Low Carb Diet 101: A Must Have Guideline For Beginners 2023

Reviewed by Brittany, F., PhD

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Low Carb Diet 101

Adopting a low-carbohydrate diet may be the best decision you ever make! One benefit of eating a low-carbohydrate diet is that you’re likely to drop those unwanted pesky extra pounds! 

This may sound easy, but some nuances can factor into how you go about your new diet. So let’s start with the basics! 

The theory behind this type of diet is that when the body does not have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy, it will turn to burn fat for energy instead. This can enhance someone’s overall health and assist with weight loss. Some people follow a strict low-carb diet, while others may limit the amount of carbohydrates they consume but still include some in their diet. 

What Is Low Carb Diet?

A low carb diet is an eating plan that significantly reduces carbohydrate consumption. Rather than avoiding carbohydrates entirely, a low carb diet typically consists of eating fewer starchy high carbohydrates such as rice, bread and potatoes, and eating more protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables such as greens and cruciferous vegetables. This type of diet that emphasizes fewer carbs has been linked to significant health benefits[1] such as weight loss, improved cholesterol, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Additionally, low carb diets have been seen to help reduce inflammation[2], improve gut health[3], and possibly even reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Low carb diets can be tailored to be vegan or vegetarian friendly with the addition of plant-based proteins, and fats such as avocados, nuts and seeds. The amount of carbohydrates consumed on a low carb diet will vary person to person; however, general recommendations limit intake to 25-50g of net carbs per day.

low carb diet

How Low Carb Is A Low Carb Diet?

The goal of a low carb diet is to reduce the amount of glucose, a sugar molecule, entering the bloodstream, which can help lower cholesterol and improve biomarkers of health like insulin sensitivity. Low carb diets can range from extremely low carb diets, like the ketogenic diet, which averages around 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day, to moderate carb diets, depending on individual goals and preferences. 

Low carb diets can also be high in fiber and antioxidants with the addition of fruits and vegetables, which can help improve overall health. While there is some evidence that following a low carb diet can result in weight loss, there is still much to learn about maintaining long-term health while following such a diet. Additionally, certain individuals may have difficulty adhering to such a restrictive diet and may need to tailor the diet to their individual needs or preferences

Types of Low Carb Diet?

Ketogenic (keto) diet

The ketogenic diet is a very strict low carb diet that is mainly focused on ketosis, a process in which your body burns fat for energy. This diet typically consists of high amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein, and very low amounts of carbohydrates. Typically, somewhere between 25-50 grams of carbohydrates are consumed per day and the purpose is to quickly enter and stay in a state of ketosis. Benefits of a ketogenic diet include appetite suppression[4], increased mental clarity[5] and improved fat burning.

Atkins diet

The Atkins diet is a low carb diet that focuses on limiting the amount of carbohydrates consumed and instead replacing them with proteins and fats. This diet began in the 1970s and consists of four phases: induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance, and lifetime maintenance. 

The Induction phase consists of eating a high-fat, high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet for at least two weeks. The ongoing weight loss phase allows for more carbohydrates to be eaten but still focuses on limiting simple carbohydrates. The pre-maintenance and lifetime maintenance phases allow for even more carbohydrates to be eaten but still focus on keeping a balanced nutrition throughout the phases. 
The benefits of the Atkins diet[6] include increased energy, weight loss, and improvement in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some potential risks include an increase in cholesterol concentration and decreased calcium levels.

South Beach diet

The South Beach Diet is a diet program designed to help people lose weight and improve their overall health. It guides people to eat a variety of healthy foods, including lean proteins, fiber-rich carbohydrates and monounsaturated fats. This diet also promotes eating smaller portions and limiting sugary, processed and refined carbohydrates. The South Beach Diet also advocates physical activity and discourages unhealthy snacks including high carb foods. 

This diet encourages people to make healthier lifestyle choices, including increasing their level of physical activity. The South Beach Diet focuses on teaching individuals to choose the right foods to eat, and helps to break unhealthy eating habits.

Paleo diet

The Paleo diet is a popular diet plan based on the way our ancestors used to eat. It consists of consuming organic, unprocessed foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. The core components of this diet include lean proteins such as fish, game, poultry, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as healthy fats. It excludes all processed foods, whole grains, dairy, and legumes. Many people believe that following the Paleo diet can help them lose weight, improve the health of their gut, reduce inflammation and increase energy levels. 

The diet is not a one-size-fits-all approach; instead it encourages flexibility, experimentation and adaptation to your unique dietary needs. Its primary goal is to help people focus on eating real and unprocessed foods, but also be mindful of their body and how it reacts to certain foods.

Dukan diet

The Dukan diet is a high protein, low carbohydrate diet created by Pierre Dukan. It consists of four phases – Attack, Cruise, Consolidation and Stabilization. During the first two phases, high protein is emphasised while carbs and fat are limited. The last two phases gradually reintroduce carbs and fat while still focusing on lean proteins. 

The diet also advocates daily, moderate exercise and drinking plenty of water. It is important to follow the diet’s rules carefully in order to achieve desired results. Dukan followers must also avoid carb intake and calorically dense foods such as pastries and sweets. Supporters of the Dukan diet state that it is an effective way to lose weight and improve overall health.

Pros & Cons of Low Carb Diet

A low carb diet can be a viable way to lose weight and a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, it may also come with a few drawbacks.


  • Low carb diets can help individuals reduce their intake of unhealthy processed food.
  • This diet can help with weight loss[7] and fat loss in a short amount of time.
  • It can help lower cholesterol[8] and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease[9].
  • High protein, low carb diets may help to reduce hunger and cravings.


