No Carbohydrate Diet: What is it? How does it work? History, Examples, Warnings and Potential Benefits

Take a moment and imagine cutting your carbohydrate intake by 90 percent. It sounds incredibly challenging, but it is still possible.

Imagine following a diet without carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, legumes, baked goods, sweets, and fruits and vegetables.

For many, ​​a low-carb diet, let alone a diet without carbohydrates, probably seems like a cruel form of torture.

Unlike the high-carbohydrate and sugar-addicted diets that most people in the industrialized nations consume today, diets without carbohydrates tend to cause rapid weight loss by reducing foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables. Sweeteners

Cutting these sources of carbohydrates from your diet changes the type of macronutrients your body uses as fuel.

Each carbohydrate / low-carb diet is a little different. Still, it drastically reduces glucose (sugar) intake throughout several phases, resulting in a diet that maintains carbohydrates at about 20-50 net grams or even less up to date.

Some people who follow a diet almost free of carbohydrates consume up to 80 percent to 95 percent of their total calories from fats and proteins, especially from oil and more fatty cuts of meat and butter.


Although it is tough to eat alongside carbohydrates for a prolonged period when done in the short term and healthy, low carb diets can benefit the right people.

Carbohydrate-reduced diets, including the ketogenic diet, have well-documented health benefits, including helping to treat seizures or epilepsyobesity, dependence on sugar for energy, and common risk factors for diabetes. / or the metabolic syndrome.

While the study results are mixed in general, some extensive studies have found that low-carbohydrate diets tend to be more effective for short-term weight loss than low-fat diets.

Moreover, in general terms, the lower the carbohydrate diet, the more likely it results in very rapid weight loss, especially for those who struggle with obesity.

On the other hand, carbohydrates are necessary for more than energy: they also give us fiber and are found in plant foods that contain essential nutrients, such as antioxidants.

Studies show that low-carbohydrate diets result in improved weight loss and health markers, and almost everyone knows someone who has successfully tried it.

History of the diet without carbohydrates

Dozens of different diets that are very low in carbohydrates have gained the attention of researchers and dieters in recent decades.

Diets without carbohydrates, such as the ketogenic diet, were initially designed for patients with epilepsy by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. It was discovered that carbohydrate reduction and fasting helped improve the number of seizures patients had.

Many studies have shown that the ketogenic diet has been linked to benefits such as protection against Alzheimer’s disease and reduced insulin-related disorders (such as polycystic ovary syndrome or diabetes).

In the 1990s, low-carbohydrate diets became famous for weight loss when Dr. Robert Atkin published his book “Dr. New dietary revolution of Atkins. “

Surveys show that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, in the United States, up to 18 percent of the adult population used a type of low-carbohydrate diet or another at the peak of their popularity to lose weight. Weight.

Since then, dietary theories such as the Paleo diet, which reduce foods such as sugar and cereals, have reversed the mania of the low-carbohydrate diet.

The Paleo diet is now one of the most popular diets globally, while the ketogenic diet (commonly along with intermittent fasting) also continues to gain notoriety.

What is a diet without carbohydrates? Is it possible?

Although it is comparable to the ketogenic diet, a diet that severely limits carbohydrate intake and focuses on healthy sources of fat and protein, a carbohydrate-free diet eliminates carbohydrate intake.

Even foods with small amounts of carbohydrates are prohibited in this restrictive diet.

While it may have health benefits similar to low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets, it also comes with a different set of risks and challenges and must be done with great care to avoid adverse side effects.

There is a good chance you have heard of low-carb diets like the Atkins diet or the ketogenic diet. These diets tend to be high in fats and proteins but low in carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and starches.

The carbohydrate-free diet plan takes this concept one step further, eliminating all foods that contain carbohydrates and filling the diet with protein and fat exclusively.

This means that you eat many meat and fat and do not have fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or sweets.

This is because carbohydrates are found in almost all foods, even if only small amounts are involved. While there are vegetables low in carbohydrates, there are no vegetables without carbohydrates that are entirely free of carbohydrates.

Although theoretically, you can eat very close to no carbohydrates, such as eating only things like meat, oils, or lard, this is not exactly a very healthy way to eat.

Most diets that are very low in carbohydrates include at least some plants for fiber and essential nutrients, emphasizing the weakest carbohydrates such as leafy greens or broccoli.

Unlike most weight-loss diets that are usually based on calorie counting and strict portion control, diets without carbohydrates result in weight loss by focusing primarily on reducing foods that contain carbohydrates.

Most people care more about “net carbs” than total carbohydrates, considering the fiber a food has.

