A Low-Carb Diet for Beginners


A Low-Carb Diet for Beginners

Do you want effortless weight loss? Or type 2 diabetes reversal and other health benefits? Then a low-carb diet could be right for you.

You can eat all you need to feel satisfied – there’s no calorie counting required, ever. No products. No pills. No surgery. Just real food.

A low-carb diet restricts sugary foods, and starches like pasta or bread. Instead you’ll eat delicious real foods, including protein, natural fats and vegetables.

Low-carb diets just work, they’ve been used for over 150 years and there are tons of success stories. Dozens of scientific studies prove that compared to other diets, low carb is more effective.

This guide contains everything you need – what to eat, what to avoid, and exactly how to do it. Choose a topic or keep reading below.
 
 

 

 

Introduction

A low-carb diet means you eat fewer carbohydrates and a higher proportion of fat. This is often called a low-carb, high-fat diet (LCHF).

Most importantly, you minimize your intake of sugar and starches. You can eat other delicious foods until you are satisfied – and still lose weight.

Many high-quality scientific studies show that a low-carb diet makes it easier both to lose weight and to control your blood sugar. And that’s just the beginning.

Learn more about the benefits of low carb

The basics

  • Eat: Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables growing above ground and natural fats (like butter).
  • Avoid: Sugar and starchy foods (like bread, pasta, rice, beans and potatoes).

Skaldeman's fish soup
Eat when you’re hungry, until you’re satisfied. It’s that simple.

You do not need to count calories or weigh your food. And just forget about industrially produced low-fat products.

There are solid scientific reasons why low-carb diets works. When you avoid sugar and starches your blood sugar stabilizes and the levels of insulin, the fat-storing hormone, drop. This increases fat burning and makes you feel more satiated.

Is low carb right for you?

checklistMost people can start any kind of low-carb diet right away. But in the following three situations you may need extra preparation or adaptation:

If you’re not in any of these groups, you’re good to go. Great!




 

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What to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet

Here’s a quick visual guide to low carb. For details check out the links below. Let’s start with the foods you can eat all you like of, until you’re satisfied.

Low-carb diet foods: Natural fats (butter, olive oil); Meat; Fish and seafood; Eggs; Cheese; Vegetables that grow above ground

 
All the numbers are grams of digestible carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces). Fiber is not counted, you can eat all the fiber you want.

All the foods above are below 5% carbs, as you can see. Sticking to these foods will make it relatively easy to stay on a strict low-carb diet, with less than 20 grams of carbs per day.

More detailed low-carb foods list

What to drink on low carb: water, coffee, tea, wine

So what do you drink on low carb? Water is perfect, and so is coffee or tea. Ideally, use no sweeteners, and a modest amount of milk or cream if you like (beware of caffe latte!).

The occasional glass of wine is fine too (low-carb alcohol guide).

Try to avoid

Here’s what you should not eat on low carb – foods full of sugar and starch:
Foods to avoid on low carb: bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit, beer, soda, juice, candy

 
The numbers are grams of digestible carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), unless otherwise noted.

A more detailed list of foods to avoid

 

Visual low-carb guides

How low to go?

The fewer carbohydrates you eat, the bigger the effects on weight and blood sugar will be. I recommend following the dietary advice as strict as you can. When you’re happy with your weight and health you may carefully try eating more liberally (if you want to).

Here are three examples of what a low-carb meal can look like, depending on how many carbs you eat per day:

 
 
A strict low-carb diet is sometimes called a ketogenic (or “keto”) diet.
 
 

countries3Advice on LCHF in other languages

Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, (pdf) (another version), Chinese, Chinese (Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Danish (Word), Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian (pdf), Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Polish (pdf), Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish (Word), Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian and Uzbek.

Do you have another translation or a significant improvement of one of the earlier ones? E-mail me (more info).


 



 
 

Success Stories

Here’s inspiration: Hundreds of success stories. Slide image below horizontally to see more stories.

