissolved and then add the cold water. Finally, place the fruit in the bottom of a glass container and add the gelatin to the fruit. You should then place the container in the refrigerator so it cools down and sets.