Since fiber is not considered for net grams of carbohydrates (the net carbohydrates are the number of carbohydrates left when fiber grams are subtracted from total carbohydrates), you can eat as much fiber as you want from vegetables without starch. you keep carbohydrates at around 5 percent total and lower calories

Eating lots of low-carb vegetables will fill it and keep it consuming less than 20-50 grams of net carbohydrates per day.

Some carbohydrate sources that are restricted in a carbohydrate-free diet include (but are not limited to):

  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.
  • Legumes, including beans, peas, and peanuts.
  • Grains, such as pasta, bread, rice, and oats.
  • Dairy products.
  • Sugar and sugary drinks such as soda or juice.
  • Condiments such as ketchup, salad dressing, or sauces.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Cookies and chips.
  • Cakes, cookies, and sweets

How does a low-carb diet work?

Here is how carbohydrate digestion and fat burning work to help you understand the benefits and potential risks of carbohydrate-free diets.

Research suggests that those who lose weight while reducing carbohydrates are likely to consume fewer calories and feel full due to adequate protein and fat intake.

Proteins and healthy fats tend to be very satisfying, killing most sugar/carbohydrate cravings.

Another reason diets without carbohydrates improve weight loss is the possibility of entering “ketosis,” which means changing the body to the mode of burning fat instead of burning glucose.

It is often necessary to restrict carbohydrates to less than 20 grams per day to enter ketosis, which causes ketones (substances that are left when the body burns fat) to accumulate in the body.

Ketosis can be beneficial in some cases, but it can also have side effects, such as nausea, headaches, mental and physical fatigue, and bad breath.

Ketosis is the opposite of when you eat foods high in carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates cause an increase in blood glucose levels (glucose is the product of digestion and assimilation of carbohydrates), which causes the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin is the hormone that allows cells to take glucose into the blood for energy.

Insulin essentially helps cleanse the blood of extra glucose and keep the body in homeostasis.

When there is more glucose present than the cells need, which is often the case, considering that they do not need an unlimited amount of energy, the excess glucose is converted into glycogen to be stored in the liver and muscle cells. The reserved glucose is waiting for its future use.

When there is still an excess available, the rest is converted into fat and stored around the body. Ketosis essentially breaks this cycle.

Why would someone choose a diet that is very low in carbohydrates / without carbohydrates?

Most people who try these diets seek to achieve several goals:

  • Lose weight quickly (such as going into “ketosis”).
  • Reduce dependence on refined wheat or cereals to change their general eating habits.
  • Normalize markers such as blood sugar or cholesterol levels.

However, not all low-carb diets emphasize eating alone or unprocessed foods, which is an important area where my opinion differs.

The basics of a low carb diet

While a deficient carb diet can help you achieve some of the benefits mentioned above, it is very likely to work for more than a few weeks if you enjoy foods that are very low in carbohydrates (e.g., meats and oils). ).

Examples of healthy low carb foods and foods without carbohydrates include:

Organic and grazed beef, pork, turkey, and chicken—past eggs of chicken, turkey, etc.

Fish and seafood (we recommend fish caught in the wild and avoid seafood, such as shrimp). Good options are salmon, haddock, or trout.

Organic or unrefined coconut oil, grape seed, walnut, avocado, and olive oil. Butter and lard.

Hard cheese, butter, sour cream, and thick cream (we recommend eating grass and organic, ideally made with raw milk). Approved cheese products include blue cheese, cheddar cheese, goat, feta cheese, Swiss cheese, parmesan cheese, and American cheese.

Herbs and spices, such as curry powder, cinnamon, thyme, cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, chili powder, five spices in powder, dijon mustard, parsley, oregano, basil, tarragon, black pepper, garlic (whole or ground).

Non-starchy vegetables (low in carbohydrates) include spinach, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green beans, cabbage, cabbage, canned cucumber, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, broccoli, peppers, lettuce, and asparagus.

Other sweeter vegetables have more carbohydrates, but they can still be healthy. These include tomatoes, zucchini or eggplant, squash, peppers, carrots, etc. Water, tea, and coffee are virtually free of carbohydrates.

On the other hand, limiting the foods below is essential to keep carbohydrate intake very low.

All grains (including wheat, barley, oats, rice, and other whole grains). This includes all foods made with grain flour, such as bread, cakes, cookies, chips, cereals, muffins, pasta, etc.

Sugar and foods that contain artificial sweeteners or added (honey, cane sugar, coconut sugar, etc.)

Most fruits and commercial fruit juices (the juice is high in sugar, except lime or lemon juice).

Most prepared condiments, sauces, or package mixes, tend to be high in sugar.

