Low carb diets have been the rage for quite some time, but the low-carb vegetarian diet is just starting to take off.
You’ve probably heard of some of the more popular low-carb diets, like paleo, South Beach, and Atkins, to name just a few. Those diets simply reduce or entirely replace sugars and starches. It's the same with a low carb vegetarian diet except you're still excluding meat, poultry, and fish.
There are tremendous advantages to eating a low carb diet, and those benefits hold true if you’re vegetarian. Low-carb diets are popular because they've been proven to make you lose weight, but there are many more benefits that are not as well-known.
Every time you eat a carb your body converts it to sugar and releases it into your bloodstream. Insulin is then secreted to move the sugar into your cells where it will either be burned for energy or stored as fat. The problem here is too much insulin can eventually cause pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues.
When you eliminate simple carbs and control your starch consumption, your body starts to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. Fat is a better source of energy for a number of reasons. You get twice as much energy from fat than carbohydrates, and fat burns slower so the energy lasts longer. You also avoid those energy spikes and crashes that make you crave carbohydrates and overeat throughout the day.
A low-carb diet is not difficult to follow for meat eaters. But for strict vegetarians, it can be a bit more of a challenge. First, even the healthiest vegetarian diet is naturally high in carbohydrates. Legumes, for example, are high in carbohydrates, but they’re an excellent and necessary source of protein, fiber, micronutrients, and phytochemicals.
Second, many vegetarians love and eat a lot of foods made from wheat, like pasta, pizza, and bread, especially when traveling and eating out. And, it’s hard to stop eating these foods because wheat and sugar are highly addictive, they taste great, and they're a simple solution when you don't know what to prepare.
Instead of grains and other starches, a low-carb vegetarian relies on nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese, and high-protein meat replacements like tempeh, tofu, and other legumes.
While a low-carb vegetarian diet is not as low in carbs as the paleo diet, for example, you can still get many of the same benefits.
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