a lot of South Asian foods include carbohydrate rich foods
Low carb diets are seen as one diet that can help with weight loss.
Since 2002, there have been over 20 human studies on diets. In these studies, the low carbohydrate diets have proven to be most effective.
The advent of the Keto diet has become a major success in helping people lose weight. This diet focuses on low carb and very minimal sugar intake across the food spectrum by limiting specific foods.
Another diet is the Paleo diet is similar but requires higher protein intake and less strict about proportions and specific foods.
All of these focus on simply reducing your carbohydrate intake versus fats and protein.
Not only have low carb diets proven to tackle fat loss but they help with lowering the risk of high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.
The way the diet works is by not adding excessive carbohydrates or sugar to your food. Therefore, your body essentially resorts to using fat already stored in your body.
Usually, our bodies burn carbohydrates for energy. Therefore, reducing the carbs means that the body has to make use of stored fat to create the fuel it needs.
Low carb diets focus on eating fats and protein with fewer carbs. A typical example of a low carb meal is 5% carbs, 25% protein and 70% fats (including saturated and monounsaturated).
You can keep your diet in check by measuring macros (Macronutrients). How much of each food type you need to eat in a day in grams based on your height, weight and calories intake.
A low carb diet requires the elimination of bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, processed foods, cereals and anything else that is high nutritional carbohydrate from your food intake.
For British Asian and Desi people, this is a major challenge, since a lot of South Asian foods include carbohydrate-rich foods as part of their traditional and everyday diet.
DESIblitz brings you some key tips on how to follow a low carb diet with Desi food.
Foods to Avoid
You must aim not to have any of the following foods on a low carb diet:
- Bread, Rice and Pasta – white, brown, wholemeal, pitta, naan, chappati, tandoori roti, tortilla wraps and any other kind of breads. No rice of any kind – white, brown, basmati, long grain and risotto. No pasta of any kind.
- Starchy Vegetables – all kinds of white potatoes, red potatoes, fries, chips, corn (makki), peas, beetroot, parsnips, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots.
- High Sugar Fruits – mangoes, apples, bananas, figs, grapes, cherries, pomegranates, tangerines, pineapple, pears and kiwi.
- Snacks – crisps, tortillas, samosas, pakoras, mathi, Bombay mix, chevda, boondi and all fried snacks.
- Sweets – kheer, vermicelli (sewyian), mithai, halwa, gajjar halwa, sooji, karah, sweetened nuts, chocolate nuts, candy and milk chocolate.
- Sauces and Dressings– do not use bought cooking sauces – make your own. No high in sugar sauces such as ketchup and sweet relishes.
Protein is an essential requirement for a low carb diet. Therefore, it is important to include protein in every meal you have.
Choices are ideally white meats such as chicken and turkey, red meats which should be consumed occasionally, fish and eggs
Nuts are a great part of a low carb diet and good for protein.
Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts are great to add to your meals.
Almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts and peanuts are fine as snacks or to add texture. But avoid Desi favourites, pistachios and cashews. They are very high in carbohydrates.
Eggs are a great start to the day and source for your protein. They can be easily boiled, lightly fried, poached or scrambled.
A great breakfast option is a Desi omelette
Made with a little butter, onions, green chillies (if you like it hot), garnished with paprika, salt and black pepper it is an excellent low cab dish. You can add spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms too.
For tasty Desi meat dishes fried, grilled, tandoori or curried all work well for this diet.
When cooking meat curries remember you cannot have any bread or rice with them. So, make a big salad or a vegetable sabzi to accompany it.
Remember too much protein in a low carb diet is also not a good thing. So, keep it within your daily limit.
For a low-carb or keto diet, you need to eat a variety of non-starchy vegetables. Primarily, those which are grown above ground. These include:
- Non-starch favourites – radishes, sprouts, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, Brussel sprouts, okra, cauliflower, peppers, eggplant, artichokes, onions and mushrooms
- Salad Greens – lettuce, spinach and all cabbages.
- Leafy Greens – Swiss chard or other chard, collard greens, kale and Pak Choy.
- Herbs – basil, parsley, coriander (dhania), garlic (lasan), ginger (adrak) and cumin seeds (jeera).
Make vegetable sabzis, big salads and eat vegetables raw as snacks. Grilled vegetables with masala spices and olive or coconut oil on them are great.
Brocolli, cauliflower and avocado are foods that you should explore to use a lot more in your dishes.
