Full Review of Leading Low-Carb Diets

Updated on September 20, 2017
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Low carb does not mean tasteless!
Low carb does not mean tasteless!

What is a Low Carb Diet?

There are many diets that are labeled "low carb" and they all work about the same way. The diets have varying degrees of carbohydrate limitation which causes the body to go into a state of ketosis, or fat burning.

All foods are made up of a combination of three things; fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Each is a necessary part of a healthy body but in the past 100 years we have begun to eat, not only way too many carbohydrates, but we eat them in a very refined state. Generally all the nutrition is removed and we are left with calories.

Highly refined carbohydrates drive blood sugar levels up causing the body to make lots of insulin and quickly change the carbs into fat. Stored fat. This is why the low fat trends of the past 20 years have not caused Americans to get thinner. We have seen a continuing climb in obesity among adults and it is beginning to affect children.

With a low carb diet, then, the carbohydrate intake is restricted, especially the refined carbohydrate intake, while the protein intake is generally unlimited. Various diets have various levels of fat intake that are allowable. Because the body does not turn protein into stored fat it begins to burn calories and people an lose several pounds in the first stage of weight loss- usually about 10% of their body weight. This means that if you start at 160 lbs you can expect to lose between 10-16 lbs in 14 days. Some of this will be water.

As you move through the various stages of the diet carbs will be slowly added back in and weight loss will begin to slow. You can probably expect and average weight loss of 2-3 lbs a week after the first two weeks.

The problem is often one of cravings. It is difficult to cut carbohydrates out of your diet and easy to allow yourself to get hungry and grab for a doughnut. You will need a plan to help you through your cravings.

Following are the top low carb diet plans and a brief overview of each.

Cavemen ate quite differently than we do.Image: Calorielab.com
Cavemen ate quite differently than we do.Image: Calorielab.com

Paleolithic Diet

The Paleolithic diet is based on eating only what early, primitive man would have had the opportunity to eat. There are a couple of books out there but the basic diet is the same.

Assuming that early man ate only what he could gather from the wild the diet is very restricted, allowing only about one-fourth of what Americans typically eat. Organic foods are stressed as early man would not have had the chemicals in his food.

The allowable foods are:

  • Meat
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Honey in very restricted amounts

Not allowed:

  • Dairy
  • Starches (corn, wheat, rice)
  • Legumes (dried beans and peas)
  • Processed foods, sugar or artificial sweeteners

Basically, if a human could catch it or pick it from a plant and eat it without processing it is o.k. for you to eat.

You only eat when you are hungry, and while you don't count calories the proponents stress that calories do count. Weight loss is rapid the first week or two, as on any low carb regime, and then slows to a more normal rate.

Sugar cravings and carb cravings may happen but lessen in a few days if you don't give in to them.

This is a lifestyle, not a short-term weight loss diet. You lose weight because your body does not have the insulin spikes that it has when you are eating processed foods. You are allowed more variety of vegetables and fruit from the very start on this diet, which is easier for some people, although overall this is one of the most restricted diets there is.

Typical Breakfast Menu

  • Pork chop or chicken breast
  • Whole, raw carrots

The Protein Power Diet

The protein power diet was created by the Eades. It is very similar to the paleo diet but the protein levels are based on figuring out the amount of protein you need for your height and weight as well as your activity level.

You are allowed 20-40 grams of carbohydrates per day even in the early stages of the diet. Fats are unlimited. Calories are not counted. Like Atkins there are three phases of the diet with the earliest phase being the most intense.

Allowable foods:

  • All meats, poultry, and fish
  • Eggs, cheese, dairy products (the dairy products contain some carbs so you must keep track of them)
  • All vegetables except starchy ones like potatoes.
  • Fruit
  • Nuts and seeds

Foods Not Allowed :

  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes and some squashes
  • Anything with a high sugar content like sweet sauces, syrups, candy, ice cream, high-sugar fruits like pineapples and mangoes

Typical Breakfast Menu

  • 1/2 grapefruit
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 sausages
  • small coffee w/ whipped cream

The Protein Power food pyramid. Image:fieldsj.tripod.com
The Protein Power food pyramid. Image:fieldsj.tripod.com
Courteney Cox is a good example of how well the Carbohydrate Addict's Diet works.
Courteney Cox is a good example of how well the Carbohydrate Addict's Diet works.

