Low carb diets can provide a number of benefits, and an increasing amount of research has highlighted low carb as a way to fight the rising levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes, with blood glucose management improving with low carb diets.
Generally, when following a low carb diet, your daily carbohydrate intake will be between 100g and 150g. It is recommended to talk to your doctor before you begin a diet.
The New Atkins diet is a refined version of the popular Atkins diet, now with a wider variety of foods helping to make it more nutritionally balanced. The theory behind this diet is that you ‘starve’ yourself of bad carbohydrates, which causes your body to burn fat for energy.
The first two weeks focus on rapid weight loss with a high-protein diet. Only 20g of carbs are allowed each day, but there are no restrictions on fat intake. This first phase intends to help you lose as much as 15lbs, and then the next three phases involve you gradually losing weight and increasingly introducing good carbs – such as potatoes, fruit and whole grains – into your diet each day. The second phase targets weight loss of 2 to 3lbs.
Initially 5g of carbs are added at a time, then 10g, with the intention being that you find out the most suitable amount of carbs for you, for you to be able to maintain a healthy weight in the long-term.
The Atkins diet can result in fast weight loss, which many people will find motivating, and it helps cut out products that are generally unhealthy, such as alcohol and processed carbs.
However, there are downsides to the Atkins diet, with some people having suffered from bad breath, tiredness, dizziness, a dry mouth, insomnia, constipation and nausea. There are also concerns that the fairly high saturated fat intake may result in an increased risk of heart disease.
Some believe there could be health problems as a result of this diet, as some of its suggestions contradict common health advice currently suggested. The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced in October 2015 that a diet high in processed meats had been proven to increase the risk of developing cancer. It is also a more time-consuming diet than other diet plans.
The Dukan diet is a low carb diet that is high in protein, and was developed by French doctor Pierre Dukan. It can provide quick weight loss, which can be good for motivation and to keep going.
There is a list of more than 100 different foods which are allowed during the diet, with 72 of these being high in protein and fairly low in fat, such as eggs, chicken and fish.
The diet consists of four phases, and requires you to follow the plan’s rules, with no need to count calories or weigh food portions, which makes it a lot simpler to follow.
The first phase, called Attack, focuses on kick-starting the metabolism over the first five days or so, in order to achieve a quick weight loss. This phase has you strictly follow a lean-protein diet, with carbs cut out, apart from a tiny amount of oat bran. Fat is strongly restricted, and no vegetables are allowed.
Over the next three phases (Cruise, Consolidation and Stabilisation), some fruit, vegetables and carbs are gradually reintroduced, until eventually all foods are included in the diet. Generally for the second phase, a target of up to 2lbs of weight loss each week is made, continued for as long as it takes for you to reach your desired weight.
Once this point has been reached, the Consolidation phase begins, which looks to prevent weight gain in the future. Cheese and starchy foods can be reintroduced at this point, and for two meals in the week you are allowed to eat whatever you want.
The final phase lasts as long as you want it to last, but you need to have a protein-only day each week, as well as exercising regularly.
The Dukan diet has been contested by some health experts and doctors as not being a particularly healthy diet, however, who have claimed it is very unbalanced and does not follow healthy eating guidelines.
The diet doesn’t teach you healthy eating habits, and isn’t particularly suitable for you unless you are looking to lose a small amount of weight quickly. This is because the Consolidation phase is meant to last as long as it takes for you to reach your ideal weight, if you have a lot of weight to lose, it could take many months.
It is also basically impossible for vegetarians.
The Paleo diet is generally classed as being a low carb diet that is high in protein, although there is no official ‘Paleo diet’.
This diet is sometimes referred to as the caveman diet, based on it consisting of food which can be hunted/caught/gathered, just like our ancestors are believed to have done.
The rules mean that food such as meat, seafood, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices are in, while processed foods and cereal grains including potatoes, refined sugar, salt, dairy and wheat are out.
Unfortunately, more long-term research into the effects of the Paleo diet is still required before it can be conclusively shown to be as effective as its supporters claim. Supporters of it believe it will reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other health problems.
Essentially the diet cuts your calorie intake without you needing to count it, as you consume fewer high-calorie foods.
Downsides to this diet include the fact it can be expensive (due to the importance of eating meat, eggs and seafood), and it is also therefore not a suitable diet for vegetarians. Nutritional deficiencies are also very possible if careful replacements or supplements are not used. Some people think it lacks variety too, which can result in it being quite boring to follow, and can lead to people giving up.