Although it's sometimes derided as a fad diet, eating low-carb has some serious science behind it. It can not only help you shed weight but improve your cardiovascular health as well. Cutting out sugar is relatively simple, as long as you eat whole, unprocessed foods. And you can cut out the majority of carbs by avoiding grains, beans and fruit. Opting for a strict no-carb plan, though, might feel overly restrictive and make it hard to stick to your diet.
Benefits of Cutting Added Sugar
Going low-carb naturally cuts most -- or all -- of the added sugar from your diet, and that's a major step toward better health. Added sugar -- any sugar, including honey, agave or brown rice syrup, that is added to food to increase sweetness -- comes packed with calories, and it's one of the biggest contributors to weight gain and obesity. And because too much sugar is linked to heart disease and diabetes, cutting your sugar intake helps you avoid these health risks.
Of course, you'll want to cut sugar-sweetened drinks, sweet baked goods and candy -- all the obvious culprits -- from your diet. But you'll also need to limit "healthy" foods that come packed with sugar, like sweetened yogurt or granola.
You'll Benefit From Cutting Carbs, Too
In addition to the health benefits from reducing your sugar intake, you'll see benefits from cutting carbs. Low-carb diets can help you lose weight, and -- more importantly -- they're more effective than low-fat diets for keeping that weight off, according to the Harvard School of Public health. Going low-carb is also great for your heart health. Low-carb diets increase the amount of "good" cholesterol while reducing your triglycerides and "bad" cholesterol levels -- changes that may help lower your risk of heart disease.
Do You Need to Go "No-Carb"?
While going low-carb offers lots of benefits, opting for a no-carb diet might pose a challenge. That's because some of the healthiest foods on a low-carb diet -- like veggies and nuts -- aren't completely carb-free. If you cut these foods out of your diet, you're missing the wealth of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants found in vegetables, plus healthy protein and fat abundant in nuts. These foods also contain dietary fiber, an indigestible carb that fights constipation -- and which is not found in meat, eggs, dairy or many other no-carb foods.
Even some of the most restrictive low-carb diets suggest eating 20 grams of net carbs per day -- that's 20 grams of digestible carbs, calculated by subtracting fiber intake from your total carb intake for the day. That allows you to follow a more well-rounded diet so you can better meet your nutritional needs through food, and you're also more likely to stick to the meal plan.
A Day on the Diet
Your best bet is to follow a no-sugar, very-low-carb diet, instead of a strict no-carb diet. For breakfast, you might enjoy 2 or 3 scrambled eggs sauteed with a cup of spinach. Enjoy a handful of olives, an ounce of cheese, 2 tablespoons of almond butter or an ounce of almonds as a snack, and have a leafy green salad topped with grilled chicken or salmon at lunch -- drizzling your salad with homemade vinaigrette to avoid the sugar found in commercial salad dressings. At dinner, enjoy a piece of lean steak or chicken breast with riced cauliflower and a cup of steamed fibrous veggies, like broccoli or asparagus.