Low Carbohydrate Diet (<150g/day)
The “low-carb” diet has been all the craze lately, but other than losing weight quickly, living a low carb lifestyle has a multitude of additional health benefits:
1. Reduces the amount of insulin in your body.
In the right proportions, insulin is a necessary hormone required for energy production. However, when excess insulin is released, it can have annoying (weight gain) as well as devastating effects on your body. Insulin is released in proportion to the amount of carbohydrates (not fat or protein) consumed by the body. Therefore, lowering your carb intake lowers the amount of insulin released.
What is Insulin? It is a hormone secreted by pancreas in response to elevated blood sugar levels. It transports the sugar in the bloodstream into your muscles where it is used for fuel. Sugar that is not used for fuel is stored in the liver, and if there is still excess sugar in the bloodstream, it is converted to triglycerides and stored as fat in the body.
Negative Effects of Insulin:
Fun Fact: The body does not NEED carbohydrates to function properly.
Bottom Line: Excess insulin prevents you from burning fat, increases hunger & cravings, and increases risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes (just to name a few).
2. Improves Cognitive Health.
A spike in blood sugar level decreases the function of the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory and learning. Keeping your blood sugar levels consistent (no spikes or lows) will help prevent lapses in memory, keep you focused, and allow you to keep on learning.
3. Reduces the amount of trans-fats, wheat, and fructose in your diet.
Trans-fats raises LDL (bad) cholesterol, lowers HDL (good) cholesterol, and increases your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Wheat is addictive and contains two metabolic nightmares: Gluten & amylopectin A. Amylopectin A is easily digestible, resulting in a spike in blood sugar. The spike in blood sugar results in a proportional spike in insulin released into the bloodstream (see negative effects above). Gluten, when broken down into amino acids (polypeptides) is able to pass the blood-brain-barrier (protective barrier of the brain). Once the amino acids pass through the barrier, they are able to attach to our morphine receptors. Gluten, is basically a narcotic. It is addictive, causes spikes in blood sugar, and is appetite stimulate.
Fructose (a specific type of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup is the most commonly known) is metabolized (broken down) by the body like fat. When consumed, the body immediately converts fructose into triglycerides (fat) which is deposited in the liver. When you consume fructose, you are literally eating fat. Excess amounts of fat in the liver can lead to damage over time.
4. Reduces cravings and keeps you fuller longer.
By going low carb you are removing the addicting properties of wheat and naturally begin to substitute food that high in protein and fiber for carbs. Foods that are higher in protein and fiber take longer to digest, preventing spikes in blood sugar, and keeping you fuller longer.
5. Prevents your body from becoming acidic (pH).
Naturally your body likes to remain neutral (think of the pH scale). Carbohydrates are very acidic. When the body becomes too acidic, minerals are pulled out of bones and tissues to compensate. Over time, the leaching of minerals may result in osteoporosis (weak bones) and sarcopenia (decreased muscle mass). Overly acidic tissues also cause inflammation, impair reactions in cells, and overtax the lymphatic system, impeding the body’s natural detoxification process. Also, having an acidic resting state makes it very difficult to lose weight.
How to maintain a neutral pH:
Ultimately living a low carb lifestyle, allows your body to reach a metabolic harmony. Living a low carb lifestyle helps you maintain a healthy weight, reduces your risk of chronic disease, and improves your energy levels as well as your memory and learning capability. What is there not to like?
Pair a low carb lifestyle with some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and you have the perfect combination needed to kick those pesky blood pressure and cholesterol medications to the side.
Healthline put together a list of the top calorie counting apps for 2015. Check it out, and keep track of those carbs!
Citation: Bowden, PhD, CNS, J. (2013). Living low carb: Controlled-carbohydrate eating for long-term weight loss (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Sterling.
-Lauren Jarmusz, sDPT