Low-carb diets are designed to help you lose weight. They are very different from a low-fat or low-calorie diet. With a low-carb diet, you eat a lot of protein along with certain other foods, and you don’t calorie count or watch the number of fat grams that you consume.
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When following a low-carb diet, you mainly consume protein. The first week is the most trying, because it severely restricts what types of foods you can eat. As time passes, you can consume more carbs with each passing week or phase, depending upon the low-carb diet that you follow. With the South Beach diet, phase one lasts two weeks; the Atkins diet's first phase lasts a minimum of two weeks or until you feel you are ready to move on to the next phase.
During the first week, you will severely restrict the amount of grains, sugars and starches that you eat. On a typical day during the first week, you will limit the amount of carbs you consume to approximately 12 to 15g of net carbs per day. A typical breakfast will consist of eggs, bacon and vegetables such as a tomato, onion and green pepper. You can also opt for an omelet with a very small amount of cheese. A typical lunch or dinner will consist of a lean protein such as turkey, ham, steak or fish with vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli or leeks.
You may think that you cannot eat any carbs based on what a typical meal consists of, but you can. You will primarily use herbs and spices to flavor your foods, but you can also have butter, mayonnaise and salad dressing. Although you can add these items to your food, you still must include them in your daily allowance of net carbs. On average, you can add 2 tbsp. of salad dressing to your salad, as long as it’s a low-carb dressing, and 1 tbsp. of butter or mayonnaise when applicable.
Following a low-carb diet may help you quickly shed unwanted weight, according to the Atkins diet website. It may also improve blood sugar levels in those who suffer from hyperglycemia, since the diet reduces the amount of sugars consumed. However, when consuming a large amount of protein, your diet may also be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can be especially dangerous to those who suffer from heart disease, according to MayoClinic.com. Since you limit the amount of fiber in a low-carb diet, you could experience constipation, nausea and irritability. Since you reduce your sugar intake, you may feel tired and exhausted for most of the first week as your body adjusts.
Consult your health care provider before beginning a low-carb diet. He may request certain blood tests to check your sugar and cholesterol levels prior to approving a low-carb diet. If you have known medical conditions such as gallbladder disease, avoid low-carb diets, as they can contribute to gallstones. Those who suffer from atherosclerosis should avoid low-carb diets due to the increased fat and cholesterol, which can make their condition worse.