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Comparing Low-Carb Diet Types: All You Need to Know

Low-carb diets, popularized by plans like Atkins, are famous for enabling rapid weight loss. Contrary to common misconceptions, well-balanced low-carb diets are generally safe and can positively affect blood sugar, neurological health, and hormonal balance, especially the ketogenic diet.

What Is a Low-Carb Diet?

A low-carb diet restricts high-carbohydrate foods containing added sugars, grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits. Instead, it emphasizes the consumption of high-protein and high-fat foods.

The Benefits of Low-Carb Diets

There has been various research on low-carb diets through recent decades, which indicate different benefits, including

  • Rapid Weight Loss: Low-carb diets can boost rapid weight loss by maximizing protein and fat and minimizing carbs.

  • Reduced Hunger: Low-carb diets can help curb appetite and cravings.

  • Better Blood Sugar Control: Low-carb diets can help the body better regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.

  • Improved Cognitive Performance: Some studies show reports on cognitive benefits after following low-carb diets in some individuals.

  • Lowered Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Low-carb diets can help decrease risk factors associated with heart disease.

  • Decreased Cancer Risk: Low-carb diets can help alleviate the symptoms of various illnesses, including certain types of cancer.

Mechanics of Low-Carb Diets

So far, we’ve learned that low-carb diets can provide different benefits, but how can such diets lead to these health benefits?

  • Fuel Source Shift: Low-carb diets lead to the depletion of glucose (sugar) stores in the body. When these stores run low, the body turns to fat as an alternative source of energy, whether from dietary fat or stored body fat.

  • Elimination of Harmful Ingredients: Unlike high-carb, low-fat diets that often involve processed foods, added sugars, and excess calories, low-carb diets eliminate many of these detrimental elements and prioritize whole, nutritious foods.

So, if on a low-carb diet, we must decrease carbs and eliminate harmful high-carb foods to let the body shift to fat for energy, how much carbohydrates can we use every day?

Recommended Carbohydrate Intake

The specific amount of daily carb intake can vary depending on the type of low-carb diet plan you choose. However, most low-carb plans generally limit carbohydrate intake to less than 30% to 40% of your total daily calorie intake.

What Is a Zero-Carb Diet?

A zero-carb diet, aka a no-carb diet, is an extreme dietary approach that eliminates carbohydrates from the dieters’ daily food intake.

In a zero-carb diet, you cannot consume any carbohydrates (i.e., no foods containing carbs), which are one of the three primary macronutrients, the others being fats and proteins.

Let’s review the key aspects of a zero-carb diet:

Avoiding All Carbohydrates:

The main rule of a zero-carb diet is to avoid all sources of carbohydrates, including sugars, grains, fruits, vegetables, and even foods typically considered low in carbs. It means no bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits, or other carb-containing foods.

Focusing on Animal Products:

Many people who follow a zero-carb diet rely on animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, which contain little to no carbohydrates and are rich in protein and fat.

Limited Food Variety:

Due to the strict restriction of carbohydrates, the food variety in a zero-carb diet is limited, which can make it challenging for some individuals to stick to in the long term.


A zero-carb diet can induce a state of ketosis, where the body shifts to burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. Ketosis can result in rapid weight loss but may also lead to side effects like bad breath, fatigue, and constipation.

Lack of Fiber and Micronutrients:

One major concern with a zero-carb diet is the potential lack of essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals, commonly found in carbohydrate-containing foods like fruits and vegetables. However, some research shows that our body doesn’t need some of these components, like fiber, and can provide others through supplementation.

Health Implications

While a zero-carb diet can work for short-term weight loss or lead to certain medical benefits, its long-term health effects are not well understood. It is important to consult a healthcare professional before going on a low-carb diet to ensure it aligns with your goals and needs.

We have referred to “low-carb diets” throughout this article, but what are they? There are several variations of zero-carb diets, each with its own specific guidelines and rules. Some well-known zero-carb diets include:

  • Carnivore Diet: The Carnivore Diet is a zero-carb diet that focuses exclusively on animal products, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. How to start a Carnivore diet? It excludes all plant-based foods, including grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. To learn what exactly you can eat, check out the Carnivore Diet Meal Plan.

