Nutritionist Weighs In On Low-Carb Diet, Do’s And Don’ts & More

Every year, people across continents and countries celebrate World Health Day on April 7. The aim of observing this day is to divert attention to a specific health concern that ails many people. Started by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948, this day also promotes equitable health outcomes for every individual, irrespective of the community and country they belong to.

For 2024, the theme of World Health Day is ‘My Health, My Right’. It aims to make people aware that everyone should have access to quality healthcare, information, and education. With the advent of the internet, healthcare education has been becoming more accessible but not without its pitfalls. Being a well of information, people often end up consuming wrong information, especially when it is about their health.

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For example, a few influencers and celebrities will talk about a diet and soon everyone will jump on the bandwagon, not understanding that health treatments and diets are not one-fit-for-all. Similar has become the case with a low-carb diet. Everyone thinks that if they reduce the amount of carbohydrates in their diet, they will be able to lose weight, but it is more than that.

Most people fail to understand that one’s diet should be according to the needs of their bodies. It should be crafted keeping your lifestyle, job, climatic conditions, stress levels, and other variables in mind. To understand how a low-carb diet functions, Slurrp spoke with Pune-based functional nutritionist Mugdha Pradhan, CEO and founder at iThrive

What Is A Low-Carb Diet?

Nutritionist Mugdha said, “A low-carb diet contains carbohydrates between 20-50 grams. It eliminates most of the legumes, pulses, grains, fruits of all kinds, sugar, jaggery, and honey. People who want to opt for even lower amounts of carbohydrates also eliminate root vegetables.”

She added that a large number of Indians can benefit from it because their diets are rich in carbohydrates, which makes them more susceptible to type 2 diabetes. According to the WHO, at least 77 million Indians, above the age of 18, are struggling with type 2 diabetes, and 25 million are prediabetic. 

How A Low-Carb Diet Works?

While explaining how a low-carb diet works, the nutritionist said that it changes the biochemistry of how your body functions. Your body breaks down carbohydrates to produce energy. Therefore, when you are on a low-carb diet, the body starts breaking down fat and other sources of energy.

Hence, a low-carb diet is good for weight loss, but it is not the only aspect that one must fixate on. It is about boosting overall health. “It’s not a fad diet, but it is hard to stick to,” the nutritionist added.

Why Is A Low-Carb Diet Not Sustainable?

However, most people do not find it sustainable, and hence, they cannot follow it for a longer time. The nutritionist said, “Because people are fixated on the quantity of carbs, they often think that all kinds of fats are okay to consume. They start eating almonds and peanut butter thinking that these ingredients have low amounts of carbohydrates in them.”

She added that when a person would look at the nutritional values of these food items, they would understand what is healthy and unhealthy for them. “Since people are only obsessed about carbs, they either end up eating unhealthy food or overeating something else,” Mugdha Pradhan noted.

Who Should Not Follow A Low-Carb Diet?

Even if the nutritionist says that most people can benefit from a low-carb diet does not mean she is suggesting around 141 crore people in India will benefit from it. She suggested, “Growing children and young adults need carbohydrates in their diet. If you are an athlete or someone who runs marathons, your body will need higher amounts of carbohydrates. Similarly, a pregnant woman will need more carbs. Carbohydrates are not evil. If you have a healthy metabolic system, you digest carbs as well as healthy proteins and fats.”

What Foods Can You Eat On A Low-Carb Diet?

According to nutritionist Mugdha Pradhan, one needs to be careful about what they are eating when following a low-carb diet. Here are a few suggestions,

  • Make sure you are eating the right kind of food without fixating just on carbs.
  • Opt for clean sources of protein. Whey protein might not be an ideal pick for everyone, especially if you have digestive issues.
  • Avoid overeating peanuts, almonds, and other nuts because they have high amounts of omega-6 fats which can trigger inflammation, insulin resistance, and increase blood sugar levels. 
  • Not everything that has low amounts of carbohydrates is good for you. Always consult an expert for this.

Myths Associated With A Low-Carb Diet

Mugdha Pradhan added that in a country like India where most people grow up eating rice, idli, dosa, paratha, pulses, and legumes, it can be difficult to restrict yourself to a low-carb diet. You have to switch to animal protein and other protein-based options and let go of even vegetables that are rich in carbs. It becomes even more difficult when you tend to eat food to support yourself during an emotional phase or be a part of a social gathering.  

One of the myths that people believe is that a low-carb diet can affect your heart. However, the nutritionist clarified that inflammation can affect the organ, and it can be due to higher consumption of seed oils. She added, “A diet with a large amount of sugar and carbohydrates can hamper the functioning of your heart as well as the liver. A low-carb diet has actually proven to be helpful in improving the cardiovascular health of patients.”