 


 

All success stories





 

How Low-Carb Diets Work

What are you designed to eat?

Humans evolved over millions of years as hunter-gatherers, without eating large amounts of carbohydrates. We ate the food available to us in nature by hunting, fishing and gathering all the edible foods we could find. These foods did not include pure starch in the form of bread, pasta, rice or potatoes. We have only eaten these starchy foods for 5 – 10,000 years, since the development of agriculture. Our genes only undergo limited adaptions in such a relatively short time.

With the Industrial Revolution, 100 – 200 years ago, we got factories that could manufacture large amounts of pure sugar and white wheat flour. Rapidly digested pure carbohydrates. We’ve hardly had time to genetically adapt to these processed foods.

In the 80’s, the fear of fat gripped the Western world. Low-fat products popped up everywhere. But if you eat less fat you need to eat more carbohydrates to feel satiated. And it’s at this time in history that our disastrous epidemics of obesity and diabetes started. The most fat-phobic country in the world, the USA, was hit the hardest and is now the world’s most obese country.

Today, it’s clear that the fear of real food with natural fat contents has been a big mistake.

The problem with sugar and starch

All digestible carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars in the intestines. The sugar is then absorbed into the blood, raising blood glucose levels. This increases the production of the hormone insulin, our fat-storing hormone.

Insulin

Insulin is produced in the pancreas. In large amounts it prevents fat burning and stores surplus nutrients in fat cells. After some time (a few hours or less) this may result in a perceived shortage of nutrients in the blood, creating feelings of hunger and cravings for something sweet. Usually, at that point people eat again. This starts the process again: A vicious cycle leading to weight gain.

On the other hand, a low intake of carbs gives you a lower, more stable blood glucose, and lower amounts of insulin. This increases the release of fat from your fat stores and increases the fat burning. This usually leads to fat loss, especially around the belly in abdominally obese individuals.

Weight loss without hunger

An LCHF diet makes it easier for the body to use its fat reserves, as fat release is no longer blocked by high insulin levels. This may be one reason why eating fat produces a feeling of longer-lasting satiety than carbohydrates. This has been shown in a number of studies: When people eat all they want on a low-carb diet, caloric intake typically drops.

So, no counting or food weighing is necessary. You can forget about the calories and trust your feelings of hunger and satiety. Most people don’t need to count or weigh their food any more than they need to count their breathing. If you don´t believe it, just try for a couple of weeks and see for yourself.

Health as a bonus

No animals in nature need the assistance of nutritional expertise or calorie charts to eat. And still, as long as they eat the food they are designed to eat they stay at a normal weight and they avoid caries, diabetes and heart disease. Why would humans be an exception? Why would you be an exception?

In scientific studies not only is the weight improved on a low carb diet – the blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol profile (HDL, triglycerides) are also improved. A calm stomach and less cravings for sweet food are also common experiences.

Here are the most common benefits:


 


 

Initial side effects

If you stop eating sugar and starch cold turkey (recommended) you may experience some side effects as your body adjusts. For most people these side effects tend to be mild and last a just few days. There are also ways to minimize them.

Common side effects in the first week:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irritability

The side effects rapidly subside as your body adapts and your fat burning increases. They can be minimized by drinking more fluids and by temporarily increasing your salt intake a bit. A good option is to drink broth every few hours. Alternatively, drink a few extra glasses of water and put more salt on your food.

The reason for this is that carbohydrate-rich foods may increase the water retention in your body. When you stop eating high-carb foods you’ll lose excess water through your kidneys. This can result in dehydration and a lack of salt during the first week, before the body has adapted.

Some people prefer to decrease their intake of carbohydrates slowly, over a few weeks, to minimize the side effects. But the “Nike way” (Just Do It) is probably the best choice for most people. Removing most sugar and starch often results in several pounds lost on the scale within a few days. This may be mostly fluids but it’s great for motivation.

