What’s more, low-carb diets may be risky for certain groups.
If you’re pregnant or nursing, following a low-carb diet isn’t recommended (barring gestational diabetes, in which case, consult your healthcare team).
“Many women who are pregnant find that the thought of eating protein and fat makes them sick,” says Spritzler. This can be especially common in the first trimester. “They naturally want more carbs. You should always listen to your body,” she says.
Separate from pregnancy, consider your lifestyle. If you’re someone who does intense CrossFit-style workouts, a low-carb diet may not fuel you properly, says Schmidt.
And the things weighing on you matter, too. “Anyone in a stressful state, like a divorce or dealing with a death in the family, needs carbs to support their adrenal system,” she notes.
As for if you’re dealing with health issues, defer to your doctor. For instance, if you have kidney disease, you also want to talk to your doctor about appropriate protein intake. If you have heart disease, you can still go low carb, but you’re best off opting for monounsaturated fats (avocados, nuts, and olive oil) over saturated fats (butter and red meat). Indeed, this holds true for everyone, regardless of heart disease status.
Although there is some data that suggests a low-carb diet that contains more saturated fat than current recommendations did not increase “bad” LDL cholesterol (a risk factor for heart disease), you should still pay attention to the quality of foods in your low-carb diet.
Everyone’s cholesterol levels respond differently on a low-carb diet, so if yours are going up, switch to unsaturated sources of fats, Spritzler recommends. “In general, this is a diet most people can do. If you have a chronic condition, work with a doctor who understands low-carbohydrate diets to monitor you,” she adds.
Last, if you have a history of eating disorders, a low-carb diet (or any eating plan that is restrictive) can be risky, nutrition and mental health experts agree.