Low carb diet is not new to almost everyone. But recently, I have been hearing about a zero carb diet (aka zero carb foods), which has me worried.
Based on what you eat, a zero carb diet may really be more restrictive than a Keto diet. Although there is no certain limit to the grams allowed per day, a zero carb essentially involves removing as much as possible carbohydrate from your food.
Typically, vegetable contains 3-4 grams of net carb per cup (that is grams of total carb minus fiber’s grams), and an ounce of nuts provides almost the same, a truly zero carb food will eliminate more health-protective foods than all other diets.
Some years ago, when fat was demonized, many people became obsessed with avoiding fat by all means possible. In fact, they would not eat any food that contained even a half gram of fat per serving, fearing that the half grams would add up too many grams. This mentality led to filling the fat with sugar and carbs, which led to weight gain and several fat deficiency side effects including hormone imbalance and dry skin.
There are several healthy fats to eat out there, so you just have to balance everything, not banishment. It’s true that there are bad carbs like refined sugar and processed grains, but that is just part of the story of carb, which you can avoid.
Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight does not require such extreme carb limit. What most people don’t know is that the side effects of eliminating carbs completely are impactful for quality of life and health. The following are the four health impacts of eliminating carbs completely from your food.
Side effects of zero carb foods
Here are some of the health issues you can encounter if you are consuming zero carb diet:
1. You could miss important nutrients
Zero carb foods or too low carb diet can reduce your intake of key nutrients such as minerals, fiber, vitamins, prebiotics and antioxidants and even helpful fats. Powdered supplements and multivitamins can’t replace the myriad health-protective nutrients you can derive from foods containing carbs.
The shortfall can potentially affect your cognitive health, immune function and raise the risk of chronic illness such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease. In fact, plant-based diets that are relatively high in carbs are the diets of those living in the part of the world where people live the longest and healthiest life.
2. You could experience low carb flu
You must have heard of keto flu. People that are new to keto experience it and its symptoms may include brain fog, nausea, dizziness, muscle soreness, headaches and irritability. This is because the brain and body which is used to 60% carb need to adapt to low carb or zero carb diet.
The same applies when you renounce carbs. After all, renouncing carb is not necessary for optimal health and weight loss, so why torture yourself?
3. Zero carb foods could lead to poor digestive health
25 grams of fiber per day is recommended and it is an important nutrient found in foods containing carbohydrates. A high fiber diet has been linked to low risk of high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity, heart diseases and some digestive diseases.
Certain kinds of fiber also act as prebiotics that serves as food for beneficial gut bacteria, which support mental health, anti-inflammation and immunity. Although there are several fiber supplements out there, research tells us that they don’t offer the same benefits as fiber you get from whole foods.
4. There may be social and psychological side effects
When you are into an extreme diet, social eating becomes a challenge. It can cause you to avoid social functions and even if you don’t, you may not be able to maintain the restrictions, which may cause you to experience depression and extreme guilt.
Going on and off strict diets can lead to a serious eating disorder and crush your mental health and quality of life. A systematic review of 11 studies found that plant-based diets containing healthful carbs are associated with improvements in emotional well-being such as depression.
The bottom line
Zero carb diet is not important or recommended for long-term weight loss or optimal health. In fact, research shows that a plant-based diet including fiber-rich foods, whole, monosaturated fats such as nuts, olive oil and avocado; and protein-based proteins, such as beans and lentils, plays a big role in the management and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
In fact, plant-based diets that are moderate to high in carbohydrates have been shown to generate weight loss, support a healthy gut microbiome, reduce the formation of advanced glycation end products, which is associated with aging and improve insulin resistance.
Instead of cutting off carbohydrate completely, you can up your intake of non-starchy veggies and make them the core of your eating pattern. You can up your consumption of starchy veggies, fruit and whole grains that are in line with your body’s fuel need. Say no to zero carb foods!