How do Low Carb Diets Make Insulin Work for You?

The Role of Insulin When on Low Carb Diet

Carbohydrates, insulin, and glucose - we've heard them all, but what do they mean for your diet? Let's start with the basics. When you eat, whether it be protein, fats or carbohydrates, the body breaks the food down into glucose, also known as blood sugar. In response to the rise in blood sugar, the hormone insulin kicks in and stores the sugar in the liver and muscles to be used for energy later.

Carbohydrates are converted to blood sugar more quickly than fat and protein. As a result, insulin rises faster. Insulin remains raised a while after it has put all the blood sugar in storage. Hence you can eat a huge meal and get hungry a few hours later. Insulin has done its duty, but it's still in the blood stream, urging you to eat more so it has more sugar to squirrel away.

The result is that you eat more, and insulin stores even more sugar for later use. Unfortunately, the body first uses its stores of sugar for energy. If insulin is constantly replenishing these energy supplies, the body will never get to the fat stores we'd like to keep down. An important step, then, in losing weight is to give insulin less sugar.

Herein lie the benefits of low carb diets. By reducing carbohydrates, you can better control your insulin response. Because fats and protein take longer to digest, blood sugar rises more slowly and the insulin doesn't spike so high. Even when it is still lagging in the blood stream, waiting for more work to do, you will feel less hungry because there is less of it. Controlling carbohydrates isn't just about eating less sugar; it helps you control insulin levels so you reduce cravings.

There are different varieties of low carb diets. Generally, a diet is considered low carb when carbohydrates make up 25% to 40% of daily intake and very low carb when the percentage is below 25%. Talk with your doctor about what is right for your health needs.

Foods good for a healthful low carb diet include sunflower, pumpkin and squash seeds; nuts; lean meat such as chicken and turkey; vegetables, low-sugar fruit like raspberries, cranberries, blackberries and peppers; cheese, eggs and moderate amounts of complex carbohydrates. Low carb replacements of your favorite foods are also available. Make a hearty sandwich using bread made with flax. Instead of adding rice to stews and soup, try quinoa, a seed very high in protein.

Low carb diets however are not a license to indulge in high-fat, low-nutrient options like fried pork rind and bacon. Just because a food doesn't make your insulin spike doesn't mean it's healthful. If it's a heart attack waiting to happen, it shouldn't be a regular part of your diet.

Moderating your intake of carbohydrates is the first step to a healthier weight and lifestyle. Take a trip to your local health food store and see what kind of delicious variety a low carb diet can provide.