Low-carbohydrate diets have been touted as the cure-all in nutrition. However, nutrition is complicated and one solution is not going to be the answer to everyone’s problems. So, how many of the claims about low-carb diets are true?
There are no firm guidelines defining what a low-carbohydrate diet is. Generally, a moderately low-carbohydrate diet consists of 150g of carbohydrates a day[1,2]. This would mean carbohydrates make up 30% of someone's 2000kcal intake a day. Although, a diet could be considered low-carb if it contains as much as 45% carbohydrates, as this is less than the 50% carbs that make up a typical Western diet[4,5]. A very low-carbohydrate, or ketogenic diet consists of less than 50g of carbohydrates per day. You can find out more in our What is the Ketogenic Diet? article.
Low-carbohydrate diets can vary a lot from one to another. To achieve a low-carbohydrate diet, grains, starchy vegetables (such as potatoes), and fruits are reduced or eliminated entirely. This leads to a diet that is higher in fat and protein. Often, a low-carbohydrate diet contains animal products, but it doesn’t have to.
A low-carbohydrate diet could help to reduce the amount of highly processed, unhealthy foods eaten. This is because they tend to be high in simple carbohydrates and fat. Carbohydrates and fat in the right proportion lead to foods which are high in calories, easy to overeat, and relatively low in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, by reducing the amount of carbohydrates in the diet, a person may, by default, achieve a healthier dietary pattern.
On the flip side, eliminating foods from the diet can make it more difficult to consume certain nutrients, such as folate and iodine. Another nutrient that is often seen as a concern is fiber. Fiber, while technically a carbohydrate, is non-digestible and therefore treated differently than other digestible carbohydrates, like starch. The issue when following a low-carb diet in the West is the majority of the fiber eaten comes from grains. The good news is vegetables, seeds, and nuts are high in fiber whilst being low in digestible carbohydrates, so they are great foods to include in a low-carbohydrate regime. In fact, it’s been shown that a low-carbohydrate diet can provide at least the recommended amount for all nutrients, but this does require a bit of thought.
It’s a common myth that carbohydrates are what cause people to gain weight. This leads to the idea that low-carb diets are superior for weight loss.
When looking at low-carbohydrate diets versus diets higher in carbohydrates, it appears that in the short term, a lower carbohydrate intake can lead to a greater weight loss. However, from six months and beyond, there is little difference in the amount of weight lost when comparing diets that vary in carbohydrates[14-16]. Part of the reason for this is that people gradually increase their carbohydrate intake over time, which results in more calories being eaten. A key factor for success in these studies was adherence. The better a person can stick to their chosen diet, whatever that may be, the greater their chance of reaching their goals.
To find out more about carbohydrates in relation to weight loss and in general, check out our article here.
A low-carbohydrate diet may be the right choice for some people. It’s simple to follow but like any diet, the quality of foods eaten should still be considered.
It has been shown that a low-carbohydrate diet can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and that this effect is greater for certain individuals. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on cholesterol levels during doctor check-ups in the early stages of a low-carb diet. It’s best to aim for unsaturated fats over saturated fats, which have been shown to be more beneficial in relation to cardiovascular health[18-20].
What is more important to think about than low-carb, high-carb, or single nutrients is the overall diet[21,22]. This means focusing on the types of carbohydrates and fat being eaten, and the foods supplying them, rather than the amounts. Aiming for a whole-food, plant-rich diet is one way to achieve this.
For a low-carbohydrate diet, Huel Black Edition is the most suitable Huel product. The other products in the Huel range could make up one full meal if other meals are much lower in carbohydrates, but this would require some planning. The calories in Huel Black Edition come from carbohydrates (17%), fat (40%), protein (40%) and fiber (3%). Since it contains all 27 essential vitamins and minerals, there’s no need to worry if you’re getting everything you need – it’s all worked out for you.
Most of the fats are polyunsaturated and approximately half of the saturated fats in Huel products are Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which the body treats differently to most other saturated fats. You can find out more about MCTs here.
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