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Low carbohydrate diet - benefits and risks

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Low carbohydrate diet is a well-documented way to treat obesity and improve health through restricted consumption of carbohydrates. A low carbohydrate diet is one in which intake of carbohydrates is not more than 20 per cent of total food consumed.  

People follow a low-carb diet to lose weight and there is also research to suggest that such a diet can lead to avoidance of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.

There are many types of low-carb diets depending on the mix of low and high carbohydrate food, protein and saturated fat. Generally, in such a diet, high-carb food such as pasta, bread and sugar is replaced with food items having a bit more fat but high protein such as eggs, chicken, nuts, seeds, fish, starchy vegetables and berries.

The benefits and risks of going on a low-carb diet are closely linked with how carbohydrates are the main source of energy in our body. Any diet and thus food that increases or decreases its content in our body has a direct result on our every day and long-term health.   


The crucial role of carbohydrates in a diet

Carbohydrates are the only form of energy that’s used by our brain. Our body uses carbs to make glucose from which the human body derives all its energy. After the body makes the glucose, it either uses it or stores it in the liver or muscles. Carbs also play the following roles: 

1. They jump-start the process of metabolism in the body

2. Regulate digestion

3. Enable communication between cells

4. Support immune functions

Therefore, if one consumes too many carbohydrates, their storage in the body can lead to many diseases. If they are not consumed in sufficient quantity, it can lead to its deficiency and cause serious medical issues that threaten the functioning of the body.

It is essential, that one does not follow an all-or-nothing approach towards a low-carb diet. Follow a middle path and enjoy the full benefits of this diet without in any way endangering the functioning of the body.

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Proven benefits of a low-carb diet

Over the last many decades, multiple studies on low carbohydrate diet have proven the many ways in which it can benefit the human body. 

  •  It lowers blood pressure
  •  It can lower weight even when you have not consciously planned to do so
  •  Lowers triglycerides or fat in the body – especially in the blood
  •  Reduces sugar in the diabetic and the pre-diabetic
  •  Lowers blood insulin level
  •  Increases good cholesterol
  •  Improves dental hygiene
  •  Reduces food and fast food craving
  •  Person feels more energetic and lighter on one's feet
  •  Lowers pain in muscles and joints
  •  Pre-Menstrual Cycle is improved in women
  •  Reduces headache
  •  Improvement in skin tone
  •  Less instance of indigestion and heart burn
  •  Improvement in mood
  •  Increases alertness and improves ability to focus due to a healthy stomach 
These are some very serious health benefits – not just when we are healthy but also when we have diseases such a high sugar, blood pressure, are obese, have joint pains, and prone to stomach issues. As one can see from this long list of plus points – a diet primarily comprising of low carbohydrates provides all-round benefits – physically, mentally and emotionally.

 

Very low carb intake can cause damage (Risks)

In their enthusiasm to cut down on carbs, and consuming large amounts of protein and saturated fat - dieters run the risk of harming their body.

1. A low-carb diet demands that you go slow on vegetables and fruits. But veggies and fruits provide us with the most vitamins and minerals. So ensure that you top up on these from these sources.

2. Often, a low-carb diet is executed in a cycle: Eat and no-eat phases, and this can be a health risk for people wanting to lose weight.

3. The high-saturated fat content in low-carb diets increases heart disease risk.

4. Consuming too much protein puts a lot of pressure on kidneys and this can lead to kidney disease.

5. A low-carb diet restricts consumption of vegetables, and this can lead to Osteoporisis – as a low-carb diet forces more excretion of calcium from the body.

6. Avoidance of high antioxidant food such as plants, minerals and vitamins increases risk of developing cancer.  

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: October 04, 2013