Low carb diets have been popular for years. But lately I've been hearing about a zero carb diet, and it has me worried. Depending on what you choose to eat, a no carb diet may be even more restrictive than a keto diet. While there's no precise limit to the grams allowed per day, this approach essentially involves eliminating as much carbohydrate as possible.
Considering that vegetables typically contain 3 to 4 grams of net carb (that's grams of total carb minus grams of fiber) per cup, and an ounce of nuts provides about the same, a truly zero carb goal eliminates more health-protective foods than any other diet.
This approach reminds me of the fat free fad I encountered when I first became a dietitian, in that it pushes a trending philosophy to the extreme. Several years ago, when fat was vilified, I saw clients who became obsessed with avoiding fat at all costs. If something contained even half a gram of fat per serving, they would banish it.
This mentality led to filling the fat void with carbs and sugar, which ultimately led to weight gain and a host of fat deficiency side effects, from dry skin to hormone imbalances.
As with fat, the focus with carbohydrates should be quality and balance, not banishment. It's absolutely true that there are some bad carbs, such as processed grains and refined sugar; but that's just part of the carb story.
Here's an analogy I use with my clients: Some types of workouts can lead to injury. But that being true, it doesn't mean you should avoid working out completely. The goal with exercise is to engage in the right type and amount in order to gain benefits. And the same is true for carbs.
Losing and maintaining a healthy weight and preventing diseases like diabetes doesn't require such extreme carb limits. In fact, the side effects of attempting to eliminate all carbs are very impactful for both quality of life and health.