The most common problems on low carb


 
All low-carb side effects and how to cure them

 

Low-carb myths

There are many unfounded fears about low carb, that are mostly based on myths and misunderstandings. Read all about them on our low-carb fears page, or choose a specific topic below:



 

The Food Revolution

This talk from 2016 summarizes the history and science behind the ongoing LCHF revolution.

More theory and practice

Several of the world’s biggest experts on the subject explain the theory and practice of carb restriction:

Dr Westman’s Guide to LCHF 2/5: How to Become a Fat-Burning Machine4.7 out of 5 stars5 stars82%4 stars9%3 stars3%2 stars2%1 star2%140 ratings14011:30The 5 common mistakes on LCHF4.7 out of 5 stars5 stars85%4 stars8%3 stars3%2 stars1%1 star1%129 ratings12909:25

 How to Do an LCHF Diet – Dr. Eric Westman4.6 out of 5 stars5 stars78%4 stars12%3 stars6%2 stars1%1 star1%116 ratings1161:00:45 LCHF for Obesity and Diabetes – Dr. Jay Wortman4.8 out of 5 stars5 stars87%4 stars7%3 stars5%2 stars0%1 star0%57 ratings571:03:45



 


 



 

Low-Carb Tips and Guides

Choose a topic below for a thorough low-carb guide on it.
 

 

 

Low-carb breakfast

Breakfast is a great time to eat low carb – think eggs & bacon with coffee. And there are many more great options. Below are a few of our most popular low-carb breakfast recipes.

No fan of eating breakfast? On low carb you may not feel hungry in the morning. If so, it’s fine to skip breakfast – many people do.

Low-carb meals

There’s no end to the amazing food you could have for lunch and dinner on low carb. These are the currently most popular low-carb meal recipes:


Shopping list for beginners

Print this list and bring it to the grocery store:

  • Butter
  • Heavy cream (40% fat)
  • Sour cream (full fat)
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Meat (minced, steaks, stew pieces, fillets, etc.)
  • Fish (ideally fatty fish like salmon or mackerel)
  • Cheese (preferably high-fat)
  • Turkish yoghurt (10% fat)
  • Cabbage (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc.)
  • Other vegetables that grow above ground
  • Frozen vegetables (broccoli, wok vegetables, etc.)
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts

Clean out your pantry

Want to maximize your chances of success? Especially if you have difficult cravings / sugar addiction, it’s smart to throw out (or give away) sugary and starchy foods, low-fat products, etc. These include:

  • Candy
  • Potato chips
  • Soft drinks and juices
  • Margarine
  • Sugar in all forms
  • Bread
  • Wheat flour
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Everything that says “low fat” or “no fat”
  • Ice cream
  • Cookies

Why not do it now?

The Serpent in Paradise

Be very skeptical of special “low-carb” products, such as pasta or chocolate. Unfortunately these products usually work poorly. They have prevented weight loss for loads of people. They’re commonly full of carbs once you see through the creative marketing.

Carb FictionFor example, Dreamfields’ “low carb pasta” is almost pure starch, which is absorbed more or less like any pasta, albeit slowly:

How about low-carb bread? Be careful: if it’s baked with grains, it’s certainly not low carb. But some companies still try to sell it to you as a low-carb option. Here’s an example:

Low-carb chocolate is usually full of sugar alcohols, which the manufacturer does not count as carbs. But roughly half of these carbs may be absorbed, raising blood sugar and insulin. The rest of the carbs ends up in the colon, potentially causing gas and diarrhea. Furthermore, any sweeteners may maintain sugar cravings.

If you want to be healthy and slim, eat real food instead.

 




 

Recipes

For all of our low-carb recipes check out our main low-carb recipe page.


 


 

Learn More

 



Low Carb is Fantastic for Reversing Type 2 Diabetes and Normalizing Blood Sugar

Do you have type 2 diabetes? If not, you most likely know someone who does. And low carb is fantastic for treating type 2 diabetes.