Most dairy products contain milk, yogurt, ricotta, or cottage cheese. High-fat and low-carb cheeses are allowed because they have very few carbohydrates.

Alcohol, soft drinks, and other sugary drinks. To keep synthetic ingredients out of your diet, I recommend avoiding “diet” or light foods that reduce fat and artificial ingredients.

These products are usually made with additional thickeners, emulsifiers, or artificial sweeteners to compensate for fat loss.

Although they are not rich in carbohydrates, you would also avoid foods made with trans fats or hydrogenated oils, which include most junk foods or fast foods/fries.


Most people can safely start any type of low-carb diet immediately. However, in the following three situations, you may need additional preparation or adaptation:

  • Are you taking medication for diabetes, p. insulin?
  • Do you take medicines for high blood pressure?
  • Are you breastfeeding?

If you are not in these groups, you are ready to follow a low-carb diet.

What to eat on a low carb diet

In this section, you can learn exactly what to eat with low carbohydrates, whether you prefer visual guides, detailed food lists, delicious recipes, or a simple guide to get started.

Let’s start with a quick visual guide to low carb. These primary food groups can eat as much as they want until they are satisfied.


You probably do not need to eat so many low carbohydrates, as you will feel full longer.

However, if you want something immediately, you could have cheese, nuts, sausages, or eggs. There are many incredible options.


There are good and bad low carbohydrate options: you will surely want to get away from the “low carb” bread of the store!

How to eat more fat:

The fat is abundant and a surprising flavor enhancer.

Tip:  Eat enough good fat to feel satisfied and not be hungry.

Avoid special products:

Low-carbohydrate products such as chocolate, sweets, pasta, and bread often use deceptive marketing while it is junk food.

Try to avoid:

This is what you should not eat with low carbohydrates: foods full of sugar and starch.

Potential benefits of this diet

Why would you consider eating fewer carbohydrates? There are many potential benefits, proven by science and experience.

Most people start eating fewer carbohydrates to lose weight, a well-known and often highly effective method. However, many people continue to eat low carbs more often because of the consequential effects on health.

A low-carb diet can help in the reversal of type 2 diabetes. Low-carbohydrate diets can normalize blood sugar and reverse type 2 diabetes.

A low carbohydrate diet can also be beneficial in managing type 1 diabetes. Low carbohydrates can result in a calmer stomach, less (or no) gas, less cramping, pain, etc.

This is the main benefit for some people, and it usually only takes a day or two to experience it.

Reduce sugar cravings. Low carbohydrates usually reduce and sometimes even eliminate cravings for sweets-

The above benefits are widespread. Did you know that low levels of carbohydrates can often normalize blood pressure, produce less acne, control migraine and epilepsy, and much more?

Although not all people react positively to ketosis or a diet without carbohydrates, research shows that those who are good candidates can experience the following health benefits.

Rapid weight loss Satiety improved by eating or hunger and reduced cravings (especially for sweets).

Better control over insulin spikes and blood sugar (glucose). This can be especially beneficial for prediabetics or diabetics, although low-carbohydrate diets are not the only way to reduce diabetes risk factors.

Neuroprotective effects and better cognitive performance include less brain fog or energy falls, better memory in the elderly, and reduction of the symptoms of epilepsy.

Sometimes, better sleep, less muscle pain or weakness, and more energy. Reduction of bone loss or osteoporosis.

In athletes, possible favorable changes in body mass and body composition and increased relative values ​​of maximum oxygen uptake and oxygen consumption at the lactate threshold.

In some cases, lower risk of cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome, including normalization factors such as high blood sugar or unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Sometimes even substantial reductions in body fat are widespread when consuming a deficient carbohydrate diet. The reason why this happens is due to the effects of lowering glucose, as described above.

Once the glucose in carbohydrate foods is no longer available for energy, the body will use stored body fat instead, or fat and protein consumed from food.

Eliminating foods such as fruits, starchy vegetables, pasta, and bread from your diet will also cause the body to release less insulin, which helps balance blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes.

While this is very useful, it is not the only way to lose weight or improve things like blood sugar and cholesterol. Research shows that almost any diet that helps you achieve a healthier body weight can reduce or even reverse cardiovascular disease / metabolic syndrome risk factors.

Here are more details about the potential benefits of a carbohydrate-free diet:

Promotes weight loss:

If you follow a diet without carbohydrates, you will inevitably lose weight. Although research is limited to diets without specific carbohydrates, several studies have demonstrated the benefits of low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diets in weight loss.

Following a deficient carbohydrate diet with less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day had a more significant impact on long-term weight loss than following a low-fat diet.

