Medically reviewed by Kelly Van Gorden, MS, RD, CD
The Pros and Cons of a Low-Carb Diet
Low-fat. Low-sugar. Low-cholesterol. And now low-carb.
It seems like every day a new fad diet is cancelling yet another nutritional element. Today, we’re exploring the pros and cons of a low-carbohydrate diet (or low-carb diet), and how it may or may not benefit you depending on your genes.
What is a low-carb diet?
A low-carb diet restricts the consumption of carbohydrates. Some low-carb diets you might already be familiar with include the ‘Atkins’ and ‘keto’ diets which claimed to cut weight quickly. In reality, the success rate associated with these diets is varied and often questionable.
This is because there is no diet that is one-size-fits-all. Different people metabolize foods differently, even if they are related! This is why it’s important for you to understand your own body when it comes to making diet decisions.
Individuals on a low-carb diet will typically try to avoid grains, sugary drinks, starchy vegetables, and bread. More specifically:
- Pop, juice and coke;
- Cereals, bread, pasta, rice, etc.;
- Beans, peas, and other legumes;
- Root vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes;
- Fruits like bananas, mango, and pineapple;
- Alcohol and beer.
Pros of a Low-Carb Diet
Most people choose to go on a low-carb diet to lose weight. Studies have shown that lowering carbohydrate intake and increasing protein and fat does tend to produce results. The reason for the loss is still widely debated but there are two main theories. First, fat and proteins tend to make a person feel full for longer periods than carbs. Second, low-carb diets metabolize calories faster than high-carb diets. Again, these are just theories and the reason for results may change from person to person, depending on numerous factors including genetics.
Raises Levels of ‘Good’ HDL Cholesterol
Since low-carb diets are high in fat, there is an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) known as the ‘good’ cholesterol, which lowers your risk of heart disease.
Reduces Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
Cons of a Low-Carb Diet
Some individuals experience something called the ‘keto flu’ where they suffer from things like diarrhoea, become lethargic, get cramps, and experience headaches.
Micronutrient deficiencies can occur from eating a limited range of food. Particularly if an individual starts eating less fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
Inadequate Fibre Intake
Because most fibre-dense foods are high in carbs, many individuals on a low-carb diet aren’t getting enough fibre. This may lead to constipation and it can have negative impacts on the gut microbiome.
On top of that, restrictive diets like the low-carb diet aren’t for everyone and can lead to an unhealthy relationship to food.
Should I try a low-carb diet?
While there are obvious benefits to eating less processed and sugary foods and replacing them with whole foods, the low-carb diet may still not be the solution for you. So why can some benefit from a low-carb diet while others not so much?
The answer lies in knowing your body and your genetics well enough so you can make the best eating decisions for you. You can do that by examining your own DNA to understand what works for your body and your individual needs.
We all have unique bodies that require different kinds of nutrients, and our DNA test can help give you a clear breakdown of your genes and what kinds of foods are the best fuel for your body.
To learn more about how your DNA can uncover your ideal diet, get started by reading our blog post 'Can a DNA Test Really Tell You How to Eat?'. Let us help you navigate your health so you can get on the right path to leading a better life through nutrigenomics.
1. Noakes, M., Foster, P. R., Keogh, J. B., James, A. P., Mamo, J. C., & Clifton, P. M. (2006). Comparison of isocaloric very low carbohydrate/high saturated fat and high carbohydrate/low saturated fat diets on body composition and cardiovascular risk. Nutrition & metabolism, 3, 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-3-7
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