What is a Low-Carb Diet?

  • Feb 19, 2024
  • By Rikke Svartangen
  • 0 Comment

A low-carb diet, put simply, means reducing the amount of carbohydrates you eat by cutting out sugar and starchy foods. And it can benefit you for many, many reasons. 

Maintaining a low-carb diet can lessen the effects of chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, improve your overall health and wellbeing, and help you lose weight.

But where do you start?

We’re going to talk you through what a low-carb diet is, what you can eat…and what you can’t, and explore some of the incredible health benefits this lifestyle change can bring. 

Changing your diet to a low-carb one might seem like a daunting task. 

Reducing the amount of carbs in your diet will almost certainly mean saying goodbye to some of your favourite brands of food and drink, and making adjustments to your familiar daily routine.

But it’s been proven1 that the rewards of changing your lifestyle can vastly outweigh the challenges. And with the help of low-carb food alternatives, you won’t even have to miss out on the dishes you love.

So let’s take a look at how – and why – a low-carb diet could benefit you in the long term…starting today.

The Basics

What are carbs?

Foods are made up of three broad categories known as macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Foods rarely contain only one of these “macros”. They are mostly a combination of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in varying amounts.

a graphic showing examples of food that are high in protein, fat and carbs.

When you eat carbohydrates, they’re broken down into glucose (sugar) before being absorbed into your blood. Glucose is used by your body for energy to fuel your day-to-day activities, whether that’s going for a run or simply breathing. 

From here, unused glucose can be converted to glycogen, which is found in the liver and muscles. If your body creates more glucose than can be stored, it’s ultimately converted to fat for long-term storage.

You’ll see from this simple outline that the more carbohydrates we eat, the more sugar we have in our bodies. And ultimately, the more fat our bodies store. 

Which foods are carbohydrates found in?

Carbohydrates can either be naturally found in food as sugar or starch in foods like fruit, rice and potatoes. Carbohydrates are also artificially added to everyday, processed foods like refined cereals, chocolate bars and sweetened yoghurts.

📝 The Eatwell Guide, an online tool created by the NHS to publicise the government’s recommendations on eating healthily and achieving a balanced diet, currently advises the public to “base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates”2

In fact, carbohydrates and sugar are so much the foundation of our daily diet that they make up 46%3 off all food consumed in the UK.

However, carbohydrates turn into glucose when digested. A diet based on these foods will increase your blood-glucose. This can have serious, long-term health consequences. 

How can carbs affect your health?

Having high blood-glucose levels can lead to weight gain, increase requirements for medications and can be a cause of type 2 diabetes.

illustration of the UK and how much diabetes is costing the NHS


In the UK, obesity directly costs the NHS more than £6 billion per year4, and the treatment of diabetes and its complications account for an estimated £14 billion a year5– that’s almost 10% of the annual NHS budget6. This number is set to double over the next 20 years as the disease affects more and more people nationwide7.


The roots of obesity and type 2 diabetes are firmly embedded in the food that we eat, with diet-related disease now contributing to more disease and death globally than physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol combined8.

Carbs and type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a result of a problem with your body’s insulin. It might be unable to break down glucose properly, or your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to deal with the level of glucose in your blood. 

If our population is actively encouraged to eat a lot of foods that promote insulin secretion, as it is now, it’s likely that more people will develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. 

Yet, even with this seemingly irrefutable logic, you might hear contradictory advice on the subject of carbs and blood-sugar levels. 

Such as the advice from Diabetes UK and NHS websites, which recommend a diet based on starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and potatoes for type 2 diabetics9.

However, as Dr David Unwin asks in his book ‘Diabetes Unpacked’:

If type 2 diabetes is largely about sugar, why should people with diabetes take in ‘concentrated sugar’ that is in starchy foods such as bread, pasta or rice?

On the other hand, a diet that doesn’t rapidly increase blood glucose and doesn’t provide too much carbohydrate to the body will help reduce the risk of worsening insulin resistance. 

More than that, it could actually improve it.

Low-Carb Diets: The Facts

The low-carb diet

The UK’s leading promoter of the low-carb diet is the Public Health Collaboration (PHC), a charity supported by clinicians, nurses, and dieticians.

📝 Their Healthy Eating Guidelines look in greater detail at why government advice on healthy eating could do more damage than good to our health.

As an alternative, the PCH recommends a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet. 

This involves cutting down the amount of carbohydrate in your diet, in foods like bread and baked products, sugar, rice, grains and cereals, potatoes and starchy root vegetables. 

