A closer look at low carb

Let’s take a look at low carb and ketogenic ways of eating and answer some frequently asked questions on both.

First up, whether you decide to eat a low carb diet or not, it’s really important to understand one thing: carbs are not the enemy. They’re actually vital to our health and we simply couldn’t survive without them. This is probably why Nature happened to include carbs in a massive majority of foods. They’re not just ingredients like ‘pasta’, ‘pizza’, ‘potatoes’, carbs are naturally occurring in most fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, even milk.

So, before we take a look at eating low carb, let’s say loud and clear for the record that carbs are not the devil nor something to avoid entirely. This article exists simply to make understanding low carb a little simpler.

First up, Keto

Keto and ketogenic diet both refer to the same way of eating which requires the extreme restriction of carbohydrates in order to achieve a state of ‘ketosis’ (more on ketosis in a second). The Keto Diet is very low in carbs (with the upper level somewhere between 20g – 50g per day), high in healthy fats and with a moderate amount of protein.

Simply put, the way this diet works is to force your body to switch from using glucose for energy (which we get from carbs) to using your fat stores instead (in the form of ketone bodies, formed by the liver in order to produce the energy your body needs). It’s a bit complicated but this is basically how it works.

So, by drastically reducing your carbs, going heavy on the fats and moderate on the protein, you are aiming to use fat for energy as opposed to carbs. In order to achieve ketosis, many recommend measuring your ketones throughout the process and maintaining a keto diet for at least 4-6 weeks in order to allow this process to fully switch on.

For the Cauliflower mash recipe featured above, click here.

Is keto the same as paleo?

No, it’s not the same as paleo as paleo also restricts dairy and isn’t concerned with the balance of fats-to-carbs-to-protein. Paleo also doesn’t restrict the consumption of below-ground vegetables, fruit, honey etc. But both are grain-free ways of eating.

Is keto the same as low carb?

Keto is a form of low carb diet but is stricter than low carb. Low carb generally works within 50g – 100g of carbs per day, whereas keto is within the 20g – 50g range. Often, people may begin with a keto approach and gently soften their methods to encompass a more lenient low carb way of eating.

What is low carb?

Low carb is pretty much exactly what it suggests: it’s a way of eating which includes a low amount of carbs (in the range of 50g – 100g per day), making room for higher amounts of fat and moderate protein. While it is not the same as the paleo way of eating (as explained above), if you follow a wholefood approach, therefore excluding refined grains and flours, refined sugars and choose mostly ‘above the ground’ vegetables, you would likely find you remain within the 100g carbs per day.

For the Spiced garlic prawns recipes pictured above, click here.

What’s the difference between above-ground and below-ground vegetables?

This is really handy way to think about the types of vegetables you can eat in abundance on a low carb diet and those to be eaten in moderation. Below-ground veg, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin etc. are higher in carbohydrates than above-ground veg such as leafy greens, beans, cauliflower.

Can you eat sugar on a low carb diet?

Sugar is a form of carbohydrate so refined sugars are absolutely off the table with both keto and low carb ways of eating. A low carb diet may accommodate some natural sugars in very small amounts, but a keto diet would be limited to a small piece of low fructose fruit every so often (if your total carb count for the day allowed for it).

How to get started

If you’re keen to give a low carb way of eating a try, then starting gradually is always a safer and kinder way to go. If you currently eat bread, pasta, potatoes, legumes etc. daily, then perhaps start with replacing two or three meals a week. Often, it’s habit more than anything.

All the recipes on Cookidoo® have the carbohydrates listed in the nutritional panel, so it’s easy to plan out your carbs that way. Browse recipes which take your fancy and then create your own Low Carb collection in your saved recipes.

Super foods for a low carb diet
• Eggs
• Meats – use all cuts
• Fish
• Leafy green veg such as kale, spinach, salad greens
• Broccoli and cauliflower – cauliflower is brilliant to use as a replacement to rice
• Nuts and seeds, including nut butter
• Olive oil and coconut oil
• Dairy (unsweetened yoghurt and cheese are ok, but milk is off the menu)
• Fruits are limited due to their fructose content, but you can include things like apples and blueberries in moderation.

Foods which are off the menu on a low carb diet
• Grains and flours such as breads, rice, pasta, tortillas, cereal, cracker etc.
• High fructose fruit such as bananas, grapes, mangoes or dried fruit
• Below-ground / starchy veg such as potatoes, beetroots, sweetcorn
• Alcohol in moderation, beer is off the menu. You can enjoy vodka or gin for example but be mindful of what you put with it. No tonic or juice, just soda water and fresh lime or cucumber etc.
• Beans and legumes, these include lentils, peas, chickpeas and all varieties of beans.
• Sugars including honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar etc.
• Milk is quite high in carbs so you’ll need to do the math to see whether you can allow yourself 1-2tbsp in your tea or coffee.

Eat for health

The most important thing to be mindful of when you’re starting a low carb diet or any diet for that matter is to be sure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs. For example, a steak with some bearnaise may be a low carb meal but many would argue you’re missing out on key nutrients from the plant kingdom on that plate, so maybe consider adding a green salad to the mix. Be sure to balance your plates for health and to always seek professional medical advice before changing your diet.

Ready to cook?

Head to our Low Carb thematic page for some recipe inspo, then save what you love in your own Low Carb collection.

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