Low carb diets have been around for a while, but there is a new, zero carb diet out there that is gaining popularity – but is it safe?
A no-carb diet involves eliminating as many carbohydrates as possible. Fruit and vegetables contain around 3 to 4 grams of net carbs, and an ounce of nuts has around the same, so the big problem is that you would need to eliminate these healthy foods from your diet.
This ‘carbs are bad’ approach has similarities to the fat-free diets of yesteryear, in that it takes a trend to the extreme. Fat used to be avoided at all costs, with dieters scared to eat foods that contained even half a gram of fat per serving, in case they ended up with too many fat grams at the end of the day.
This led to them filling the void that fat left with carbs and sugar, which led to weight gain, as well as side effects from fat deficiency, such as dry skin and hormonal imbalances.
The focus of a healthy diet should be balance and food quality, not removing entire food groups altogether. There are bad carbs, like processed grains and refined sugar, but there are healthy ones too, like whole grains, fruit, and vegetables.
Losing weight, maintaining it, and preventing health issues like diabetes doesn’t need such extreme measures as zero carbs. The side effects of trying to eliminate all carbs from your diet can impact heavily on your health and quality of life.
1. You Miss Out On Important Nutrients
Avoiding carbs means you severely reduce many important nutrients found in the foods that are banished or limited. These include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, and prebiotics.
Taking supplements won’t replace all of these nutrients, and a lack of them could lead to impaired immune function, declining cognitive health, and the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
The foods eaten in areas of the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives (Blue Zones) are mostly plant-based and quite high in carbs.
2. Low Carb Flu
Lots of people have heard about keto flu, which can happen when someone first starts a keto diet. Symptoms include headaches, brain fog, irritability, nausea, dizziness, and sore muscles. This is because your brain, which uses mostly carbs for fuel, must adapt to using fat instead.
This also happens on a zero carb diet, and just because your body is able to adapt, it doesn’t mean it is an ideal state of being.
3. Possible Social and Psychological Side Effects
All extreme diets make eating with family and friends a challenge, and can cause the dieter to avoid get-togethers over food, or makes them feel fearful and obsess over their food.
Those who can’t keep to their restrictive diet and give in to temptation sometimes feel extreme guilt and even depression.
The pattern of starting and stopping strict diets can lead to eating disorders, and ruin people’s quality of life.
Zero Carb Diets Are Just Not Necessary
These diets are not needed for long-term weight loss or for health. Recent research shows that plant-based diets that include whole, fiber-rich foods, monounsaturated fats, and plant-based proteins can help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes.
These diets, which are moderate to high in carbs, have been shown to assist weight loss, improve insulin resistance, support gut function, and reduce compounds that are associated with aging.
Including Carbs In Your Diet
Those with different lifestyles, fitness levels and ages need different amounts of carbs – a 40-year old woman with a desk job won’t need the same amount of carbs as a 20-year old male who does athletic training.
Eat portions of fruit, whole grains, and starchy vegetables, and include healthy fats such as avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and nut/seed butters. Try to cut down on meats and eat more meals based around lentils, beans, and chickpeas as an alternative protein source.