The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet

Dr.s Richard and Rachael Heller came up with the Carb Addict's Diet based on the theory that overweight people might be addicted to carbohydrates and unable to stop eating once they started, much like an alcoholic.

They do not believe that all carbs are bad or that they should be totally eliminated from the diet but believe that by eating tow low carb meals and one meal in which you can have whatever you like the carb cravings will be controlled and you will be free to eat in a healthy way.

The advantages are, of course, that you don't have to give up your favorite foods at all, only limit them to one hour a day.

Typical Breakfast Menu

  • Western omelet
  • Bacon
  • Coffee or tea

Remember, though, you get one meal a day where you can eat whatever.

You can buy frozen meals specifically for the South Beach Diet
You can buy frozen meals specifically for the South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet was created by yet another cardiologist, Dr.Arthur Agatston. It is similar to Atkins in that it is done in three phases, with the first phase being the most strict.

Agatston promised that dieters can expect to lose between eight and twelve pounds in the first two weeks of the diet, the strict phase.

Phase one limits fats as well as carbs. Because soy substitutes are allowable vegetarians and vegans can use this diet easily.

Another benefit to the South Beach Diet is that it is so popular that you can buy frozen prepared meals and foods specifically for the South Beach Diet Program at the local grocer.

Allowable Foods:

  • Very lean beef (90/10 ground beef for example)
  • Fat free cheeses
  • Eggs
  • Lamb
  • Meat substitutes made from soy such as tempeh and tofu
  • Skinless turkey and chicken breast
  • All vegetables except starchy ones

Foods Not Allowed:

  • Fruits
  • All starchy foods
  • Beets and carrots
  • Limit caffeine intake

Typical Breakfast Menu

  • Two eggs scrambled with fresh herbs and mushrooms
  • Two slices grilled lean bacon
  • Small glass of tomato juice
  • Decaf coffee or tea

Rosedale Diet

The Rosedale Diet is low carb/low protein/somewhat high fat. You cannot just eat any fat however, the emphasis is on healthy, unsaturated fats.

The premise of this higher fat diet is that it will help to control the level of leptins in the body and in turn, will help control the appetite. The allowable carbs are high in fiber and very low in carbohydrate. The emphasis is on organic and hormone free foods.

Interestingly while Dr.Rosedale suggests 15-20 minutes a day of moderate exercise he eschews high-intensity workouts, saying that they can lead to stress in the body and the release of hormones that actually discourage weight loss.

You can expect to lose about 5 lbs in the first week with this diet. Phase one lasts for three weeks.

Typical Breakfast Menu

  • Hard-boiled eggs and Swiss chard

A typical Atkins Dinner. Image:newscientist.com
A typical Atkins Dinner. Image:newscientist.com

Atkins Diet Revolution

Dr. Atkins started it all back in the early 70s with his Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution. The diet then was very different from the new and improved version that is available now.

There are three stages of the lifetime plan. Stage one is induction in which carbohydrate intake is severely limited to 20 grams per day. Proteins and fats are unlimited in quantity. During inductions you can expect to lose ten to fifteen pounds, depending on your body chemistry and make up.

After induction you go on to ongoing weight loss or OWL. This is where you begin to add carbs back into your diet slowly to see which carbs trigger a carb craving, or slow weight loss. This part takes many weeks as you ad carbs back by only five grams a week. A very slow process. Average weight loss during this period is 2-3 pounds a week.

After this you enter the maintenance phase where your body may adjust up or down one or two pounds but you now know how many carbohydrates you can have per day without gaining weight.

Allowable Foods

  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Fish
  • Salad Vegetables
  • Artificial Sweeteners

Vegetables in moderation include:

  • Artichokes
  • Eggplant
  • Tomato
  • Collard Greens
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Leeks
  • Scallions
  • Pumpkin
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Turnips
  • Rhubarb
  • String Beans
  • Wax Beans
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Kale Sauerkraut
  • Chard
  • Cauliflower
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beet
  • Greens
  • Zucchini
  • Summer Squash
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Spaghetti Squash

Remember, you must count your carbs!

