Low Carb Diet Confusion

Sep 04, 2014
Tagged with: Low Carb Diet Confusion

You may have heard about a new study that came out this week looking at the effects of a low-carbohydrate diet versus a low-fat diet on cardiovascular risk factors and body weight. This study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine which is a pretty prestigious journal; however, you still really can’t rely on the studies headline and summary to tell the full story.


I’m addressing this topic today because I’ve read a few blogs/articles questioning the research methods and results from this study and I wanted to try to clear it up by sharing my thoughts with you all. Issues that have been presented with this study include the following: the low-fat diet group was not really on a low-fat diet (around 30% of calories from fat throughout study); the participants in the low-fat diet group did not really change their diet that much from when they entered the study; both groups only consumed an average of 15-16 grams per day throughout the study; and low-fat diets shouldn’t be researched anymore because numerous studies have already shown the benefits of including “healthy” fats in the diet (they are referring to unsaturated fats).


So my response to these issues with the study is that I totally agree! This was not a strong study and the headlines are a bit misleading because the low-carb diet wasn’t really compared to the low-fat diet. However, what you can get from this study is how successful the low-carb diet was for the participants. First off, they didn’t have to count calories or even reduce high calorie foods to lose weight and improve their cardiovascular risk…I mean if you’ve ever tried to diet or food journal that’s huge! All they had to do was keep their carb intake under 40 grams/day. Now this isn’t just total carbs, they are talking about net carbs. Net carbs are the carbs left over after you have subtracted the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbs. So to say that a low carb diet (and this is a very low carb diet) prevents a person from getting enough vegetables and fruit is actually completely false.


Check it out:

3 spears of broccoli = 4.5 grams net carbs and 3.6 grams of fiber

1 cup of raspberries = 6.7 grams net carbs and 8 grams of fiber

2 cups of spinach = 0.8 grams net carbs and 1.4 grams of fiber

5 cherry tomatoes = 2.5 grams net carbs and 1 gram of fiber

1/2 cup baked butternut squash = 9.8 grams net carbs and 1 gram fiber

1 cup whole strawberries = 8.2 grams net carbs and 2.9 grams fiber


Total net carbs = 32.5 grams

Total fiber = 17.9 grams


So you can see that even when trying to stay below 40 grams of net carbs per day, you can have a diet that consists of fruits and veggies. And if you are on a low carb diet that exceeds 40 grams of carbs, you can even add in oatmeal and beans which are high in fiber! You may look at the 17.9 grams of fiber and think that it doesn’t meet the recommendations of at least 25 grams of fiber per day but with the improvements to cardiovascular health and other health parameters we are seeing in other studies looking at the low-carb diet, is fiber really that important?


Other confusion with the low-carb diet is the belief that there is only one type of low-carb diet. WRONG. Low-carb diets range from the most restrictive, which is the ketogenic diet, to the most liberal, which is finding a carbohydrate level that allows a person to achieve weight loss and/or improved health parameters (i.e., blood pressure, improved lipids, insulin sensitivity). The new Atkin’s Diet actually encompasses both types of low-carb diets; it starts off very low in carbs to put the body in a state of fat burning and then increases the carbs gradually to find a person’s personal carb limit. There are also low-carb diets that emphasize increased protein and low-carb-diets that emphasize increased fat. You can even do low-carb if you’re a vegan or vegetarian! I mean the possibilities are endless. So to clump all of the low-carb diets into one is just nonsense.


So hopefully that cleared up a little of the confusion surrounding recent low-carb headlines. Now I’ll let you in on what type of diet I follow, the low-carb diet of course! I’ve been eating low-carb for the greater part of the past 3 months. I have also convinced numerous coworkers and family members to follow my lead; actually it didn’t take much convincing. We have all improved our health in some form or another, have more energy, and feel less hunger throughout the day. I’ll definitely follow this blog entry with a more detailed look into what I eat and drink most days.


I do want to point out that there is not one diet that fits everyone. If you are trying to lose weight or just trying to get healthier and feel better, I recommend that you try out a few different diets and see how they work with your body and your lifestyle. And by diet I do not mean a short term way of eating to just lose weight, I’m talking about your long term daily diet that you deal with day in and day out.


My question to you is what have you changed in your diet that has really helped improve your health and even just your daily life?


Author: Carleton Rivers

  • bobl07

    Thank you for ending the confusion! I have now starting using smoothies as a breakfast in which I load in veggies like kale. I also add all different types of berries. I have also switched to the almond milk. I love it! Thanks for the tips.

  • Carleton Rivers

    You make a great point about the smoothies! Instead of loading them with fruit, think about loading them with vegetables and then adding fruit (like berries which are much lower in carbs) to give it that sweetness. Plain almond milk is great if your looking for a low carb milk alternative. I love to blend almond milk with protein powder and some berries for a post-workout snack.

  • bobl07

    I am craving it as you describe it.