  • People may feel restricted and deprived while on the diet.
  • Some vitamins and minerals may be deficient in the diet if not properly supplemented.
  • It can be difficult to maintain long-term results with a low carb diet, as it may be hard to sustain.
  • A lack of carbohydrates can lead to fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and constipation in some people.

What To Eat & Limit In Low Carb Diet

If you are looking to switch to a low carb diet, there are many nutritious and tasty foods you can enjoy. Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats are all ideal foods to base your diet on.

Fruits, grains and most processed sugary foods should be limited. Try to fill up on vegetables like broccoli, spinach, zucchini, cabbage, asparagus, and bell peppers. For proteins, choose lean beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes. Healthy fats can be found in extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.

Snacks can easily be low carb. Unsweetened yogurt, hard boiled eggs, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, and homemade hummus are all great options. At meals, focus on adding more vegetables to the plate. Cook your proteins in healthier fats such as olive oil and add herbs and spices for flavor.

Who Should Not Do A Strict Low Carb Diet?

A strict low carb diet is not suitable for everyone, and care should be taken when entering into any restrictive eating program. Those who should consult with their healthcare provider before starting a low carb diet include pregnant and lactating women, those under the age of 18, those with known chronic health conditions, those with eating disorders, and those who are on certain types of medication, such as those for type 2 diabetes or heart disease. 

People who have had or currently have an unhealthy relationship with food, or who have difficulty following a plan for longer than a few days, should also not do a strict low carb diet. It is important for anyone considering a low carb diet to consult with their primary care provider to ensure that the diet is a good fit for their health and lifestyle.


As you can tell from reading this article, there are many potential benefits to adopting a low-carb diet ranging from blood sugar control to appetite suppression and weight loss. Low-carb eating can look different depending on which diet you ultimately decide to adopt, with some low-carb diets being also low fat diets and others being high fat diets. Protein amounts can vary between the different diets as well. Picking the proper low-carb diet is the first step in reaching your weight and health goals!

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Should Not Do A Strict Low Carb Diet?

Those who should consult with their healthcare provider before starting a low carb diet include pregnant and lactating women, those under the age of 18, those with known chronic health conditions, those with eating disorders, and those who are on certain types of medication, such as those for type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

What are Examples of Low Carbohydrate Diets?

Ketogenic diet, Atkins diet, South Beach diet, Paleo diet, and Dukan diet.

How Low Is A Low Carb Diet?

Low carb diets vary in the amount of carbohydrates consumed, but a very low carb diet such as the Ketogenic diet allows 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day.

+ 9 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. Europe PMC (2016). Europe PMC. [online] Europepmc.org. Available at: https://europepmc.org/article/NBK/nbk537084 [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
  2. SHARMAN, Matthew J. and VOLEK, Jeff S. (2004). Weight loss leads to reductions in inflammatory biomarkers after a very-low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet in overweight men. Clinical Science, [online] 107(4), pp.365–369. doi:10.1042/cs20040111.
  3. Grembi, J.A., Nguyen, L.H., Haggerty, T.D., Gardner, C.D., Holmes, S.P. and Parsonnet, J. (2020). Gut microbiota plasticity is correlated with sustained weight loss on a low-carb or low-fat dietary intervention. Scientific Reports, [online] 10(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-020-58000-y.
  4. Roekenes, J. and Martins, C. (2021). Ketogenic diets and appetite regulation. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, [online] 24(4), pp.359–363. doi:10.1097/mco.0000000000000760.
  5. Harvey, C., Schofield, G. and Williden, M. (2018). The lived experience of healthy adults following a ketogenic diet: A qualitative study. [online] Journal of Holistic. Available at: https://www.holisticperformance.org/uploads/3/0/9/9/3099302/harvey_et_al._2018_lived_experience_of_a_ketogenic_diet.pdf.
  6. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. (2021). An Evaluation of the Atkins’ Diet | Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. [online] Available at: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/1540419031361426 [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
  7. Europe PMC (2016). Europe PMC. [online] Europepmc.org. Available at: https://europepmc.org/article/NBK/nbk537084 [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
  8. Annals of Internal Medicine. (2020). A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial: Annals of Internal Medicine: Vol 140, No 10. [online] Available at: https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/0003-4819-140-10-200405180-00006 [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
  9. Meckling, K.A., O’Sullivan, C. and Saari, D. (2004). Comparison of a Low-Fat Diet to a Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Weight Loss, Body Composition, and Risk Factors for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease in Free-Living, Overweight Men and Women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, [online] 89(6), pp.2717–2723. doi:10.1210/jc.2003-031606.


Dr. Stephanie, N., NMD
Naturopathic Physician, Nutritionist, Health & Medical Writer
Dr. Stephanie Nichols is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in Arizona. She’s passionate about helping women resolve their anxiety, depression, and chronic stress by restoring balance to their hormones, and digestive functioning. She also approaches autoimmune conditions from a whole-person standpoint and uncovers the deeper issues through advanced laboratory testing. Dr. Stephanie assesses her patients from a Naturopathic as well as a Traditional Chinese Medicine viewpoint. Her treatment plans are unique in that they are completely customized to suit each patient on a mental, emotional, and physical level. Dr. Stephanie earned her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences, with honors, from the University of Alberta. After recognizing the ability of food choices to impact several chronic diseases, she then pursued her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, graduating with honors.She is a consultant and nutraceutical formulator for a number of companies as well as a freelance medical blog writer.


Brittany, F., PhD
Occupational Therapist, Medical Reviewer
Brittany is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has written over 350 pieces of patient-facing content, published 4 books, created over 30 continuing education courses, and medically reviewed countless pieces of content for accuracy. Her media appearances include being quoted as a health expert in WebMD, Healthline, NBCNews, and Forbes.

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