Cauliflower can be used to make a tasty mash as a substitute for potato-based mash.
With sugar being a major enemy in this diet. You are limited to choosing and consuming low sugar fruits. These include:
- Fruits – Lemons, limes, starfruit, rhubarb and watermelon
- Berries – raspberries, blackberries and strawberries
Therefore, the Desi love for fruits like mangoes, bananas, apples, pears and oranges needs to be halted. As these are not typically allowed in a low carb diet.
Do not eat fruits too late at night as well, have them during the day. The earlier in the day, the better.
Definitely do not eat any kind of Desi sweet treats of mithai or ras malai.
Eating fats in a low carb diet is very important as it forms a key aspect of your macros. Typically, 70% of your diet needs to be of fats.
Therefore, understanding the types of fats you can have is important.
Polyunsaturated fats from animal protein and fatty fish are totally acceptable to have in a low carb diet. But avoid processed polyunsaturated fats such as ‘healthy’ margarine spreads.
You are definitely allowed saturated fats such as butter, ghee, coconut oil and lard. Try and buy good quality versions like grass-fed butter, and 100% coconut oil.
Monounsaturated fats are also great for this diet. These include olive oil, avocado oil, MCT oil and macadamia nut oils.
Coconut butter and cocoa butter are also great examples to use for cooking. Peanut butter is great for snacks.
Completely avoid seed oils including soy, corn, and sunflower oils. Avoid trans fats and oils which are processed.
Hydrogenated oils or fats should always be avoided such as margarine.
So, when cooking any Desi dishes such as curries, sabzis, salan and daals, make sure you use the right fats. Use butter, ghee, avocado or coconut oil.
For dairy in your low carb diet, you can include cream, full-fat cottage cheese, sour cream, goats cheese, mascarpone, creme fraiche, feta cheese, hard cheeses, ricotta and greek yoghurt.
Paneer will be a great addition to meals be it fried, baked or grilled. Curries with paneer in them or it added to salads can add the Desi flavour immensely.
Eggs are a great food for this diet. But eating egg yolks is the best.
Mayonnaise is also allowed along with soft cheeses such as mozzarella, brie, blue and monterey jack.
For milk, drink or use plant-based milk in your dishes as these will be low in carbs and sugars. Such as almond and coconut milk. The unsweetened versions are better for you.
Enjoy greek yoghurt with your Desi meal. Use cottage cheese or feta cheese in Desi style salads, use cheddar cheese or brie ain your dishes.
You can have cheddar cheese, cut into little slices for a snack with nuts for example.
Sauces and Accompaniments
You can have sauces that are not high in sugar or made with the wrong oils.
Great Desi choices are raita, homemade chutney with mint, chillies and immli sauce. Be careful of pre-made achaar in jars. Make your own.
Drinks and Beverages
For a low carb diet, water is always your best friend. Drink lots of it and keep hydrated. Still, tap or sparkling it’s all good.
Water with some salt can help to up your electrolytes.
Coffee and tea (black and green) are completely allowed but without normal full-fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk. Use creamers or plant-based milks instead.
One drink that is very popular for low carb diets is butter coffee which is black coffee with a tablespoon of butter and/or MCT oil.
For sweeteners do not use sugar, honey, jaggery, brown sugar or anything similar. Sweeteners you can use include Stevia, sucralose but not Splenda. Liquid versions are better for you.
Stay away completely from fruit juices, soda and pop drinks. Diet sodas are also a no go area.
Broths are good as they contain lots of nutrients and vitamins.
Wine and beer are not allowed as well as they can be high in sugar. Spirits can be consumed but they will slow down weight loss.
Always read the labels on drinks for carbs and sugar content.
A low carb diet alone will not achieve proper weight loss. You need to add some exercise, no matter how little.
Ideally, at least 30 minutes of physical exercise a day such as a brisk walk up to 10,000 steps or at least 3 days in the gym following a good weight loss routine –a mix of cardio and weights, are great.
When you start a low carb diet, it will take time for your body to adjust. Do not expect results too quickly. Give it a few weeks for your body to get used to your new regime of eating.
At times you will crave carbs. This is natural. At those points, avoid reaching out for high carbohydrate snacks or quick fixes to your hunger. Discipline will always go a long way.
The diet will teach you to explore food a lot more. You will find gradually that you will eat less as you started feeling fuller for longer on these foods which can result in the desired weight loss.
So, give the low carb diet a go and you might lose some of those pounds you have not lost with other approaches.