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Low Carbohydrate Diet - Pros and Cons

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Low Carbohydrate Pyramid Photo bucket

Low Carbohydrate Pyramid Photo bucket

Low Carbohydrate Foods

Is a low carbohydrate effective and is it a healthy diet choice? A pound of body weight contains about 3500 calories and to lose a pound a week you must consume 500 fewer calories per day than you metabolize. Essentially you have to increase your activity level and decrease your caloric intake for any diet to work.

The mental challenge of dieting is the toughest obstacle to overcome. We make poor choices in our food selections for a myriad of reasons which include eating because we’re stressed out, because we’ve developed bad habits, because it is quick and easy, and it is not easy to change old habits.

Self Talk ad Journaling

One of the best ways to motivate ourselves is using positive self talk. Be nice to yourself. Don’t beat yourself down if you slip up while dieting, but just continue with the diet like the slip never happened. If you have a bad day, forgive yourself and wake up with an attitude and begin anew.

Writing daily in a journal is very important. Write everything you eat, how you are feeling, write about stress if it is a problem, write about cravings and how you can relieve that stress without turning to food.

Find healthy outlets for stress, like exercise, confiding in a friend, start a new hobby, read a good book or anything else you can think of to take your mind off food. Most importantly, think positively!

From Fat to Thin source bigstockphoto

From Fat to Thin source bigstockphoto

Medical Aspects

Low carbohydrate diets are popular and many people lose weight successfully by counting their daily carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrate diets are used for weight control and to treat obesity. We are all different and it is important for you to choose the diet that will work for you. Foods high in carbohydrates are replaced with foods containing a higher percentage of proteins and fats, plus foods that have lower carbs such as green leafy vegetables. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) defines low-carbohydrate diets as:

“Low-carbohydrate diets restrict caloric intake by reducing the consumption of carbohydrates to 20 to 60 g per day (typically less than 20 percent of the daily caloric intake). The consumption of protein and fat is increased to compensate for part of the calories that formerly came from carbohydrates.” This quote came from the article “Low –carbohydrate diets” by Ar. Wilson from the American Family Physician.

Carbohydrate Effect

Carbohydrates raise the blood sugar levels, which puts insulin into the blood stream. The theory behind the low carbohydrate diet is that insulin drives blood sugar into the cells and prevents fat breakdown, which means you won’t burn excess fat and lose weight. Proponents of the diet say this process actually causes weight gain.

Healthy Fresh Vegetables source flickr

Healthy Fresh Vegetables source flickr

Understing How the Diet Works in Your Body

Generally the diet focuses on meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs and some non starchy vegetables. There is no bread, sweets, pasta, or starchy vegetables allowed. Initially there is loss of water weight, some say a decreased appetite, an increased of fullness and reduced calories. One of the problems with this diet is you will probably not be able to use it over the long term as so many things can’t be eaten. Secondly, if you go off the diet you will have to be very careful to not gain back the weight you worked so hard to lose. No one really knows the long term risks of this diet according to Mayo Clinic.

Ketone Effect

There are down sides to most diets and this particular diet is ketonic, which means your carbohydrates are restricted sufficiently to cause ketosis. The Atkins diet does the same thing. Ketosis means you have an elevated level of ketones in the blood which occurs when the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies.

Some of these ketones can be used for energy. However, excess ketones will slowly decarboxylate into acetone and be excreted in the breath and urine. If you are not taking in enough carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores the body goes through a set of stages, so you enter ketosis.

In this process, the adult brain will burn ketones. After 48 hours of this process the brain makes immediate use of this important substrate for lipid synthesis. That way glycogen can be reserved for absolute needs, thus avoiding the depletion of the body’s store of protein from the muscles.

The ketonic state is not the same thing as ketoacidosis which can occur with diabetes. The two times this diet is used for medical purposes might be to treat diabetes and epilepsy.

List Of Low Carbs Foods

In Conclusion

You can purchase a small book for a nominal fee that tells you the number of carbohydrate in just about any food you typically eat. I have seen them while standing in line waiting to pay for groceries and this book will be helpful. The National Academy of Sciences recommends no less than 120 grams of carbs per day. There are fruits and vegetables allowed which would be listed in the book as well.

If you think the low carbohydrate diet is a healthy choice and will work for you, then get prepared so you can count your daily carb intake, work in some exercise and try it out. It is a popular diet and many people claim great success.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 05, 2011:

perio, Thank you so much for your comment.

perio on April 05, 2011:

Great article! Very informative.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 19, 2010:

Support Med, I think this is a very good diet and I thank you for your comment.

