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Reviewed 5/27/2020

Low-carb diets: True or false?

Low-carb diets are a popular way to lose weight. These eating styles put carbohydrates in the crosshairs and more protein on plates. But it's east to get the wrong idea about carbs. Do you know fact from fiction?

True or false: Low-carb can help you lose weight quickly.

True. However, there are nutritional risks to consider. Carbs are your body's main source of energy. About 45 percent to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from them, experts say. And carb-heavy foods provide fiber and other key nutrients. (Think whole grains, fruits and veggies.) So if you cut carbs, your body might not get the fuel and nutrients it needs.

True or false: The best low-carb diets are those that cut carbs almost completely.

False. Complex, fiber-rich carbs may actually help you eat fewer calories. They're digested more slowly than other carbs, and the fiber helps you feel full longer. These nutritional stars include whole-grain bread and pastas, brown rice, and fruits and veggies. If you want to limit carbs try scaling back on refined grains and added sugars.

True or false: Low-fat and low-carb diets work equally well for weight loss.

False. A head-to-head study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found evidence that low-carb works better. After 12 months, those who watched their carbs lost more weight than those on a low-fat eating plan. But because the study only lasted a year, it's hard to say how effective low-carb diets are in the long term.

True or false: If you're going low-carb, you can eat all the fatty red meat you want.

False. A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods is always a healthful choice. When it comes to protein, try to keep your choices on the leaner side. Skinless poultry and low-fat dairy are good options.

True or false: Whether you reduce your carb intake or not, the best diet is the one you can stick with over time.

True. Some evidence suggest that low-carb eating may lead to rapid weight loss. But can you keep the pounds off? Experts say that's what matters in the long run. The diet you choose should take into account your food preferences too. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can give you great advice when it comes to nutrition, carbs and weight control.

Even with the right nutrition, eating more calories than your burn can lead to weight gain. Do you know how many calories you need each day?

Calculate your calorie needs.

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American College of Physicians; American Heart Association; Hormone Health Network; The Obesity Society; U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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