The LCHF Diet Plan: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide

Low-carb diets can aid weight loss and are linked to a growing number of health benefits.
A reduced carb intake can positively impact those with various health issues, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, acne, PCOS and Alzheimer’s disease (1).
For these reasons, low-carb diets have become popular among those looking to improve their health and lose weight.
The low-carb, high-fat eating plan, or LCHF diet, is promoted as a healthy and safe way to lose weight.
This article reviews everything you need to know about the LCHF diet, including its potential health benefits and drawbacks, foods to eat and avoid and a sample meal plan.

What Is the LCHF Diet?

The LCHF diet is an umbrella term for eating plans that reduce carbs and increase fats.
LCHF diets are low in carbohydrates, high in fats and moderate in protein.
This method of eating is sometimes referred to as the “Banting Diet” or simply “Banting” after William Banting, a British man who popularized it after losing a large amount of weight.
The eating plan emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods like fish, eggs, low-carb vegetables and nuts and discourages highly processed, packaged items.
Added sugar and starchy foods like bread, pasta, potatoes and rice are restricted.
The LCHF diet doesn't have clear standards for macronutrient percentages since it’s more of a lifestyle change.
Daily carb recommendations on this diet can range from under 20 grams up to 100 grams.
However, even those consuming more than 100 grams of carbs per day can follow the diet and be inspired by its principles, as it can be personalized to meet individual needs.
SUMMARYLCHF diets are low in carbs, high in fats and moderate in protein. The diet can be personalized to meet individual needs.
Is the LCHF Diet the Same as the Ketogenic Diet or Atkins Diet?

The Atkins diet and ketogenic diet are low-carb diets that fall under the LCHF umbrella.
Some types of LCHF diets have set restrictions on the number of carbs you can consume.
For example, a standard ketogenic diet typically contains 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs in order to reach ketosis, a state in which the body switches to burning fats for energy instead of carbohydrates (2).
To kick-start weight loss, the two-week induction phase for the Atkins diet only allows for 20 grams of carbs per day. After this phase, dieters can slowly add in more carbohydrates.
While these types of low-carb, high-fat diets are more restrictive, anyone can use the LCHF principles without necessarily following specific guidelines.
Living an LCHF lifestyle without following predetermined guidelines may benefit those who want flexibility with the number of carbs they can consume.
For example, some people may only find success when they reduce their carb intake to under 50 grams per day, while others may do well consuming 100 grams per day.
Since the LCHF diet is adaptable, it may be much easier to follow than more regimented plans like the ketogenic or Atkins diets.
SUMMARYThe LCHF lifestyle promotes reducing the number of carbs that you consume and replacing them with fats. The ketogenic diet and Atkins diet are types of LCHF diets.

The LCHF Diet Can Help You Lose Weight

A number of studies have shown that low-carb, high-fat diets are an effective way to promote weight loss (3, 4, 5).
They help people shed pounds by suppressing appetite, improving insulin sensitivity, increasing protein intake and boosting fat loss (6, 7).
LCHF diets have been found to promote fat loss, especially in the belly area.
Having too much belly fat, particularly around the organs, can increase the risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers (8, 9).
One study found that obese adults who consumed a lower-carb, higher-fat diet for 16 weeks lost more body fat, particularly in the belly area, compared to those following a low-fat diet (10).
The LCHF diet not only boosts short-term fat loss, it also helps keep weight off for good.
A review showed that people who followed very low-carb diets of less than 50 grams of carbs per day achieved significantly greater long-term reductions in weight than people who followed low-fat diets (11).
Another study demonstrated that 88% of participants following a ketogenic diet lost more than 10% of their initial weight and kept it off for one year (12).
The LCHF diet may be a particularly helpful tool for those whose weight-loss goals are sabotaged by strong cravings for carbohydrates.
One study found that participants who followed a very low-carb, high-fat diet had significantly fewer cravings for carbs and starches, compared to participants who followed a low-fat diet.
What’s more, participants who followed the very low-carb, high-fat diet had greater reductions in overall reported hunger (13).
SUMMARYFollowing an LCHF diet is an effective way to lose body fat, reduce carb cravings and decrease overall hunger.
The LCHF Diet May Benefit a Number of Health Conditions

Cutting carbs and increasing dietary fats can improve health in a number of ways, including promoting weight loss and decreasing body fat.
Studies demonstrate that LCHF diets also benefit many health conditions including diabetes, heart disease and neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

A study of obese adults with type 2 diabetes found that a very low-carb, high-fat diet led to greater improvement in blood sugar control and a more substantial reduction in diabetes medication than a high-carb diet (14).
Another study in obese participants with type 2 diabetes showed that following a ketogenic diet for 24 weeks resulted in significant reductions in blood sugar levels and a decreased need for blood sugar medications.
What's more, some of the participants assigned to the ketogenic diet were able to discontinue their diabetes medications completely (15).
Neurological Diseases

The ketogenic diet has long been used as a natural treatment for epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures (16).
Studies show that LCHF diets may play a therapeutic role in other neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.
For example, one study demonstrated that a ketogenic diet led to improved cognitive functioning in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (17).
Plus, diets high in processed carbs and sugar have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline, while low-carb, high-fat diets seem to improve cognitive function (18, 19).
Heart Disease

LCHF diets can help reduce body fat, lower inflammation and improve blood markers related to heart disease.
A study in 55 obese adults found that following an LCHF diet for 12 weeks reduced triglycerides, improved HDL cholesterol and decreased levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation linked to heart disease (20).
LCHF diets have also been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower blood sugar, decrease LDL cholesterol and promote weight loss, all of which can help reduce the risk of heart disease (21).
SUMMARYLCHF diets may benefit those with heart disease, diabetes and neurological conditions like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

Side Effects and Downfalls of the Diet

While evidence links many health benefits to the LCHF diet, there are some drawbacks.
More extreme versions like the ketogenic diet are not suitable for children, teens and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, unless it’s being used therapeutically to treat a medical condition.
People who have diabetes or health conditions like diseases of the kidneys, liver or pancreas should speak with their doctor before beginning an LCHF diet.
Although some studies show that LCHF diets can boost athletic performance in some cases, it may not be suitable for elite athletes, as it can impair athletic performance at competitive levels (22, 23).
Additionally, an LCHF diet may not be appropriate for individuals who are hypersensitive to dietary cholesterol, often referred to as “hyper-responders” (24).
The LCHF diet is generally well tolerated by most but can cause unpleasant side effects in some people, especially in the case of very low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet.
Side effects may include (25):

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia

Constipation is a common issue when first beginning an LCHF diet and typically caused by lack of fiber.
To avoid constipation, make sure to add plenty of non-starchy vegetables to your meals, including greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, peppers, asparagus and celery.
SUMMARYLCHF diets may not be suitable for pregnant women, children and people with certain medical conditions. If you are unsure if the LCHF diet is the right choice for you, seek advice from your doctor.