Low carb: what’s behind the diet?

The theory behind the low carb diet is based on the fact that the body burns more fat from food on a low-carb diet. Because if the carbohydrates are reduced enough, the body switches to an “emergency program” – the so-called ketosis – in which it uses the fat reserves to cover its energy requirements.

“There is no firm definition of how many carbohydrates are allowed on a low-carb diet,” explains Privatdozentin Dr. Anette Buyken, nutritionist from Dortmund. Many followers are guided by the guideline, which allows 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day . And they are quickly reached: 100 g of plums already contain 10 grams of carbohydrates, 100 g of cooked rice 24 grams and a pretzel stick about 45 grams. This also makes it clear which foods are prohibited on this diet: fruit, bread, pasta and rice.

“Because most carbohydrate carriers are left out, the strict low carb diet primarily contains high-fat foods,” says the expert. The most famous representative of this low carb form is the Atkins diet. With a moderate low carb diet, 26-45 percent of your daily calorie needs can be covered by carbohydrates – with this diet the focus is often on a preferred consumption of protein-rich foods. “Eating low carb and high-fat foods for weight loss has proven to be an effective and promising alternative in practice,” says the nutritionist.

In practice, the low carb diet looks like this : you eat until you are full. Calorie counting is completely eliminated with Low Carb. For breakfast, lunch and dinner, Low Carb mainly offers high-protein and high-fat foods: cut off the skin from the poultry to save fat? Nothing! The fat edge on rump steak and Co. stays on.

And indeed: Studies and experience show that low carb can lose weight quickly. Even faster than with a low-fat diet: According to studies, people who eat less carbohydrates (i.e. low carb) lose weight faster on average than those who eat less fat to lose weight. However, those who eat the low-fat diet will catch up after a while. After one year, both groups lost the same amount of weight, in some studies the (lower) benefit is retained even after one year. So you can lose weight successfully with low carb and with a low-fat diet – only a little faster with one than with the other.

Low carb: are carbohydrates fattening?

Why are carbohydrates suddenly considered fattening foods? It used to be the fats that were considered fattening foods because of their high calorie count. How does the change come about? “Experts have long been certain that the quality of the carbohydrates is more important than the quantity,” says Dr. Buyken. For the body, high-quality carbohydrates from wholegrain products (e.g. oatmeal) or fruit are more important than quickly usable carbohydrates from white flour products, sweets, etc. In everyday life, however, it is often the case that we prefer to use these foods most often.

However, these carbohydrates could actually have a negative effect on weight, because they keep the blood sugar level rising and falling quickly, so that you often have an appetite and permanently increased insulin levels. This is a disadvantage for the weight. Because as long as the hormone insulin is active, the body burns less fat. So if you want to eat high carbohydrates, you should better choose the whole grain variants with low blood sugar effectiveness (e.g. oatmeal, whole grain rye bread with whole grains) and pay attention to the fat quality. If you can do without carbohydrates, the low carb diet could be a suitable alternative.

Low carb: what is allowed on this diet?

There are many different types of low carb: depending on which low carb diet you follow, you eat more or less carbohydrates. The Stone Age diet Paleo and the Atkins diet are considered to be particularly strict low carb diets , while the LOGI diet is considered rather moderate. For example, cereal products are generally prohibited at Paleo, while LOGI also looks at the type of carbohydrates in addition to the amount of carbohydrates: If you eat carbohydrates, followers of this low carb diet prefer carbohydrates that cause the blood sugar level to rise slowly.

Low carb: the principle of the low carb high fat diet

Eat as much fat as you want – and still lose weight. The dream has now become reality: With low carb high fat (short: LCHF) the impossible becomes possible. Everything that used to be considered a thickener is here slimming products. Precondition for this to work: be consistent.

With Low Carb High Fat you save on carbohydrates and instead choose high-fat foods. Anyone who now enjoys classic fast food, such as pizza, burgers and French fries, is wrong. Because all of these products are brimming with carbohydrates. Instead there are eggs, meat, fish, cheese, oils and (very) plenty of low-carbohydrate vegetables, such as arugula, cucumber, mushrooms, radicchio, radishes and romaine lettuce. Later, high-fat dairy products and berries, and even later other fruits and vegetables with a high carbohydrate content and whole grains may be added. But that depends on how strictly low in carbohydrates you want to eat.

