A low carb diet can actually boost your energy (and your skin’s glow)

A low carb diet can actually boost your energy (and your skin’s glow)

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Myths and urban legends surround the low carb diet. Megan Fox set the ball rolling when she mentioned that the low-carb, sugar-free Paleo diet was the secret to her fabulous post-baby body. In her book It’s All Good, Gwyneth Paltrow talks about her journey back to health through food. A low-carb diet with no wheat, no soy, no dairy or anything processed could have been boring, but the foodie-actor worked out some delicious recipes. Is going on a low-carb diet the best way to get healthier and lose weight? We brought in the experts to give us their opinion.

Understanding low-carb diet

A low carb diet is one that limits carbohydrates, especially the use of refined grains, trans fats, diet and low-fat foods, sugary foods (doughnuts, pastries, etc) and very processed edible goods. Talking about balanced meals, Dr Harpreet Pasricha, nutritionist and diet consultant, explains, “Carbohydrate, protein and fat are macronutrients that form a balanced diet. As per the dietary guidelines from National Institute of Nutrition (Hyderabad), our diet should comprise of 50-60 per cent carbohydrate, 20-25 per cent fat and 15-20 per cent protein. Only in certain cases such as medical conditions like cancer, tuberculosis, bodybuilding or weight management, the carbohydrate is reduced by 5-10 per cent and protein content is increased by 5-10 per cent.” But in general parlance, it’s subjective.

“A low carb diet is not to be confused with a low-calorie diet,” says Dr Siddhant Bhargava, nutritionist and keto expert. “It doesn’t mean the complete elimination of sources all carbohydrates. It’s also not similar to a keto diet, which allows only 20 grams of net carbohydrates a day. Typically, a low-carb diet is one where you are taking about 100 grams of net carbohydrates a day. This does not include carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits as that’s fibre-rich. We are talking of strictly of 100 grams of pure carbohydrates that get absorbed in your bloodstream. For instance, 50 grams of uncooked rice gives you 35 grams of net carbs but becomes 125 grams of rice when cooked. So, it’s a decent portion of rice. Similarly, two rotis give you 35 grams of carbs. So you can go ahead and have roti/rice for both your meals.”

Beware of the temptation to bid farewell to all your carbohydrates, which may lead to instant loss of kilos but will also put your body in a state of deprivation. Dr Pasricha states that cutting carbs from the diet is obviously not sustainable because we have grown up eating our carbohydrates such as rice and roti. But the recent trend of limiting refined grains and switching to fibre-rich indigenous millets such as bajra, jawar and ragi is going back to our roots as traditionally local Indian diets were rich in these. While technically there is nothing wrong with white rice and you can take limited amounts for taste, the red, brown and black versions of rice are much better as they are unpolished and more nutrient-intensive. So enjoy some coconut-based Goan curry with the local ukhda chawal or rice that’s parboiled in its husk. Come winters enjoy your makki ki roti with sarso ka saag seasoned with a dollop of desi ghee. But maintain portion control.

A low-carb diet is, in fact, a smart diet where simple carbohydrates are replaced by more nourishing options. The idea is not to put your body in a state of deprivation at all. Just be aware of the food choices and their nutritive value.

Why should you go on a low carb diet?

What happens when you get a wok box as your takeaway dinner? You feel so full and yet after a couple of hours, your tummy is ready for more? Or have you noticed how after a bowl of poha also you are craving for a second helping? Try adding some veggies and paneer chunks to it and see the difference. One bowl will fill you up. Carbohydrates are more addictive and lesser satiating than fats or proteins. But if you restrict the carbs, the resultant calories saved can be replaced by proteins and healthy fats and that makes the meal more satiating. That means instead of having two parathas, derive the same satiation by having just one but adding a bowl of curd and a tiny portion of unprocessed white butter. So, a low carb diet by default helps in portion control.

It’s not about the calorie count of refined foods but its nutrient value, explains Dr Bhargava. A super low fat diet is an ageing diet. We are not just talking of wrinkles on the face but also blocked arteries. “A low fat diet causes ageing by making us look wrinkled and bloated. Healthy fats rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as avocado, walnuts, salmon and flaxseeds are anti-inflammatory, and in effect anti-ageing. They also ensure better absorption of Vitamin A, E and K into the bloodstream. Carbs get stored in your muscles as glycogen, which retains water. That’s why a high carb diet results in bloating, water retention and the heavy feeling. Refined foods, whether oils or grains, cause ageing as they easily break down to free oxygen that causes cell inflammation that ultimately reflects on how you look and feel.”

Contrary to the popular myth that low carb leads to weakness, a low carb diet where the calories have been replaced by good fats will actually make you more energetic and fitter. When you consume lesser carbs, your the body will utilise more fats. One molecule of fat gives two and a half times more energy than a carb molecule. This means that you don’t feel hungry too soon and that automatically leads to calorie management. But for city professionals who lead fast-paced but primarily sedentary lifestyles, switching to a low carb diet could mean increased energy levels, lighter body and glowing skin. Reason enough to reconsider white bread for breakfast, right?

Also read:

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Good fat, bad fat: We try to settle the diet debate

Is the keto diet good for weight loss? A nutritionist and dieter weigh in

All the iron-rich foods that should make their way into your diet

How important is fibre as part of your daily diet?

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