‘There’s no reason to cut out important nutrients’: One expert rates low-carb diets

First introduced in 2010 by author and lifestyle guru Tim Ferriss, the slow carb diet is seeing a resurgence. Right now on TikTok, videos related to the term “slow carb diet transformation” have more than 28 million views, with many users claiming that the diet helped them lose significant amounts of weight in a short time. But is the slow carb diet really that healthy? We spoke with Stephanie Wells, MS, RD, ACSM-CPT from Thyme to Go Vegan Nutrition Services to know more.

What is the slow carb diet?

In his book The 4 hour body, Ferriss lays out a method he believes can help with fat loss, blood sugar stabilization, and energy. The diet in question prioritizes the consumption of lean proteins, healthy fats and, of course, “slow carbohydrates”.

“‘Slow carbs’ is not a true scientific term, but it’s typically used to describe whole, unprocessed sources of carbohydrates that are high in dietary fiber,” Wells explains. So these are foods like beans, legumes and whole grains. Refined carbohydrates (or “fast carbohydrates”) are not allowed on the slow carb diet. Think, for example, white bread, crackers and white rice.


In addition to whole carbohydrates, the diet is particularly high in animal protein. He recommends that people choose foods such as chicken, beef, eggs, pork, fish and whey powder to increase their protein intake for the day. The slow carb diet also allows a small group of vegetables, such as spinach, asparagus, peas and green beans, as well as fats, such as nuts and olive oil, and herbs and spices. Dairy products and beverages other than calorie-free or low-calorie options such as water and black coffee are not advised.

The theory behind this approach is that limiting food choices to just a handful of options will help people stick to the diet for six days a week. The seventh day is a “madman’s day,” as Wells calls it. “It encourages you to eat all foods in any amount, regardless of how healthy they are,” she explains. “Basically, it’s a cheat day.”

Is the low carb diet healthy?

The vast majority of people who follow the slow-carb diet are doing it to lose weight, and in the short term, it will probably work for most people, says Wells. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. The slow-carb diet allows nutritious foods, such as some vegetables, beans and legumes, but also restricts other nutrient-dense choices, such as fruits and starchy vegetables (this includes foods like sweet potatoes and squash, for example).

“While replacing refined carbs with whole, minimally processed carbs is an effective way to get more fiber, vitamins and minerals, the slow-carb diet takes that idea and turns it into an ultra-restrictive fad diet,” Wells says. .

Wells also notes that the slow-carb approach encourages a binge-eating and food-restriction approach. This may help people lose weight in the short term, but it doesn’t help build long-term healthy eating habits. In fact, research suggests that overly restrictive diets don’t work long-term, as most people who follow rigid food rules will gain weight in the future.

“Whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables contain important nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium and resistant starch and help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, so there is no reason to eliminate them.” – Stephanie Wells, MS, RD, ACSM-CPT

This is largely because diets are often too restrictive to be sustainable. They often don’t allow fun foods or treats, and this also has a knock-on effect on mental health. “For long-lasting weight loss, it’s important to make changes that you enjoy and can maintain for life,” says Wells. “The slow carb diet’s emphasis on a binge-restricting cycle is also a bad idea for mental health and does nothing to foster a healthy relationship with food.”

RELATED: Oprah’s healthy weight loss secret: no restrictions and lots of plants

Can you lose weight without a restrictive diet?

People who want to eat healthier and potentially lose weight should incorporate “a variety of fiber-rich whole carbohydrates into a well-balanced diet,” notes Wells.

Research suggests that, for example, a predominantly whole and plant-based diet, which leaves room for many different foods, including treats and shelf-stable staples, is one of the healthiest ways to eat. In fact, it is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

VegNews.WFPB.Unsplash.EllaOlssonElla Olsson/Unsplash

The Mediterranean approach to eating, which also emphasizes vegetables and makes room for foods like wine and pasta, has also been repeatedly named the healthiest diet by US News and World Report.

“The Mediterranean diet focuses on diet quality rather than a single nutrient or food group,” the publication notes after releasing its 2024 report on healthy diets. “Numerous studies have shown that it reduces the risk of chronic health conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while promoting longevity and improving quality of life.”

If your goal is weight loss, both diets are also associated with fat loss. That’s because both approaches prioritize whole foods, which are nutrient-dense but often lower in calories than processed options.

For more information on how to follow a balanced and wholesome diet, follow our guide here. And you can also find a huge amount of recipes, from desserts to appetizers to tasty dinners, lunches and breakfasts.

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