Low carb: does losing weight work with a lot of fat?

“Yes, low carb works. Even better than some other diets, ”says the graduate nutritionist. If you eat less than 50 g of carbohydrates per day – that is, you eat low carb high fat (LCHF) – your body gets into ketosis, a kind of emergency metabolism in which it burns more fat instead of carbohydrates. Low carb high fat offers many benefits when losing weight.

Overall, the success of LCHF can be attributed to the fact that you have less appetite, you are full, the body uses more energy and at the same time it addresses your own fat reserves.
Thanks to the fats, the food tastes particularly good, because fat is a flavor carrier. “However, as with any other diet, the same applies to low carb high fat: you can only lose weight if you eat fewer calories than you consume,” explains the expert. But with LCHF this is particularly easy: Because the good saturation of the proteins and the ketone body, you automatically eat less – without starving yourself. And so you indirectly save calories.


Low Carb: Who is Low Carb High Fat suitable for?

“I think LCHF is a good alternative to losing weight,” says Anette Buyken. “It’s just not so easy to imagine because there is a wide range of foods that you have to do without. This is difficult for many. “So are prohibited:

Many people find it difficult to avoid fruit. Therefore, the Low Carb High Fat Diet is theoretically suitable for everyone, but practically only for those who can well imagine this food selection in practice. “However, I would always advise you to give medical advice to Low Carb High Fat. So far, the results of the observational studies have been positive, but a doctor should, for example, keep an eye on liver function values. Food supplements for vitamins and minerals are also sometimes necessary, ”says the nutritionist.

Whether LCHF is also a long-term dietsuitable, the expert does not want to make a recommendation. The results so far from intervention studies on weight loss are positive: blood pressure drops, triglyceride and HDL levels improve and the abdominal circumference is reduced. But they only relate to studies that lasted a relatively short time: so far only around two years. “In long-term studies, the results look very different, since the risk of cardiovascular diseases increases, especially when eating foods with a higher protein content. However, these types of studies are susceptible to bias due to the unfavorable lifestyle often associated with higher fat or protein consumption – we do not know for certain whether these long-term risks also apply to LCHF. ”
So if you want to (or have to) lose weight quickly, according to the expert, LCHF can be an option if you have the diet accompanied by a doctor. ” LCHF also offers advantages for diabetics , since it often goes hand in hand with an improvement in blood sugar control and has a positive effect on the lipid profile,” says Anette Buyken.

Low carb: possible criticisms

A high protein intake during a strict low carb diet could be dangerous for people with kidney problems – in which case you should definitely seek advice from your doctor. And there are other criticisms of this diet:

LCHF’s food is said to be rich in fat, but the quality of the fats is largely ignored by most. Whether or not the fat contains a lot of saturated fatty acids plays a minor role in LCHF. “However, it is debatable whether this really has a negative impact on the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The saturated fatty acids may not be seen as critically as previously thought, and the quality and sources of the saturated fats are also important, ”says the nutritionist from Dortmund.

Also the waiver of fruit in the initial phase and then the restricted consumption see many critically, after missing a thus an important source of vitamins and phytochemicals.

The same applies to whole grain products . Depending on how strictly you follow the LCHF diet, even whole grains are avoided, which contain vitamins and minerals, insoluble fiber – they are important for the intestinal activity and flora, which in turn plays an important role in a well-functioning immune system.

Another point is important to Anette Buyken: If everyone were to eat LCHF, this would be associated with high food costs due to the high meat consumption. She also considers this diet to be questionable from an ecological perspective .

Low carb recipes

There are now many special low carb dishes. From low carb bread and low carb rolls to complete low carb dinners. You can find out how to restrict carbohydrates in your diet in our article Cooking and baking without carbohydrates . Would you like to try low carb? On the next page you will find recipes for main dishes based on low carb.

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