Foods that are not allowed:

Pretty much anything else. The off-limits foods will change depending on which portion of the diet you are on. Remember the induction phase lasts for two weeks and is the most difficult portion of the diet.

Sample Breakfast Menu

  • Omelet with cheese, bacon or ham
  • Coffee with sweetener and 1 tbs heavy cream

An Inspiring Atkins Diet Story

High Protein/Low Carb Increases Fertility

Low Carb Diets Work

The truth is that Low Carb Diets work if you stick with them consistently and follow them carefully. The "unhealthy" portion of the diet usually only lasts a short time.

When on a low carb diet it is especially important that you drink lots of water, as recommended and take vitamins. The water helps to flush your system out and keeps toxins from building up.

Most low carb diets are similar. Looks at the various foods and requirements and decide for yourself which is right for you. Get an accountability partner and then just start..and keep going. You'll get there eventually if you keep moving ahead and if you don't let setbacks stop you!

Questions & Answers


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      • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

        Marye Audet 

        5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

        I like Arkins

      • profile image


        5 years ago

        Marye, which one would you say is the best in terms of speed of losing fat???

      • FitnessMarkLorie profile image


        6 years ago from Longs, SC

        A true low-carb diet for me involves avoiding starches and anything with white flour, and making sure all my carbs come from vegetables and whole grains!

      • WeightLossSurvey profile image


        7 years ago from San Diego, Ca.

        Excellent article!..thanks!

      • profile image


        7 years ago


        Thanks for the sharing. It is very insightful and interesting to know that a low carb diet is not just a low carb diet. It comes with health benefits too. Liking it so much ^_^

      • profile image

        low carb help 

        7 years ago

        Wow, this is one of the best summaries of low carb diets I have seen. I hope everyone considering thie way of eating will read.

      • mattyw profile image


        7 years ago

        Just a quick suggestion, I've looked into quite a few of the different low carb options out there, and the most compelling I've found are:



        and Gary Taubes book - Good Calories, Bad Calories.

        The book is much more of a look at the negative health effects that our current nutrtional wisdom (i.e. low-fat, low-cholesterol)may be inflicting on us. Excellent and informative read.

      • adorababy profile image


        8 years ago from Syracuse, NY

        I think that the thing to remember about different diets is that one does not necessarily work for all. So, if you find the one that best works for you and the one that gives you the best results without compromising health, then you should stick to that one.

      • LowCarb Lowdown profile image

        LowCarb Lowdown 

        8 years ago

        Great Hub! Lots of info! The comparison of the different Low Carb diets will certainly help anyone who is considering Low Carb dieting for their weight loss!

      • Betty Reid profile image

        Betty Reid 

        8 years ago from Texas

        Interesting comparison of the diets. I have a friend on the Paleo diet and relatives on the Atkins diet. I was especially interested in the way you addressed dairy and fats, since those seem to be the main differences.

      • michaelwilds profile image


        9 years ago

        Thanks for the great hub.


        A recovering carb-o-holic

      • profile image

        Low Calorie Diet 

        9 years ago

        I enjoyed reading your information

      • mrs know it all profile image

        mrs know it all 

        9 years ago from The Windy City Suburbs

        I really enjoyed this hub because I have experimented with three of the diets that you talk about and have been contemplating doing another. All of them were successful, except that I eventually returned to old habits. So like anything else, you have to stick to it. Thanks for valuable information.

      • bgamall profile image

        Gary Anderson 

        9 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

        Great hub. Avoid overdoing the meat though. That can really be bad for kidneys. A warning! But in moderation these can work well.

      • profile image

        Adrianna B 

        9 years ago

        Thanks for sharing the information. Your research work is excellent. Keep it up!

      • sdorrian profile image


        10 years ago from Chicago

        Thanks for an awesome and informative Hub! Your comparison of different types of low carb diets (or lifestyles) is concise and informative. Thanks for doing the research for the rest of us!

      • gabriella05 profile image


        10 years ago from Oldham

        All the goodies that I like

        Thank you for the good information

      • profile image


        10 years ago

        nice hub,Keep writing

      • MrMarmalade profile image


        10 years ago from Sydney

        You have made even local look and smell great thank you


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