📝 The charity’s Healthy Eating Guidelines also recommends that the carbohydrates you do eat should be from real foods with a carbohydrate density of less than 25% (which is less than 25g carbs per 100g of food)10.

To replace these carbohydrates, you focus on increasing the amount of healthy fats and protein you eat, which can be found in food like meat, fish, dairy products, nuts and eggs11

LCHF for diabetics 

In recent years, a growing number of clinicians, scientists and nutritionists have begun to question whether medication is always the best way to control blood glucose levels. Instead, many have started to recommend a low-carb diet as an alternative.


Dr David Unwin (a Royal College of General Practitioners clinical expert in diabetes, and NHS Innovator of the Year 2016) was a pioneer of this. 

Dr Unwin began to offer his patients the lower-carb diet as an option to starting lifelong medication for type 2 diabetes.

📝 Studying the effects of these diet changes, Unwin found improved HbA1c levels (a patient’s average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last two to three months), other health benefits and a reduction in how much was spent on medication. 

A recent comprehensive review found that a low-carb diet, such as the one recommended by PHC and pioneered by Unwin, is the “single most effective intervention for reducing all of the features of the metabolic syndrome” and should be the first approach in diabetes management12

Studies like this go a long way proving that a low-carb diet can put the majority of type 2 diabetes sufferers back in the driving seat when it comes to managing their condition. 

It can help you to control your blood sugar levels and dramatically reduce the cost of medication and medical complications, which are an inevitable13 consequence of chronic illness. 

LCHF has also gained coverage and approval worldwide from the reputable media agencies and chefs, with BBC documentaries such as The Truth about Carbs‍ and advocates like prominent restaurateur Giancarlo Caldesi, who has launched a cookbook called The Diabetes Weight-loss Cookbook.

LCHF for weight loss

Eating higher amounts of fat might seem like a huge no-no if you’re looking to lose weight. 

There’s no surprise that many people believe that fats are bad. That’s what we’ve alway been – and continue to be – told.

📝 The Eatwell Guide, published by the NHS, is very clear that “Current UK government guidelines advise cutting down on all fats14

However, in a comparison between low-carb and low-fat diets, the Public Health Collaboration found that a low-carb diet is consistently more effective for weight loss. Over periods of 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months, 12 months, 24 months and even longer, a low-carb diet significantly outperforms a low fat-diet15.

Getting Started

How does a low-carb diet work?

Our bodies need fuel to function. We have two options of sources for this energy: sugar or fat. 

The primary source of energy for most people is glucose. When you limit the amount of carbohydrates you eat, your body switches its energy supply from sugar to fat. 

It will use the fat you digest as well as the fat you store, which is why a low-carb diet promotes weight loss as well as lowering insulin levels.

There is no official definition of what qualifies as a low-carb diet.

If you’re using a low-carb diet for weight loss, then it’s recommended that you stay below 50g of carbohydrates per day. If you’re following a keto diet, to reach ketosis you’ll need to reduce this to as little as 20g a day. It’s important to discuss the best choice for you with your GP or specialist.

How to sustain a low-carb diet

The first thing to know about a low-carb diet is that you don’t need to count calories or go hungry. 

All you need to do is cut out sugar and starchy foods, and focus on whole foods that make for a complete, nutritious and filling diet.

It helps to see this less as a restrictive diet and more as a lifestyle change. Our whole ethos is around real food that’s genuinely low on carbohydrates – and genuinely tasty!

One of our most popular staple products is our bread, which contains less than 2% carbohydrates! This means that you can easily follow a low-carb diet and still enjoy your favourite bacon sandwich. 

In an era where we depend on high-carb, pre-prepared food and takeaway food to help us manage our busy lifestyles, maintaining the LCHF diet in practice means preparing everything from scratch in order to be certain of the contents. 

That’s where we come in…

Low-Carb Food Company is built on first-hand experience.

Our founder, Eryl Vaughn, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2009. Being given increasing amounts of medication for a growing list of side-effects, in 2015 Eryl was so debilitated by the disease that he had to stop working.

Determined not to give in, Eryl successfully implemented a low-carb lifestyle to turn his life around

You can hear more about his story in the video below 👇



It’s our aim to help others take charge of their health and follow in Eryl’s footsteps. 

🛒 Our thriving online marketplace is a trustworthy source of products, ingredients, knowledge, recipes and services for anyone interested in reaping the benefits of a low-carb lifestyle.  

