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Patient education: Low-carbohydrate diet (The Basics)

Patient education: Low-carbohydrate diet (The Basics)

What is a low-carbohydrate diet? — A low-carbohydrate, or "low-carb," diet involves eating foods that are high in protein and moderate in healthy fats. Most low-carb diets limit foods that are high in added sugar or carbohydrates. These are foods like sweets, starches, and refined grains.

For some people, following a low-carb diet might help them:

Lose weight

Manage their blood sugar

With a low-carb diet, many people try to eat between 60 and 130 grams of carbs per day. For foods with labels, reading the label can tell you how many grams of carbs are in a serving (figure 1).

What can I eat and drink on a low-carb diet? — While eating a low-carb diet, it's important to make sure that you are getting enough of the nutrients your body needs. Some kinds of proteins and fats are better for your health than others. The same is true for foods with carbs.

Meat and fish have very few carbs in them. Fats also have very few carbs in them. However, it is important to make healthy choices for fats and proteins:

Choose "healthy" fats – These are also called "monounsaturated" or "polyunsaturated" fats. They tend to be more liquid at room temperature. Healthy fats are found in things like olive oil, canola oil, and sesame oil. They are also found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and nut butters.

Choose lean meats, poultry, seafood, and proteins – Eat fish, chicken, pork, and beef. Eggs, seeds, nuts and nut butters, and cheese are also healthy choices.

Eat non-starchy, colorful vegetables like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and cabbage. Fruits like watermelon, peaches, and berries are also lower in carbs. Choose whole grains because they provide fiber.

What foods and drinks should I avoid on a low-carb diet? — Avoid or limit foods that are high in added sugar. Many alcoholic drinks also contain carbs and should be limited.

Grains to limit or avoid – Grains made with refined flour. Examples include breads, chips, cookies, cakes, candy, doughnuts, granola, baked goods, muffins, pizza dough, and pie crusts that are packaged.

Fruits to limit or avoid – Fruits high in carbs. Examples include dried fruits, fruit juices, and processed fruit products.

Vegetables to limit or avoid – Starchy vegetables. Examples include white potatoes, corn, and turnips.

More on this topic

Patient education: Losing weight through diet (The Basics)
Patient education: Diet and health (The Basics)
Patient education: Health risks of obesity (The Basics)
Patient education: Weight and health in children (The Basics)
Patient education: Keeping track of your blood sugar (The Basics)

Patient education: Losing weight (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Diet and health (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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