In addition, fats and proteins tend to be fuller, which can help reduce hunger and promote satiety.

However, the lack of carbohydrate-free foods is perhaps even more likely to contribute to weight loss in a carbohydrate-free diet plan. You only eat meat and fat in this diet plan and the occasional tea or coffee you pour.

Losing weight is practically inevitable unless you eat coconut oil and butter next to the cup.

It can improve brain health:

Ketogenic diets have been used to treat a variety of conditions throughout history. They have been used to treat epilepsy since at least 500 a. C. and maybe even before.

Especially in children, the ketogenic diet effectively controls seizures with some regimens that limit carbohydrate intake to only a few grams per day.

In addition, some research has found that the ketogenic diet could be a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

However, keep in mind that most current research analyzes ketogenic diets that severely restrict carbohydrates but do not eliminate them. More studies are needed to evaluate the effects of a carbohydrate-free diet plan.

It could help protect against cancer:

Some studies suggest that the ketogenic diet could be beneficial in treating cancer essentially by “starving” the cancer cells from glucose or sugar.

They point out that these cells depend on sugar to survive and can not change and start using fat as energy instead.

A 2014 review hypothesized that a ketogenic diet could cause oxidative stress in cancer cells, which can potentiate the effects of chemotherapy and radiation by increasing their sensitivity to these cancer treatments.

In an animal study, mice with prostate cancer fed a high-fat, non-carbohydrate diet had significantly lower tumor growth than mice fed a traditional western diet.

Of course, more research is needed to understand how a carbohydrate-free diet can affect the long-term development of cancer in humans. Still, these studies show that carbohydrate restriction could be a promising potential approach to cancer treatment.

It can reduce the risk of diabetes:

According to some studies, following a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet can help improve blood sugar control and may reduce the risk of diabetes.

For example, in one study, 28 diabetic patients received a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet for 16 weeks.

Not only did this lower his hemoglobin A1C levels, a measure of average blood sugar over three months, by 16 percent, but most were able to reduce or discontinue diabetes medications.

However, people with diabetes should consult their doctor before making any dietary changes, as it can alter the amount of insulin they need and cause adverse health effects.

It could benefit the health of the heart:

Despite eliminating carbohydrates and eating large amounts of fat, a low carbohydrate / ketogenic diet may help protect the heart and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

One study found that a ketogenic diet for 24 weeks decreased the total and bad cholesterol levels of low-density lipoproteins, as well as triglycerides and at the same time increased the levels of good cholesterol of low-density lipoproteins.

Including only healthy fat sources in your low carb and no carbohydrate diet plan is essential to maintain optimal heart health.

Highly processed vegetable oils, for example, can fit into a diet plan without carbohydrates, but they are proinflammatory and should be limited to a heart-healthy diet.

In addition, most research examines how a low-carbohydrate diet can affect heart health. Still, there is limited evidence of how a diet without carbohydrates could affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Dangers of the diet without carbohydrates (Diets deficient in carbohydrates)

Some research has found that diets without carbohydrates (or similar diets very low in carbohydrates, such as the ketogenic diet) can cause side effects, complications, or worsened symptoms in some people.

Depending on your medical history, age, sex, activity level, body weight, and genetic disposition, you can find a diet without carbohydrates that are very beneficial or difficult to follow and cause-specific adverse reactions.

Considering the potential dangers of diets without carbohydrates, it is generally essential to pay attention to how you feel when changing your diet, including seeking changes in your energy, sleep, moods, strength, and digestion.

This is how you will finally reach the level of carbohydrates in your diet that works best for you personally.

Below are eight possible dangers or symptoms that can be caused by significantly reducing carbohydrates in your diet:

  • Fatigue or lethargy.
  • Problems to exercise due to weakness or loss of interest in being active because you feel tired.
  • Problems with sleep.
  • Digestive problems, such as constipation or diarrhea (usually due to low fiber intake).
  • Acid reflux, gas, and indigestion due to overeating fat and protein, mainly when not enough water is taken, enough salt is obtained, or fiber is consumed.
  • Irritability or mood swings (which can occur when reducing carbohydrate intake, which affects serotonin levels).
  • Bad breath.

When carbohydrates are kept very low for prolonged periods, deficiencies of vitamins or minerals, bone loss, and gastrointestinal disorders are also possible.

Why do these side effects occur at some point?

Ketosis has been shown to have adverse effects in some children, and not even all adults respond to eating the same amount of carbohydrates in the same way.

Because we all have different genetics, metabolisms, and capacities to store more significant amounts of body fat or muscle, it is essential to adapt your diet to your lifestyle, objectives, and needs.

