What is a Carbohydrate-Free Diet?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A carbohydrate-free diet is a diet during which zero carbohydrates are consumed. This kind of diet is nearly impossible to maintain because most of the truly carbohydrate-free foods are proteins. Living on only fish, poultry, meat, and other seafood is not sustainable. What is sustainable is making these carbohydrate-free foods a large part of one's diet in order to maintain a diet that is low in carbohydrates.

Bread isn't the only food that contains carbohydrates, as foods like kale, broccoli, and spinach do as well.
Bread isn't the only food that contains carbohydrates, as foods like kale, broccoli, and spinach do as well.

The problem with a carbohydrate-free diet is that many foods that are especially healthy and low in calories do still include some carbohydrates. Leafy green vegetables such as kale, lettuce, broccoli, and spinach, all of which are recommended as incredibly healthy foods, do include some amount of carbohydrates. The same is true for healthy fruits such as blueberries, pomegranates, and citrus fruits. To maintain an entirely carbohydrate-free diet, all of these foods that healthy and full of vitamins and nutrients would have to be avoided.

Living on only protein is not possible.
Living on only protein is not possible.

Another problem with a carbohydrate-free diet is that it includes very little dietary fiber, which is important for the health of the digestive tract. Fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Foods that are high in fiber such as oatmeal, rye bread, corn, and black beans are all foods that contain carbohydrates. While these foods should not be eaten in large quantities, they are important sources of fiber.

Kale is considered a healthy food, but like other leafy vegetables, it does include some carbohydrates.
Kale is considered a healthy food, but like other leafy vegetables, it does include some carbohydrates.

Instead of trying to do the impossible and stick to a carbohydrate-free diet, most people in the fields of medicine, fitness, and nutrition would recommend a diet that is low in carbohydrates. This kind of diet would include lots of lean meats and vegetables, limited portions of foods that are heavy in carbohydrates such as pastries and starchy vegetables. A low-carbohydrate diet would also seriously limit refined sugar intake. Although carbohydrates in large quantities can be harmful and lead to weight gain, obesity, and even diabetes, they are a necessary part of a healthy diet and should not be avoided altogether.

Most diets, even those that claim to be a carbohydrate free diet, do include some foods that include at least a small amount of carbohydrates. This is because with no carbohydrates whatsoever a diet is too extreme with protein as the only source of nutrition. Ingesting only protein is not healthy and, although it may cause weight loss, can lead to other serious health conditions such as malnutrition and high levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Carbohydrates in large quantities can be harmful and may lead to obesity.
Carbohydrates in large quantities can be harmful and may lead to obesity.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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