  • All-Meat Diet: Similar to the Carnivore Diet, the All-Meat Diet (Lion Diet) allows different kinds of meat and eliminates all plant foods. It can include beef, pork, poultry, and seafood.

  • Keto Zero-Carb Diet: While the standard Ketogenic diet (Keto) is not entirely zero-carb, there is a more extreme version called the Keto zero-carb diet, where you need to avoid almost all carbohydrates and consume only a minimal amount of carbs from non-starchy vegetables.

  • Egg Fast: Some people follow an egg-fast diet, consuming mainly eggs for a short period. This method can be considered a zero-carb diet since eggs are very low in carbohydrates.

  • Animal-Based Zero-Carb Diet: This version of a zero-carb diet allows animal-based products, like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, while excluding all plant-based foods, including vegetables.

  • Strict Atkins Induction Phase: The Atkins diet has an initial phase known as the Induction Phase, where carbohydrate intake is limited to around 20-25 grams per day, effectively making it a very low-carb or nearly zero-carb diet.

In addition to these zero-carb diets, there are some low-carb diets you may like to try, as they contain low levels of carbohydrates.

Types of Low-Carb Diets

There are several types of low-carb diets, each with its own approach to carbohydrate restriction. Let’s get to know some popular types of low-carb diets.

  • Ketogenic Diet (Keto): The Ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet designed to induce a state of ketosis, where the body burns fat to provide energy. A Keto diet limits carbohydrate intake to 5-10% of total daily calories. The Keto diet focuses on consuming high amounts of fats, moderate protein, and minimal carbohydrates.

  • Atkins Diet: The Atkins Diet is a four-phase diet plan that starts with a very low-carb induction phase and gradually reintroduces carbohydrates in later phases. It emphasizes protein and fats while restricting carbohydrates, especially in the initial phase.

  • Paleo Diet: The Paleo Diet, aka the Caveman Diet, encourages foods available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. It limits processed foods, grains, legumes, and dairy but allows lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

  • Low-Carb, High-Fat (LCHF) Diet: LCHF diets reduce carbohydrate intake but increase the consumption of healthy fats. These diets prioritize whole foods and have different approaches to carb restrictions.

  • South Beach Diet: The South Beach Diet is a three-phase plan beginning with a low-carb phase and gradually reintroducing carbohydrates. It emphasizes lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.

  • Eco-Atkins Diet: This is a plant-based version of the Atkins Diet, where protein sources come from plant-based foods like tofu, tempeh, and seitan. It still restricts carbs but focuses on plant-based proteins and fats.

  • Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet: Combining elements of the Mediterranean Diet with low-carb principles, this diet emphasizes healthy fats, vegetables, fish, and limited red meat and processed foods while reducing carbohydrates.

  • Low-Carb Vegetarian or Vegan Diet: These variations cater to individuals who follow vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. They involve reducing carbohydrates while focusing on plant-based protein sources and healthy fats.

  • Cyclical Low-Carb Diet: Following this diet, the dieters alternate between periods of low-carb intake and periods of higher-carb intake. This method can be useful for athletes and active individuals who need occasional carb refeeds.

  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): TKD is a variation of the standard Ketogenic diet that allows for strategic carb consumption around workouts to provide energy for exercise performance.


Low-carb diets try to provide health benefits and boost weight loss by restricting the intake of carbohydrates in different foods like sugar, starches, and grains while emphasizing the consumption of healthy fats and protein-rich foods abundant in essential nutrients.

Is a low-carb diet a healthy choice? Numerous studies have revealed that adopting a balanced, low-carb diet can help regulate blood sugar, manage weight, boost cardiovascular well-being, improve cognitive function, and more.

There are various types of low-carb diets with different levels of carbohydrates and other macronutrients. You might wonder: How many carbs should one consume on a low-carb diet? The answer depends on the specific plan, but most low-carb diets generally restrict carb intake to less than 30% to 40% of total daily caloric intake.

While it’s essential to weigh the advantages and potential risks associated with low-carb diets, they can be a viable choice for individuals seeking to reduce hunger, shed extra pounds, and improve their overall well-being.