Low-carbohydrate diets are more than a fad. They have been proven effective with weight loss, which is important for managing diabetes, high blood pressure, and other maladies related to obesity. The health benefits of low-carbohydrate diets are worth exploring even for people who don’t need to lose weight for medical reasons.
What Are Carbohydrates?
There are two major types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include refined sugar, milk sugar (lactose), and fruit sugar (fructose). Complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Complex carbohydrates break down into glucose more slowly, so they have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar. Low-carb diets restrict refined carbohydrate intake by limiting items such as cakes, cookies, pasta, breads, and sugary sodas. They also increase green vegetables and protein in one’s diet.
Health Benefits of Low-Carb Diets
Lower Triglycerides and Increased “Good” Cholesterol
Reducing carbohydrates has a nearly immediate, positive effect on triglycerides, which are fats that circulate in the blood. These diets also increase high-density cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol or HDL, which—with a corresponding reduction in “bad” low-density cholesterol (LDL)—reduces the risk of heart disease.
Lower Blood Sugar and Reduced Insulin Levels
Reducing carbohydrate intake lowers blood sugar and insulin levels—in some cases so much that patients with diabetes must reduce their insulin dose. This is one of many important reasons not to embark on any diet plan, including a low-carb plan, without consulting your physician first.
Reduced Belly Fat
You’ve probably heard that belly fat is particularly problematic. This “visceral” fat packs itself around organs in the abdomen. Visceral fat is linked to heightened inflammation and insulin resistance. People who adopt low-carb diets for weight loss experience reduction in this kind of belly fat—one of the many health benefits of a low carbohydrate diet. Losing belly fat has positive metabolic effects associated with a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Improved Feeling of Satiety
Eating a low-carb diet helps you feel full on less food, particularly if you eat low-caloric-density foods. These are foods high in fiber and water but low in calories, so you can eat more of them without taking in too many calories. These foods make you feel fuller faster, so you eat less overall.
Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program. If your doctor is concerned about cholesterol, triglycerides, or pre-diabetes, they may refer you to an endocrinologist. These specialists are experts in the complex roles hormones play in metabolism, weight, and diabetes control. Our office, recognized as one of the best endocrinologists in NYC , can help.