Support Med. from Michigan on March 19, 2010:

Informative hub. I have heard that this is one of the best diets because of the focus on protein. As with anything, and as you once stated, moderation is key.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2010:

Brenda, Your are right. I can do any diet for a while but hanging in there is really tough. Thanks for you comment.

Brenda Massey on March 15, 2010:

Good hub on low carb diets. This one worked well for me for a while but like any diet you have to make it permenant if its to stick. That's the hard part!:)

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 12, 2010:

Katiem. thank you for your oomments.

Katie McMurray from Ohio on March 12, 2010:

I love this hub! I'm a vegan and what I find true is that people don't give much thought to the powerful carbs, fruits and veggies, low fat yogurt (even the milk type is a carb), whole grains (I mean real whole grains) brown rice, The good carbs! Peace :)

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 12, 2010:

Thank you so much for you nice comment. Good luck with your diet.

New Child Safety on March 12, 2010:

This is a very well written and informative hub. Thank you for in-depth information. As I currently struggle to make good choices every day, your hub has given me more to think about and the words of encouragement not to get discouraged are appreciated.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2010:

Jack, Thanks for the comment.

TnFlash from Tampa, Florida on March 11, 2010:

Excellent Hub! It's obvious you really know your stuff on health matters. Great Article!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2010:

Hello and Amber, Thanks so much for your comments.

Amber Allen on March 11, 2010:

Great hub. The point about not being discouraged if you slip is very important.


Hello, hello, from London, UK on March 11, 2010:

Great work, Pamela, and well written. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2010:

Habee, Thanks for your comment. My sister has always used this one but I can't seem to stick to it. I guess we're all different.

Holle Abee from Georgia on March 11, 2010:

Great hub! This is the only diet I can stick to for any length of time, and it encourages me to eat lots of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, cauliflower, cabbge, and other healthy veggies.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2010:

Thank you all for your wonderful comments.

anglnwu on March 11, 2010:

I like your use of positive affirmations to keep on the diet track. It's not easy but with portion control, weight loss may be possible. Thanks.

nancy_30 from Georgia on March 11, 2010:

Thank you for this very well written and informative hub.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on March 11, 2010:

Very interesting hub. Low carb diet did work the best for me.

Bob Diamond RPh from Charlotte, NC USA on March 11, 2010:

Absolutely the best diet, especially if you build it on a Mediterranean theme, Pamela.

Tom Whitworth from Moundsville, WV on March 11, 2010:


Back when I was in grade school the teacher had us do an experiment. She wanted to show how tyalin in our saliva changed starch into sugar in our mouth. She gave us a sample of Wonder Bread, and had us keep it in our mouth while chewing. We all could taste the sweetness as it changed.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2010:

Dutchess, I tried this diet but couldn't stick with it very long.

POP, Portion control is a good way to go because you stay on that as a way of life.

Patriot, I lost weight just going to the gym and not eating sweets or breads a one point but you would think you workouts would hold your weight steady at least. At least spring is almost here. I guess Johnny Walker has few too many calories also. It's hard to change everything.

Thank you all for your comments.

partisan patriot on March 11, 2010:


Last April I weighed 230 lbs; I went on my reduced caloric intake increase exercise program. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I went to the Athletic Club where I rode the stationary bike for 1 hour; 14 miles with an average daily burn of 460 calories plus working with weights and machines for 45 mins for an average daily burn of 150 calories; total burn 610 calories.

Every Tuesday and Sunday I played golf riding in a cart which burned; according to the Calorie Burning Activities website (calorie burn calculator) burned 1552 calories for 4 hours at the height of my weight.

Every Thursday I played golf; walking which according to the same website burned 2439 calories.

When golf season ended I had lost 28 lbs. from April 1 through October 1. But being basically forced indoors for the past 5 months I have gained 7 lbs back despite the fact I still visit the gym Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays following the same routine.

My point, it takes an enormous amount of exercise to burn away the calories consumed in an average diet. Incidentally, I eat very little red meat; mostly chicken and fish and do not eat many fried foods. However, I must admit, Johnny Walker and I are close friends!

breakfastpop on March 11, 2010:

For me it's just portion control, whole grains and the avoidance of white flour.

Duchess OBlunt on March 11, 2010:

Tried this once. Stuck to it very well (I enjoy meat) but had this very issue you talked about and had to abandon it. It was very easy to gain back what weight I did loose.

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