Low-carb dieting has been having a moment, and then some. For years now, women have flocked to diets like Whole30, Paleo, and even a resurgence of Atkins. It’s not without good reason: In the short term, these diets can be effective for those looking to slim down. In the long run, though, they do come with some drawbacks.
Heather Caplan, R.D., a Washington, D.C., sports nutritionist, says the low-carb approach will amount to relatively fast results. “The majority of what we eat is carbohydrate based, so there’s plenty of room to reduce them by cutting out desserts, snacks, and processed foods,” she says. “This will lead to weight loss and feeling good.”
But the approach has its limits, both in terms of weight loss and longer-term health impacts. “Eventually, if you omit all carbohydrates, there are metabolic implications, especially if you omit fat at the same time,” says Ellie Kempton, R.D., owner of Denver-based Simply Nourished. “Even if you choose to emphasize fat and limit carbohydrates, you still need enough carbohydrates to fuel the brain, adrenal glands, and thyroid, all three of which are crucial for energy, sleep, and weight.” (Speed up your progress towards your weight-loss goals with Women's Health's Look Better Naked DVD.)
Both nutritionists are fans of nixing the highly-processed carbs that are common in the American diet. “I teach each and every one of my clients to decrease processed sugar/carb intake,” says Kempton. “My qualm stems from cutting out all carb intake because extreme low-carb weight-loss strategies only work for so long.”
The low-carb approach can do the trick in the short term, but if you’re looking for lasting results—or if you’d like to eat that bowl of whole-wheat pasta—follow the advice of Caplan and Kempton.