Although you need at least 130 grams of carbs per day to stay healthy, according to the Institute of Medicine, dropping your current carb intake—when coupled with an increased protein intake--may help you shed excess pounds. Protein helps increase satiety more than carbs or fat, according to an article published in 2008 in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” A study published in 2012 in “Physiology and Behavior,” reports that reduced-calorie weight loss diets are effective because of the high-protein component, not the low-carb component of the diet. However, reducing your carb intake can allow you to increase your protein intake without overeating.
Meat, Poultry and Fish
Grilled or baked, un-breaded lean meat, poultry and fish contain almost no carbohydrates. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory reports that one raw chicken breast without the skin and 3 ounces of raw Atlantic salmon actually contain no carbohydrates at all. But, breading will add some carbs to your menu. Due to the protein content, lean meat, poultry and fish make excellent additions to low-carb, high-protein diets. However, don’t exceed 35 percent of your calorie intake from protein, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Pure fats, such as vegetable oils, are carb-free. Even lard, an unhealthy fat, contains zero carbs. However, other healthy foods rich in fats do contain some carbs -- usually about 5 grams per serving. Examples include nuts, seeds, peanut butter and hummus. These healthy fats are also good sources of dietary protein.
Some Dairy Foods
Milk, yogurt and kefir are carb-rich dairy foods you should consume in moderation when going low-carb. However, cottage, regular and reduced-fat cheeses all contain about 5—or fewer—grams of carbs per serving. For example, the USDA reports that 1 cup of 1 percent, low-fat cottage cheese contains about 6 grams of carbs, and one slice of reduced-fat, provolone cheese provides you with less than 1 gram of carbohydrate. These foods are all rich in protein.
Some vegetables, such as peas, corn and potatoes, are high-carb foods that will significantly boost your carb intake. However, non-starchy vegetables can fill you up without the extra carbs—or calories; they contain about 5 grams of carbs per serving. Examples include leafy greens, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms and cucumbers.
- Physiology and Behavior: Relatively High-Protein or 'Low-Carb' Energy-Restricted Diets for Body Weight Loss and Body Weight Maintenance?
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Protein, Weight Management and Satiety
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 05062, Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Breast, Meat Only, Raw
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 15076, Fish, Salmon, Atlantic, Wild, Raw
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 01016, Cheese, Cottage, Lowfat, 1% Milkfat
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 01208, Cheese, Provolone, Reduced Fat
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.