Low-carb diets are more popular than ever. But before you hop on the bandwagon, registered dietitian and Dressing On The Side author Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., says it’s important to remember that just because a food has carbohydrates doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy. In fact, our body needs carbs to survive. London says that foods including legumes, lentils, potatoes and rice —all of which contain carbs — contain a variety of important nutrients and nixing them from your diet completely would mean missing out on their many benefits.
“What’s more important than the percentage of carbs you’re consuming is the quality of those carbs,” says registered dietitian and Sugar Shock co-author Samantha Cassetty, M.S., R.D. “ The latest national survey shows that adults in the U.S. consume 42% of calories from low-quality carbohydrate sources, which are foods that have added sugars and refined grains,” she says. “These foods tend to be less filling and contain fewer nutrients, and they raise your disease risk, so they really work against you.”
With this in mind, are there ever times when someone can benefit from a low-carb diet? Both dietitians say that this way of eating could potentially be beneficial for people trying to lose weight or manage their blood sugar levels. (Cassetty specifies that it isn’t the only way to do either.) If you do want to give a low-carb diet a try, you certainly won’t have a shortage of foods to eat — there’s still plenty on the table. Bookmark this list of nutrient-rich, low-carb foods for ideas on what to work into your meals.
What is a low-carb diet?
Since so many foods have at least some carbohydrates, it’s a bit tricky to figure out what counts as a low-carb food. While London says there aren’t set guidelines for this, she says that in general a low-carb diet is considered an eating plan where less than 30% of calories come from carbohydrates.
“For reference, the latest national data shows that Americans consume 50% of calories from carbohydrates,” adds Cassetty. “Meanwhile, government recommendations suggest Americans eat 45-65% of calories from carbs. So, a low-carb diet is eating at or below the…