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What is a low carb diet ?
How Much Carbohydrate to Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?
A balanced diet should meet all the nutritional requirements of a person. It should contain all the nutrients in required amounts and in the right proportion (1, 2). Even if you want to lose weight the diet should still be balanced.
Energy obtained from macronutrients including carbohydrate
The number of calories needed by a person also varies based on several factors such as age, gender, physiological stage and physical activity. But in general, a balanced diet must provide around 50—60 % of the total calories from carbohydrates (carbs), about 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from fat (2).
The major function of carbs is to provide energy.
How much weight loss is a healthy weight loss?
Guidelines by reputed international organisations state that 1 to 2 pounds or 0.5 to 1 kilogram of weight loss is a healthy weight loss in a week (3, 4). This weight loss can be achieved by reducing 500 kilocalories a day for a week.
How many carbs should you eat per day to lose weight?
Let’s say on an average a person needs 2000 kcal a day. If carbohydrates provide 50-60 % of calories that will be 1000 kcal to 1200 kcal per day from carbs. That is 250 grams to 300 grams of carbohydrate per day.
About 125 grams carbs provide 500 kcals. A deficit of 500 kcal a day can help lose 0.5 to 1 kg in a week. The carbohydrate content should be reduced by 125 grams.
A low carb diet can be any diet which provides less than 50 % of calories required from carbs. A diet can be classified as follows (5, 6).
Very low carbohydrate diet
This diet contains less than 10% carbohydrates or 20-50 gm carbs/day
A low carbohydrate diet is that which has less than 26% carbohydrates or less than 130 gm carbs/day
A moderate carbohydrate diet contains 26-44% of carbohydrate
A carb diet comprises 45% or more carbohydrate. Do not completely take out carbs from your diet. You could work with an expert and see where you can cut the carbs and how many you can cut depending on the initial calorie value of your diet.
Major amount of 500 kcal you are trying to cut can come from carbs. A moderate carb to low carb diet would be a good idea but an expert can help you decide based on your individual needs. Any diet where you are seriously cutting down carb content you need to talk to your doctor before you go on it.
Here are some foods that can help you cut carbs (7)
Egg is a low carb source of food, it has less than 1 % of carbohydrate. Egg is a good source of complete protein, several vitamins and minerals. It is a versatile food that is several recipes can be made out of it.
Chicken, lamb and pork have no carbohydrate. These can easily fit into a low car diet and they are good sources of very good quality protein.
Except for claims which have about 4 % carbohydrate all other seafoods such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout and whitefish have no carbohydrate. Fish also is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. Seafood is a good option for a low carb diet.
Milk and milk products
Dairy products can be clubbed under low carbohydrate foods. Milk products such as whole milk, skim milk, butter milk and plain yogurt have about 4 -5 % carbohydrate. The different types of cheeses have about 1 to 2 % carbohydrate.
Butter and ghee (clarified butter) have no carbohydrate either. In general, we can say unless sweetened dairy products are low carb foods.
Walnuts and Macadamia nuts have about 14 % carbohydrate, peanuts about 16 %, almonds 22 % and cashew about 30 % carbohydrate. As nuts are not eaten in large quantities, they can be easily be included in a low carb diet as a good source of protein and healthy fat.
Most vegetables except for the veggies that have more starch such as potatoes, beets, carrots etc are low in carbs. The carbohydrate of vegetables, most of it is in the form of dietary fiber. Most vegetables, for example, cucumber, spinach, bell pepper, cauliflower have about 4 to 5 % carbohydrate. Onion, okra, eggplant and broccoli etc have about 6 to 9 % carbohydrate.
Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals, low in carbs, rich in dietary fiber and low-calorie foods.
Most fruits have high content of water. But most of the fruits have carbohydrate in the form of simple sugars though low in carbs.
Watermelon contains 92 % of water and 8 % carbohydrate. The carbohydrate content of some fruits such as papaya is 10 %, lemons is 9 %, oranges is 11 %, apple is 13 %, guava is 14 % and mangoes is 15 %.
Based on the carbohydrate content you want in your low carb diet you can choose the fruits to include in the diet. Fruits are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Make sure you incorporate fruits in a low carb diet.
Green tea, black coffee, black tea and water do not have any carbohydrate.
There are some issues with low carb diets such as ketosis, may affect the cardiovascular system and renal function because of high fat and high protein content (5, 8). And keep an eye on the fiber content if it is too low then problems such as constipation and piles may occur.
Talk to your doctor before you cut carbs and take an expert’s help to plan a balanced diet with fewer carbs to lose weight.
- National Health Services (2019). Eat well
- National Institute of Nutrition (2011). Dietary Guidelines for Indians
- British Nutrition Foundation (2016). Healthy weight loss.
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Losing Weight.
- Oh, R. and Uppaluri, K. R. (2019) Low Carbohydrate Diet, StatPearls Publishing.
- Paoli, A. (2014) Ketogenic diet for obesity: friend or foe?, International journal of environmental research and public health. Vol. 11(2).
- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, United States Department of Agriculture
- Eat right academy of nutrition and dietetics (2019). What is the Ketogenic Diet?