How to Get Enough Nutrients on a Lower-Carb Diet

One of the common criticisms of the lower-carb lifestyle is that it doesn’t provide adequate nutrition. Is this really true?

Carbohydrates are not all bad. If we eat the right kinds of carbs, we can improve our fiber intake, nutrient levels, blood glucose and insulin control. When talking about a lower-carb plan, one must define just how low it is. Should be implies that there is a standard—which there isn’t.

Even on the most restrictive (20 grams of carbs allowed) Induction phase of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, there are five servings of fruits and vegetables, meeting the recommended daily intake. (The fruits encouraged on the Induction phase of Atkins are avocado, tomatoes and olives.) None of the low-carb plans suggest eating no carbs whatsoever, as is so often incorrectly stated.

Once you go beyond the initial two-week Induction phase, more fruits and vegetables are recommended. One survey found that people following the Atkins plan were eating far more and better-quality vegetables than before. Compare this with a Journal of Nutrition survey that revealed that only 45 percent of Americans actually eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, French fries, bananas and orange juice accounted for 30 percent of those ingested. While tomatoes are low in carbohydrate and have vitamin C, lycopene and fiber, these other foods are high in glycemic response or low in nutrients.

Fiber Still Key to Diet

Although there is controversy whether some benefits of fiber have been overstated, it is still essential that everyone gets enough fiber in their diet. According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily fiber intake is 21 to 25 grams daily for women; for men, it is 30 to 38 grams.

Fiber is one nutrient that can be problematic during the earlier phases of Atkins or other lower-carb plans. For this reason, a fiber supplement is recommended until you are able to add more vegetables and fruits to your diet. A good multivitamin is recommended for all adults, regardless of diet.

Chromium is a mineral needed for healthy insulin and blood glucose balance. It is thought that 90 percent of Americans are low on chromium. It is lost in the processing of grain foods in particular and is not replaced. Tiny amounts can be found in foods such as beef, cheese, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, barley, clams, scallops and lobster.

Budget Well, My Friend

Use your individual carbohydrate budget well by including vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, legumes and whole grains, as your metabolism will allow. Keep in mind that by replacing refined carbs, you are eating foods that still contain what nature supplies: vitamins, fiber, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants.

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