DiabetesTestF9-reversedIt only makes sense that eating less of what turns into blood sugar (carbohydrates) makes it easier to keep blood sugar down. Low carb may be so effective that people with diabetes need to reduce their medication – especially insulin doses – immediately.

A better blood sugar from day 1. Less need for medication. And weight loss as a bonus. Low carb is a fantastic treatment for type 2 diabetes.

Learn more about Low Carb and Diabetes

PS: People with type 1 diabetes can also benefit from a low-carb diet. Learn More



How to Lose WeightHow to Lose Weight

Losing Weight Effortlessly
on Low Carb

Some people lose weight fantastically well on low carb, immediately on the first try. Perhaps the weight even stays off forever.

For others it can be a more of a challenge. Do you want to lose more weight or lose weight faster? There are many things you can do to improve your chances.

Read more about How to Lose Weight

 
 


Blood Pressure

 

Normalizing Blood Pressure on Low Carb

An elevated blood pressure reliably drops on low carb. This can be clearly seen in scientific trials, and it’s a very common experience for people trying it.

In fact, this effect can be so marked that people on blood pressure medication may end up feeling dizzy and tired from too low blood pressure. They’ve basically become too healthy for their medication!

If this happens you’ll have to reduce the dose of your blood-pressure medication, or stop taking it completely, with guidance from your doctor.

Learn more about Blood Pressure and Low Carb



 

Side Effects on Low Carb

Avoiding Side Effects on Low Carb

Do you struggle when starting low carb? Do you get a headache, leg cramps, constipation or any of the six most common side effects? It’s usually possible to avoid them – and feel great while losing weight.

The main solution to most common problems when starting low carb is to increase the intake of water and salt. It’s even better to do it preventatively during the first week. If you do, you’ll most likely not experience any of these problems, or they’ll only be minor.

Learn about the 6 common side effects on low carb – and how to cure them

 



 

Times 1984 and 2014


1984  Fear of Fat →
2014  “Eat Butter”

Chances are you’ve heard that a low-carb diet will kill you. This as a low-carb diet normally means we eat a higher proportion of fat instead.

This old idea is based on the belief that natural fat is not good for us. Even though humans have always been eating fat, somehow it’s supposed to mess up our bodies, raising our cholesterol and giving us a heart attack.

The good news is that we now know that this idea was simply wrong. Check out these two covers of TIME magazine. The first one is from 1984 – the start of the intense fear of fat. Instead of natural food we got lots of low-fat products, loaded with added sugar and starch. This, not so coincidentally, marked the start of the modern obesity epidemic.

The second cover is more current, from 2014. It says “Eat butter” and the story is about how scientists are now realizing they were wrong to fear fat. What a difference 30 years make!

Just about everybody already knows that low-carb works for weight loss (and some other things). The good news is that we now also know it’s safe… and likely even a very healthy way to eat.


Learn more about the obsolete fear of fat

Learn more about the causes of the obesity epidemic

 



 

Cholesterol

The unnecessary fear of fat and cholesterol started the epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Modern science shows what the mistake was.

We thought that all cholesterol was harmful. That a low cholesterol was always good, and that a high cholesterol was always bad. This was wrong. The truth is – as usual – more complicated.

More important than having a low cholesterol is to have a good cholesterol profile. To have a lot of the good protecting HDL-cholesterol, for example. And how do you get that? Well, the easiest way is to avoid sugar and flour, and instead eat enough fat to feel satisfied.

Cholesterol

Avoiding fat and instead eating a lot of easily digestible carbohydrates often causes a dangerous cholesterol profile: small, nasty, dense LDL particles and a shortage of protective HDL-cholesterol. This is probably why low-fat foods seem to cause more heart disease.

Read the science showing how low-carb high-fat improves the cholesterol profile

Read all blog posts on cholesterol
 

 
 

Answers to Your Questions

Low-carb questions and answers

Do you have questions about anything low-carb related? We have ready answers to all common questions – and more.