How to start your low-carb diet

As with any significant change in life, the beginning of the process can often feel overwhelming.

We’ve created some quick tips that will help you start your low-carb diet today and support you on your journey.

Of course, we always recommend that you speak to your GP or specialist about whether a low-carb diet is the right choice for your individual circumstances, before you start on these 10 steps: 

✅ Quit sugar and drink plenty of water: Although it can seem though at first, try doing it in stages! Sometimes, a stash of low-carb chocolates can be a lifesaver when you get a sudden craving!

✅ Sign up to support groups: Either face to face, or on social media. People love to share advice, recipes and their success stories which is sure to inspire you!

✅ Increase your intake of good fats: This is not another diet where you should go hungry! So increase your good fats to show your body that you're not starving it from its fuel. 

✅ Quit highly processed foods: Highly processed foods are usually filled with sugar!

✅ Your fat intake should be higher than your protein intake, so make sure you keep track of this: This can be tricky at first, as we're so used to hearing that fat is bad for you - so we recommend keeping an eye on this at the beginning of your journey. 

✅ Make sure you are getting enough salt: If you start to experience symptoms of the keto-flu, you might not be getting enough salt!

💻 RELATED: To learn more about keto flu and how to avoid this, read our article 👉 How to Start a Keto Diet 

✅ Learn to cook: Get inspired and learn a few new, quick simple dishes – we have plenty of free recipes available!

✅ Don’t under eat: This is not another diet. Done correctly it can become a way of life.

✅ Listen to your body: Now that sugar is not running the show you should be more attuned to the nutrition it needs.

✅ Get a starter box from us: It includes several staple products that will make beginning your low-carb diet easier, as well as a meal planner and cookbook.


  1. British Medical Journal, “A patient request for some “de-prescribing” available at https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4023 (Accessed on 2 March 2022)
  2. NHS Eat Well Guide available at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/ (Accessed on 2 March 2022)
  3. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition Carbohydrates and Health available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445503/SACN_Carbohydrates_and_Health.pdf (Accessed on 2 March 2022), p256
  4. Department for Public Health Health matters: Obesity and the food environment available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-obesity-and-the-food-environment/health-matters-obesity-and-the-food-environment–2 (Accessed on 2 March 2022)
  5. Diabetes.co.uk The Cost of Diabetes available at https://www.diabetes.co.uk/cost-of-diabetes.html (Accessed on 2 March 2022)
  6. The King’s Fund Key facts and figures available at https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/audio-video/key-facts-figures-nhs (Accessed on 2 March 2022)
  7. www.kcl.ac.uk. (n.d.). Global cost of diabetes set to double by 2030. [online] Available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/spotlight/global-cost-of-diabetes-set-to-double-by-2030. ‌
  8. Ng, Ryan et al. “Smoking, drinking, diet and physical activity-modifiable lifestyle risk factors and their associations with age to first chronic disease.” International journal of epidemiology vol. 49,1 (2020): 113-130. doi:10.1093/ije/dyz078
  9. Diabetes UK I have type 2 diabetes – what can I eat? available at https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/i-have-type-2-diabetes (Accessed on 2 March 2022)
  10. Public Health Collaboration Healthy Eating Guidelines & Weight Loss Advice For The United Kingdom available at https://phcuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Healthy-Eating-Guidelines-Weight-Loss-Advice-For-The-United-Kingdom-Public-Health-Collaboration.pdf (Accessed on 2 March 2022), p.14
  11. Public Health Collaboration Healthy Eating Guidelines & Weight Loss Advice For The United Kingdom available at https://phcuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Healthy-Eating-Guidelines-Weight-Loss-Advice-For-The-United-Kingdom-Public-Health-Collaboration.pdf (Accessed on 2 March 2022), p.16
  12. 23. Feinman RD, Pogozelski WK, Astrup A et al. . Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: critical review and evidence base. Nutrition 2015;31:1–13.
  13. Changing Health. (2018). Diabetes Care: GP Finds Solution To Save Thousands. [online] Available at: https://www.changinghealth.com/diabetes-care-saves-thousands/ [Accessed 3 May 2022]. ‌
  14. ‘Fat: The Facts’, NHS Eat Well Guide available at https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/ (Accessed on 2 March 2022)
  15. Public Health Collaboration Comparing Low-Carb Diets Of Less Than 130g Carbohydrate Per Day To Low-Fat Diets Of Less Than 35% Fat Of Total Calories available at https://phcuk.org/evidence/rcts/ (Accessed on 2 March 2022)


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published