What the heck does eating Low Carb mean?  Strange question for this blog.  I listen to the world around me and it is not an easy answer.  There are multiple definitions and a slew of diet books all coming up with their own definition.  Checking out health sites, doesn’t throw light on the question – actually – just creates greater confusion – at least in my mind.

What started me down this path was a conversation while out to dinner with friends.  We ate at an Indian Restaurant.  He ordered a side dish of Lentils and proceeded to tell me they are good on a Low Carb diet.  One cup of Lentils has 40g of Carbs.  Netting out the 16 grams of Fiber you are left with 24 grams.  That is great – just not if you are eating a ketogenic diet.  It does have 18g of Protein.  Good food – depending upon your POV.

I guess the starting point of determining “what is low carb,” would be the Mythical “Balanced Diet” – one-third of your calories from each group: Protein, Carbs and Fats.  Assuming the 2,000 calorie diet from all the food labels – then approximately 633 calories for each of the three.  That would be approximately 160 grams of Protein, 160 grams of Carbs and 70 grams of Fat.  The immediate problem here is that 160 grams of protein is substantially higher than what is considered normal. 

Livestrong cites the FDA as recommending:

Carbs: “The FDA recommends consuming 300g of carbohydrates per day on a 2000-calorie meal plan. Around 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories — or 900 to 1,300 calories — should come from carbohydrate sources.” (225-325 g)

Protein:  “The FDA recommends consuming 65g of protein per day. …  Around 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories — or 200 to 700 calories — should come from healthy protein sources …”  (50-175g)

Fats: “[R]oughly 20 to 35 percent of your calories — 400 to 700 calories — should come from healthy, unsaturated fats.” (22-78g)

So the mythical balanced diet – “ain’t” balanced according to the FDA.

Focusing solely on Carbs, then any amount less than 300 grams of carbohydrates per day would be heading towards the Low  or Reduced Carb world. 

I can not call <300 grams Low Carb.  It may be a reduced carbohydrate diet, or one which defines itself by the type of carbs eaten – fast or slow – whatever that means – but it is not Low Carb.

Maybe – we should look at this from the point of view of what is to be achieved.  If I want to switch my body from burning glucose to burning ketones, then I have an actual measurable standard.  For the most part, that switch only happens when you reduce your carbohydrate to below 50 grams per day. 

Therefore – anything greater than 50 but less than 300 grams per day would be a Reduced Carb Diet – I choke on the use of the phrase Low Carb which does not have a real definition.  If it does not kick in the production of ketones – than the reduction would only be of value if there are other health benefits – and there are – all of which are well documented.  Unfortunately, there is no clear understanding on how much of a reduction needs to be in place to achieve those health benefits.  That appears to be a floating number based upon individual metabolism.

If you are not eating a ketogenic diet, where do you get the rest of your calories?  You had better not raise you dietary fat intake since you are still using glucose as your power source.  You can add it to your Protein level – probably even double that 65 grams, but that only reduces your Carbs by 65g.  (If and only if 65g is considered the correct and proper protein level, then if you increase protein intake to 130g – then there is no question it as a high protein diet.)

65 grams are switched from Carbs to Protein.  You are still at 2,000 calories per day.  Reducing your Carb intake from 300g to 235g.  You then change the Carbs you are eating from fast acting crap to complex carbs – or – rice to lentils.  Still at the same intake – but eating healthier.  Most of the diet books want you to drop your carb intake by another 50-150 grams – or 200 – 600 actual calories.  No wonder they lose weight on their version of a reduced carb diet – not because you are eating Low Carb but because you have reduced you caloric intake dramatically. 

 My Goal is eating healthy in a sustainable manner.  For me – eating a Ketogenic diet which relies on clean unprocessed foods works.

When I mentioned to my friend that I try to keep my carb intake to below 50 grams – he could not believe it.  “Wow – that is low.”  He had no understanding of ketones – “what are they?”  He followed his Doc’s advise without understanding – no wonder he regained the weight he lost.

Language – creates its own reality.