Low-Carb Questions and Answers
 
 
 


 
 

Next

Keep reading about What to Eat on a Low-Carb Diet

 



 

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Anything that you’d like added or changed?
 
Comment below or e-mail me at andreas@dietdoctor.com.

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4,318 Comments

  1. DrakeAris
    If you're still 10's of pounds away from your goal weight, put it out of your mind to try to sneak in carbs or justify eating them based on things you've read or have been told. Just stick to salads and low carb veggies. Once you're in your goal weight, you really can eat anything you want in moderation, it's your body and your life!
  2. DrakeAris
    As an epileptic, I was attracted to the idea of keto dieting, as it's scientifically as successful in reducing seizures (in certain patients). It's success seems most beneficial to extreme epileptics who have very high levels of seizure activity and frequency. That aside, I can tell you that now that I'm very strict low carb, I generally have less auras (a feeling of deja vu that can sometimes be a precursor to a seizure) than I did on an ordinary American diet. Keto is slightly different than low carb. Keto involves eating a larger percent of fat, and a lower percent of protein, where the carbs are super duper low, protein is low, and fat is high. I don't eat a keto diet, but I'm darn close. I keep my carbs below 20 every day, and I eat much smaller amounts of protein than I used to.
    Reply: #4364
  3. DrakeAris
    Start walking as often as you can, at a very comfortable speed. Start with 30 minutes, but increase it as much as you're able. Park your car as far from the storefront and walk. Take the stairs. Those little things will drop more weight. Every step you take is simply more calories spent and you're less likely to exhaust yourself by walking over running. Oh, and eat more fat and less protein than you currently are. I don't know what kinds of food your eating, but people who are stuck and don't know why can often still be afraid to eat more fat. I put butter in my coffee, I add safflower oil to my nightly spoon of peanut butter until it drips off my spoon. I add heavy cream to my scrambled eggs and cook them in butter and top with cheese. And finally, never ever be hungry. If you get hungry, make more food, even if you just ate 10 minutes before. Just as a child, you eat when you're hungry, not by a schedule. And eat until you're satisfied. Look, I've lost 30 pounds in less than 10 years. I was 195 pounds and I'm happily approaching a goal of 160. At first some of it was water weight and that fluctuates a lot. But since then it's been excess fat and underutilized muscle mass. I walk, play tennis and snowboard in the winter. I'm no medical marvel, just an ordinary person with a strong will. If you find walking boring, then start Playing Pokemon Go or something that gives you entertainment outdoors. I play a phone game called Ingress and it diverts my attention to the boredom of walking. I can walk for several hours and not even notice how long I've been walking.
  4. DrakeAris
    Sure you can have a super low serving of rice, but honestly, the amount that is acceptable for a HFLC diet is a joke, and you'll only be tempted to put "just a little bit more" on your plate. It's not worth spending your daily carb intake on a tablespoon of rice, which is probably all you could have if you were strictly going low carb, and that would bar you from any additional rice the rest of the day.
  5. DrakeAris
    You did all the right things and it shows. Good for you!
  6. DrakeAris
    If you're targeting weight loss, skip fancy multi-serving recipes and go to basics. Prepare each meal from scratch, just one plate. Once you reach an ideal weight, then you can start being fancy and making larger recipes. As you note, those recipes yield more than one serving and you're going to be tempted to add just "a few more scoops" and not get the results you're seeking. Simplify this process, prepare a single serving of food that has just the amount of carbs that you're aiming for. You'll never have leftovers that you'll be tempted to eat.
  7. DrakeAris
    I can't speak of side effects of excess fat consumption, as that's more medical. I'm more about how to give you motivation and share my success. I'll tell you that simply eating more fat is not HFLC. Eating less carb and moderately low protein while elevating your fat intake is HFLC. As for how much fat should you be eating, it can be scientific if you want, or just common sense. If you drop 1/2 a stick of butter in the pan and pour that over your eggs and you're licking the butter from the pan after cooking an egg, you're probably being a little obsessive. As an example, a pat of butter for each egg you prepare should be plenty of fat, given eggs have their own fats as well.
  8. DrakeAris
    Good post. First of all, Low Carb is not the only way to lose weight, but it can be one of the most enjoyable ways. To me it's about hunger. In my own experience, fruit and veggie or low fat diets are hunger-focused diets. I never feel 'satisfied' on them. I walk around constantly feeling a hungry. I hate that feeling. On low carb, I never feel hungry and can go hours and forget to even eat without feeling like I want to punch somebody.