If you try a diet without carbohydrates, do it in phases to help your body adapt to the decreasing glucose levels.

Once you have eaten this way for a short period, you can reintroduce healthy foods in your diet containing carbohydrates, paying particular attention to what foods (and in what amounts) help you maintain your healthy weight versus those that move it away. of your goal

To monitor yourself for adverse reactions, first, consider breaking the carbohydrate dependency cycle by eliminating sources such as sugar when you reduce carbohydrate intake to deficient levels.

Slowly continue to decrease carbohydrates until almost all the carbohydrates in your diet are gone to change your metabolism to depend on carbohydrates/glucose for energy and store body fat.

Then you can do the reverse after several weeks: increase your carbohydrate intake by around five to 10 grams per day for one or two weeks, which will give you time to calculate how many carbohydrates you can tolerate while losing weight, or at least it does not recover.

You can establish between 25-150 grams of net carbohydrates a day or even more if you are active. Again, this will depend on your metabolism and activity level.

While a diet without carbohydrates may have some health benefits, keep in mind that you can get the same benefits through a low-carb or ketogenic diet.

These diets are easier to follow, but they are also much less restrictive and are associated with fewer risks and side effects.

Because carbohydrate-free diet plans eliminate virtually all sources of carbohydrates, including healthy carbohydrates, there is a much higher risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Whole grains, for example, provide B vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin E, while fruits and vegetables contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals that are not found in meats or fats.

It is also essential to meet your caloric needs in this plan. Severe calorie deprivation can cause symptoms such as fatigue, low blood sugar, and loss of muscle mass.

Excessively high protein intake could also worsen kidney function in those with kidney disease. Because a diet without carbohydrates is very high in protein, it is not recommended for people with kidney failure.

In addition, this diet is challenging to maintain and should not be followed for long periods due to the risk of long-term side effects.

People with certain health conditions such as diabetes should consult their doctors before following a diet low in carbohydrates or without carbohydrates. It can affect the doses of medications such as insulin.

Precautions regarding deficient carbohydrate diets

Check with your doctor or health care provider before starting any low-carb diet, especially if you have a health problem that requires monitoring and medications, such as diabetes or heart disease.

As with all dietary plans, it is essential to practice self-awareness if you plan to reduce carbohydrate intake or eliminate glucose/carbohydrate sources drastically.

Controlling your reactions closely and talking to your doctor in advance is especially important if you have a history of being underweight or fatigued.

Deficient carbohydrate diets are more likely to cause adverse reactions for people who tend to be very thin to start, are very active, the elderly, those who have a health problem related to hormones, or anyone with an autoimmune disorder.

Nor should you try a diet without carbohydrates if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The side effects of the carbohydrate-free, low-carbohydrate diet may include low energy, increased cravings, irritability, constipation, digestive problems, and weakness.

It is not recommended to follow a diet without carbohydrates for a prolonged period unless under medical supervision, as it is likely to lead to nutrient deficiencies.

If you have diabetes, you should talk to your doctor before adjusting your carbohydrate intake. Changes in carbohydrate intake can alter the effects of medications such as insulin, and it may be necessary to recalculate the dose.

A diet without carbohydrates is also not recommended for those with kidney disease since excessive intake of protein can cause damage to the kidneys.

If you are interested in reaping the benefits of a low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet on weight loss and health, it is best to try these less restrictive diets, as they are safer and easier to follow.

Listen to your body, and if you experience adverse side effects, talk to your doctor immediately and consider increasing your carbohydrate intake.

Should I follow a diet without carbohydrates or not? Who is suitable?

Following a carbohydrate-free diet plan for two weeks may seem like a daunting task, and even eating only meat and fat for a day or two seems challenging.

Instead of following a carbohydrate-free diet, start by reducing the intake of unhealthy carbohydrates, such as refined grains, junk food, and ultra-processed foods.

Other foods and drinks that make the list of bad carbohydrates include soda, fruit juice, and anything with added sugar.

If you are interested in a low-carb diet plan to lose weight, try gradually decreasing your carbohydrate intake by switching to more healthy fats and proteins instead of carbohydrates.

For the carbohydrates, you eat, make sure they are rich in fiber and essential nutrients. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good options to add to your plate.

You can also try a ketogenic diet, which cuts even more carbohydrates, forcing your body to burn fat to get fuel instead of sugar.

However, following a carbohydrate-free diet is not advisable unless you are medically prescribed for a condition, such as epilepsy.

It is difficult and unsustainable, but a diet without carbohydrates will generate gaps in essential nutrients that could cause adverse health effects.