Are you all suited up and ready to conquer your carb addiction? If you're thinking of cutting back to 100 grams of carbs a day, here's what you need to know.
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The paleo diet is an example of a low-carb diet that prescribes around 100 grams of carbs a day (for a 2,000-calorie diet); however it’s a good idea to visit a dietitian for a diet tailored to your needs.
What Are Carbs, Exactly?
Washington State University explains that there are two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. Your body needs micronutrients like vitamins and minerals in small amounts, but it needs macronutrients like carbs, proteins and fats in large amounts because they give you energy in the form of calories. Most foods are a combination of varying amounts of macro- and micronutrients.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are three types of carbs: sugars, starches and fibers. Sugars are considered to be simple carbs whereas starches and fibers are considered to be complex carbs because they are made of sugar molecules grouped together in complex molecular structures.
The primary role that carbs play is providing your body with energy. The Cleveland Clinic says that when you eat sugars and starches, your body breaks them down into glucose, or blood sugar, which powers all the functions of your body. Fiber is the exception; your body cannot break down fiber, so it passes through your digestive system whole. It keeps your digestive system moving and ensures that it stays healthy.
Read more: Importance of Carbohydrates
The American Diabetes Association lists beans, whole grains and starchy vegetables as some of the sources of starch and fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts as some of the sources of fiber. Sugars are naturally found in fruits and milk; however, they also include table sugar and sugar syrups.
The Cleveland Clinic uses the term "bad carbs" to describe foods made with refined carbs that have been processed to remove their fiber and nutrition. These foods include white bread, white rice, pasta, cookies, cakes and other baked goods made with white flour and sugar. Unfortunately, these foods give all carbs a bad name.
Read more: List of Good Carbohydrates to Eat
The USDA recommends that carbs make up 45 to 65 percent of an adult's total calorie intake. One gram of carbs has 4 calories, so for an adult following a 2,000-calorie diet that works out to anywhere between 225 and 325 grams of carbs per day. For a person following a 1,500-calorie diet, it translates to 168.75 to 243.75 grams of carbs per day.
However, low-carb diets are becoming increasingly common, for medical reasons as well as to enable weight loss. The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) notes that diets where carbs make up less than 40 percent of your total calorie intake are generally considered to be low-carb diets.
Fats and proteins substitute the missing carbs in your diet, although if you're trying to lose weight, you might have to lower your total calorie intake as well. The premise behind low-carb diets is that without carbs as a source of fuel, your body is forced to burn stored fat for energy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Low-carb diets have been shown to be beneficial to health. A small study published in the journal PeerJ in February 2019 found that following a low-carb diet helped participants lose weight and improved their cholesterol levels. Another study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in October 2015, found that low-carb diets helped improve the markers of diabetes in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
However, you should also be aware of the fact that low-carb diets have some health risks. The Mayo Clinic states that if you cut carbs out of your diet very suddenly, you may experience temporary health issues like headaches, fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps, bad breath, diarrhea, constipation or skin rashes.
The Mayo Clinic notes that low-carb diets may also cause health problems in the long run. The restricted nutrient intake can cause vitamin or mineral deficiencies, gastrointestinal disorders or bone loss, and it can also raise your risk of developing chronic diseases.
The keto diet is an example of a low-carb diet that has become increasingly popular. According to UCSF, it is in fact classified as a very low-carb diet, because only 4 to 5 percent of your total calorie consumption is supposed to be from carbs. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that works out to 20 to 25 grams of carbs a day.
Read more: Negative Side Effects of a Low-Carb Diet
100 Grams of Carbs a Day
If you're looking for a diet that prescribes 100 grams of carbs a day, the paleo diet is a low-carb diet that could work for you. Per UCSF, the paleo diet says carbs should make up about 20 percent of your total calorie intake; this works out to around 100 grams of carbs a day for a 2,000-calorie diet.
UCSF explains that the paleo diet is based on the idea of eating only foods from the Paleolithic Era, before mankind practiced farming and animal husbandry. The diet permits foods like fruits, vegetables, berries, mushrooms, tree nuts, meat, fish and poultry. It does not allow dairy products, legumes, grains, potatoes, sugar or processed or refined foods.
If the paleo diet doesn't appeal to you, you can consult a dietitian for a meal plan that is personalized to your requirements. Your dietitian will be able to help you build a diet that has 100 grams of carbs a day, with additional protein and fats so that you hit your macros, and enough vitamins and minerals to help you meet your micronutrient needs.
Read more: High-Protein, Low-Carb Foods
Low-Carb Meal Ideas
In the meantime, the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) lists some low-carb meal ideas that can help you get started. For breakfast, skip the sugary cereals and high-calorie coffees and instead opt for a vegetable omelette, scrambled eggs with bacon, smoked salmon with avocado or salami with hard cheese.
Some low-carb lunch options suggested by the OMA include a burger without the bun or an unwich, which is a sandwich that is wrapped in lettuce instead of bread. You can also opt for a salad made with minimal dressing and some form of protein, like eggs, chicken, shrimp or tofu. For dinner, you can do chicken with some riced cauliflower, steak with a side of broccoli or a salad with a broth-based soup.
When you plan your meals, it's important to remember that apart from the amount of carbs you're eating, it's equally important to pay attention to the type of carbs you're eating. You should definitely avoid the "bad carbs" that have sugar and refined grains while you're on a low-carb diet. Any carbs you consume should have plenty of fiber and nutrition.
- Washington State University: “Nutrition Basics”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Carbohydrates”
- American Diabetes Association: “Get to Know Carbs”
- USDA: “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans”
- University of California San Francisco: “Low Carbohydrate Diet”
- Mayo Clinic: “Low-Carb Diet: Can It Help You Lose Weight?”
- PeerJ: “Low-Carbohydrate Diets Differing in Carbohydrate Restriction Improve Cardiometabolic and Anthropometric Markers in Healthy Adults: A Randomised Clinical Trial”
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Comparison of Low- and High-Carbohydrate Diets for Type 2 Diabetes Management: A Randomized Trial”
- Obesity Medicine Association: “What to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet Plan”