The road to fitness is difficult and overwhelming. This explains why the world is in constant search for the “best” diet plan that brings desirable results in optimizing well-being and boosting weight loss. Accordingly, numerous weight-loss diets today push for the elimination of certain food groups despite the controversies that such practice sparks in the health scene. A specific example is a zero-carb diet, which as the name implies cuts out carbohydrate foods. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide for individuals who wish to begin this type of diet. We’ll also explore the implications and potential risks that it poses.
What Is The Zero-Carb Diet?
Lindsay Boyers, a certified holistic nutritionist provides six major elements that form the foundation of nutritional requirements. These are carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water. Accordingly, the Food and Nutrition Board recommends obtaining 45 to 65% of your daily calorie requirement from carbs.
However, the zero-carb diet cuts out sources of carbs, thus your daily calorie intake will mainly consist of animal-derived proteins. This explains why it’s also called the carnivore diet. Still, the zero-carb diet is not limited to red meat. Michael Joseph of Nutrition Advance states that while some dieters concentrate on eating meat, others consume a wider assortment of food items such as dairy products, eggs, seafood, coconut oil, cured meat, and organ meats.
Judging from its components, the diet is intensely high in protein and fat, similar to a ketogenic diet which is an eating plan that’s drastically low in carbs but extremely high in fat. However, while the keto diet allows some low-carb foods, the zero-carb diet aims to make your carb intake as close to zero as possible.
Zero-carb dieters have reported results in speeding up weight loss, achieving longer fullness, and improving mental function. Unknown to many, the zero-carb diet also poses potential adverse effects in the long term. Before we dive into that topic, let’s discuss the primary components of a carnivore diet.
As stated previously, some individuals consume nothing other than steak while others eat a variety of foods as long as they are nearly zero-carb. For example, eggs provide a gram of carbs but it’s close enough to zero and therefore acceptable to some zero-carb dieters.
Foods that are either carb-free or consist of almost zero-carb content include:
- Fish rich in omega-3
- Fat sources
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
You’re also allowed to eat bacon and sausages. Organ meats are nutritionally dense foods that you can eat to increase your nutrient intake.
The design of the zero-carb diet is founded on the assumed diet of prehistoric people or cavemen. Vegan activist groups protest against this idea but there’s a significant amount of evidence to support that the early humans were meat-eaters. Before they decided to engage in agriculture, they most likely did not consume grains at all.
However, some ancient people did gather plant foods when meat is scarce, thus indicating that humans are natural omnivores. Their diet components also varied depending on availability in their environment or location.
The zero-carb diet can effectively speed up weight loss while simultaneously reducing body fat percentage in the midsection. Also, carbohydrate restriction saves you from the harmful effects of processed carbs and sugars which include mood swings, heightened blood sugar levels, and increased response to insulin. Accordingly, research shows that the zero-carb diet can improve cognitive performance, regulate mood, and enhance mental clarity. Additionally, zero-carb dieters claim to experience less digestive issues like gas, heartburn and bloating.
A study retrieved from the PubMed Central database also suggests that very low carb consumption can lead to a reduction in food cravings as it promotes prolonged satiety. Another plus is its effect of decreasing triglyceride levels and improving cholesterol levels, both are markers for lowering the risk of developing heart disease. Moreover, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that lower carb intake can lead to reduced blood glucose, which means that your fasting blood sugar levels will be stabilized and you’ll have a lower risk of diabetes.
Despite the observed benefits of following a zero-carb diet, it’s still frowned upon by many medical professionals. According to an article published by the SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle’s online platform, eliminating a certain food group such as carbs from your daily diet can have long-term adverse effects on your health. Carbs are the body’s main source of energy and unprocessed sources such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain fiber which reduces the risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, the zero-carb diet restricts your intake of polyphenols, which are compounds naturally present in plant foods including olives, berries, and cacao. Polyphenols offer health-protective properties, and a significant amount of clinical findings from controlled trials show that they combat oxidative stress and illnesses related to aging and natural degeneration.
In addition, a study published in The Lancet Public Health suggests that a no-carb diet is not ideal in practicing a healthy lifestyle. The study observed more than 15,000 American people and found that those who moderately consumed carbs have the lowest mortality risk. It also showed that eating more animal-based proteins, ups one’s risk of mortality compared with consuming plant-based counterparts.
Dr. Walter Willett, co-author of the said study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health explains that too much or too little intake of carbs can be harmful and a diet consisting of an assortment of high-quality whole foods is optimal.
The zero-carb diet is not widely recommended by conventional health professionals yet. However, this diet is relatively safe, as long as you select unprocessed foods. If you wish to start following this diet, it’s much safer not to eliminate carb foods. Instead, try lowering your carb intake bit by bit over weeks and observe how your body is responding to the change.
To prevent developing nutrient deficiencies, go for nutrient-rich foods like organ meats and eggs. You also have the option of following the zero-carb diet for a limited period just to jumpstart your weight loss, and when you reach the maintenance stage, slowly add back unprocessed carb sources.
It’s important to note that nutritional needs and requirements vary for every individual. Therefore, it’s advised that you consult your healthcare provider before making any major dietary changes.