    If your weight loss has slowed or stopped, you need to analyze what you're eating a little bit and figure out why. For example. Butter has carbs in it. Heavy Cream does as well. It's minuscule for a serving or two, but can add up fast if you go crazy with it. Two tablespoons of cream with a few tablespoons of butter quickly becomes 2-3 carbs grams just like that. If you think you're getting 20 grams of carbs or less, you might be getting more like 30-40 and that can affect your success.

    And watch your protein intake! If you're not an athlete, eat enough protein that you're feeling strong enough to do basic activities. Protein is probably the hardest intake to determine and control since we all need it, but the amount varies from person to person based on many factors for each individual. If there was one thing I wish someone could invent, it would be a protein monitor to tell you how much you should eat each day, because that requirement changes constantly.

  9. 1 comment removed
  10. John B
    It is possible to get cola and tonic waters that contain fewer carbohydrates. In their own form they may not have that many, it is often the sugars that are added to the commercial soft drinks. Diet cola/tonic can be bought although if you want a good one aim for a specialty brand at a store carrying such products - though they may not be easy to locate
  11. Matheus
    Glucose is the main fuel of ours brains. Without glucose, we're unable to do certain kinds of complex tasks. So, this diet is going to decrease my brain performance?
  12. Fadumo
    I need someone to calling me plz more information
    Reply: #4366
  13. Josh
    Is Crystal Light ok to drink ?
  14. Geoff
    there's a great new ebook available that talks alot about low carb, ketosis, how the brain needs energy, that sort of stuff. http://XXX Hope it helps :)
    Reply: #4365
  15. Geoff,
    You've now posted this in at least four separate discussion threads today. This is clearly spamming. I'm blocking that adress, so that you don't keep spamming this site.
  16. Fadumo,

    Please email me at support@dietdoctor.com and I can give you more specific information.

  17. Rosalia Ingrassia
    Vorrei avere la dieta in italiano se è possibile grazie
  18. Ingrassia Rosalia
    Possibile avere la dieta in italiano grazie
  19. Cynthia Navarrete
    I've been going on a low-carb diet for about a month now. At first I was feeling great and healthy. Now, the more time that goes by the less and less appetizing things there is. I am feeling disgusted at water that it's getting harder and harder to drink it. And I am feeling more and more empty everyday. Not hungry empty, but like something is missing. I feel like everything taste the same. My body is getting sick of it. It's just meat, cheese, and veggies and I am getting sick of it. I don't want to cheat and go back to they way it used to be because I lost 10 lbs already, but I am feeling miserable with the lack of variety.
  20. Peter
    Back again so for me I fell off the wagon a bit but got back on and I can report that in 4 weeks I have lost 6.4 KGS and my bloods are well under control again and feeling great still want to lose another 10.7KGs so lets hope I can stick to it this time.
  21. Mark
    Is anyone else familiar with Shirataki noodles? They are made from some form konjac yam starch and are touted as a zero carb noodle, have been for years. I've started using them and am at the beginning of my keto adaptation after a month of carb creep with my LCHF. I've been working on keto adaptation and at day 4 I am starting to get a rise to moderate ketosis. Just wondered if anyone else has any good recipe ideas they've used with these noodles..here's a little link. http://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2015/03/26/how-to-cook-and-like-shir...
  22. 2 comments removed
  23. Daniel
    Good afternoon, I don't like bone broth, What could you do to supplement sodium levels in a fasting period?

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