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What is Low Carb?

Eating great food that is low carb, is a fast way to feel energised and healthy. It can also help manage various challenging health conditions. But what is low carb?

There are many different definitions of low carb. This causes no end of confusion and disappointment with newbies to this lifestyle. The best definition of low carb was set by a group of professors in the USA;

Low Carb means not eating more than 120g of carbohydrate per day.

For example, one slice of bread (whether or not it is gluten free or organic or high fibre) is equal to at least 15g of carbohydrate. Even an apple contains 14g of carbohydrates. It really isn’t surprising that most people are having well over 250g a day. Just one sandwich for lunch and an apple will easily take you to over 44g of carbs. That’s before you have had your fruit juice or smoothie.

Low Carb ketogenic means eating between 20 - 60g of carbohydrates per day.

To trigger ketosis you need to ensure that during each day you do not have more than 60g of carbohydrate. Some people you may even need to drop their daily carb intake to 20g a day.

There is also a great deal of confusion about different commercial low carb diets. All the following diets are actually virtually identical as they each attempt to trigger ketosis and then transition you from ketogenic low carb to a low carb diet.

  • Atkins
  • Ducan
  • Harcombe
  • Banting / Real Food Revolution
 

All these diets are primarily aimed at weight loss and are not necessarily suitable for the management of many other health conditions due to the level of protein or fat. If you are looking to manage conditions such as Epilepsy or Cancer you should take professional advice from an appropriately trained Dietician or you can get in touch with us and we will point you in the right direction.

Doing it yourself

What are carbs?

Here is our hit list of foods to enjoy in abundance and foods to avoid while following a low carb diet. We also advise on the foods that are a little carby but can still be eaten in moderation:

Abundance
  • Meat
  • Fish 
  • Poultry
  • Eggs 
  • Good Fats – eg: extra virgin olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil
  • Full Fat Dairy - including double cream and Greek yoghurt
 
Moderation
  • Berries – fresh or frozen 
  • Green leafy vegetables 
  • Nuts and seeds – an amazing source of fibre, protein and good fats 
 
Avoid
  • Sugar - including honey, dried fruit, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut sugar, etc
  • Root vegetables - such as carrots, potatoes, turnip, swede, sweet potato, etc
  • Wheat products - such as bread and pasta
  • Other Grains - such as rice, quinoa, barley, couscous, etc
  • Pulses - we know that many people think that pulses are high in protein and then assume that these are naturally low in carb, they are not. Apart from soya, which we do not recommend
  • Other Fruit – apart from a small amount of berries. This also includes tomatoes.
  • Highly Processed Vegetable & Seed Oils - eg: margarines, vegetable oils, etc

Understanding Food Labels – What the hell are NET CARBS?

It's important to read the ingredients list but the focus really needs to be on the amount of carbohydrate. This will tell you how much carbohydrate is in your food that you are buying. A term that causes much confusion in this instance is Net Carbs, which is commonly used in the USA. The reason for this is that the food labelling rules differ in both countries. In the UK we do not count fibre in our calculation of carbohydrate but in the US they do. When you calculate your daily carbohydrate amount you should deduct fibre which is why the US low carbers like Atkins talk about Net Carbs.

Low Carbing, Low GI, Low GL

These terms can also cause confusion. Neither low GI (Glycaemic Index) nor low GL (Glycaemic Load) mean low carb. These two approaches still allow for foods such as sweet potatoes and quinoa to be eaten - food items that are not classified as low carb.

These terms can also cause confusion. Neither low GI (Glycaemic Index) nor low GL (Glycaemic Load) mean low carb and certainly do not mean keto low carb. Both Low GI and Low GL diets are still rich in carbohydrates but the carbohydrates recommended tend to be those that are higher in fibre and more often nutritious. Most people following a Low GI or Low GL diet will eat more than 120grams of carbohydrate a day.

All our food is Low GI and Low GL and of course it is also Low Carb and suitable for a Low Carb Keto Diet.

Paleo – Is it low carb?

Paleo appears to be low carb but for many it may not be as low carb as expected.

The Paleo diet is based on our ancestors’ diet and is quite simple. Avoid all grains, dairy and processed foods. Eat in abundance a combination of animal and fish protein together with fruit, honey, vegetables, seeds and nuts.

Due to the high levels of protein and fruit it is unlikely that a Paleo Eater will be in ketosis unless they are managing their food very carefully. If the version of Paleo is rich in fruit, honey and vegetables then it is more than likely it will exceed 120grams of carbohydrate a day. So Paleo is not necessarily low carb although it is free from the highly processed starches and sugars and therefore has many many benefits.

If you are keen to do Paleo the low carb way then you must avoid honey and limit your fruit intake. If you want to be in ketosis you will need to keep your protein down to avoid triggering an insulin response to the protein.

Banting – what is this?

Banting is a South African Diet which is named after a British 19th Century man who wrote the first paper on the management of obesity. It is based on the same principals of Atkins Dukan and Harcombe.

The Banting website does not count carbs as such and therefore to keep in ketosis the same rules still apply which is to keep your daily intake of carbohydrate down to below 50-60g a day.

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