What is a Low Carb Diet?

Definitions, benefits, and personalized plans

The term “low carbohydrate” can cause confusion. A low-carb dietary pattern has not been defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and its interpretation varies in the scientific literature. However, many experts consider a low-carb diet to be under 130 grams per day, which is consistent with the Dietary Reference Intake for carbohydrates (1). In fact, a strong body of research shows limiting intake to no more than 130 grams per day, or less than ~25% of total daily calories*, promotes a variety of positive metabolic outcomes (2, 3).

Meanwhile, an intake of less than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day is considered “very low carbohydrate,” and most adults enter a state of nutritional ketosis at this level of carb restriction (4). During this state, the body relies primarily on fatty acids and ketone bodies produced from fat stores for energy rather than glucose.