People are different. What works for one person may not work for the next.

Low-carb diets have received lots of praise in the past, and many people believe them to be a potential solution to some of the world's biggest health problems.

However, the truth is that low-carb isn't for everyone.

Some people don't want to eat low-carb, others don't feel good doing it or simply don't need it.

Also, those who are physically active and do a lot of anaerobic work like sprinting or lifting weights need more carbs in their diet to function optimally.

This article presents a healthy alternative to low-carb diets.

The Context of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a controversial macronutrient.

Some say it’s an essential part of the diet, critical for the brain and should make up more than half of your calorie intake, while others regard it as little more than poison.

As often, the truth depends on context.

People who already are obese, diabetic or show other signs of metabolic disturbances often associated with a Western diet, would probably benefit from eating a low-carb, high-fat diet.

At the very least, evidence suggests that this type of diet is more effective than the low-fat diet still frequently recommended (1, 2, 3).

However, for people without metabolic problems, who are relatively healthy and active, a low-carb diet may be entirely unnecessary.

Though removing all carbs may be necessary to reverse the metabolic dysfunction associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity, avoiding the worst carbs may be enough to prevent these problems in the first place.

Summary Many people with obesity or diabetes may benefit from limiting their carb intake or following a low-carb diet. For healthy individuals, this type of diet may be entirely unnecessary.

Good Carbs, Bad Carbs

Many populations have lived healthy lives as long as they ate real, unprocessed foods, regardless of carb content.

The Okinawans and Kitavans are two examples of populations with high-carb diets and excellent health.

These people remained healthy until modern foods like sugar and refined carbs were introduced.

Several populations in Asia also consumed diets high in carbs, while maintaining exceptional health, at least compared to the average American.

This implies that it’s not the carbs per se that cause problems, but rather the bad carbs, along with the various junk foods that characterize the Western diet.

If you're healthy and active, there's no real reason for you to avoid healthier carb sources like potatoes, fruits and whole grains.

Summary Avoid refined carbs like white flour and sugar. However, for healthy people, there is no compelling reason to avoid unrefined carbs from whole foods.

The Sugar-Free, Wheat-Free Diet

Many people consider sugar and refined wheat flour to be among the worst foods in the human diet.

Some of the health benefits of low-carb and paleo diets stem from the fact that they eliminate these two, along with trans fats and other unhealthy components of processed foods.

The sugar-free, wheat-free diet is comparable to a paleo diet but combined with full-fat dairy and healthier carb sources.

The focus is on quality food — choosing good sources of fat, protein and carbs.

  • Rule #1: Avoid added sugars.
  • Rule #2: Avoid refined wheat.
  • Rule #3: Avoid trans fats.
  • Rule #4: Don't drink calories (no sodas, fruit juices).
  • Rule #5: Eat real, unprocessed foods.

By sticking to these rules, you automatically avoid most sources of refined carbs in your diet.

Summary The sugar-free, wheat-free diet focuses on whole foods and avoids processed foods, especially those containing added sugar, trans fat or refined wheat.

What Foods to Eat

It’s important to choose real, unprocessed foods that resemble something you might find in nature.

Just like before, you can eat meat, fish, eggs, fruits, full-fat dairy products, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

But now you can add healthy carbs into the mix:

  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro, etc.
  • Whole grains: Rice, oats, quinoa, etc.
  • Fruits: Bananas, apples, oranges, pears, berries, etc.
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc.

Though potatoes are out of the question on a low-carb diet and likely a bad choice for those who are carb sensitive, they're otherwise an excellent, highly nutritious and very filling food.

Simply avoid deep-fried potato products like french fries and chips.

Summary There are plenty of whole carb sources to choose from, including potatoes, oats, apples, oranges, berries, broccoli and carrots.

The Bottom Line

For people who are and want to stay healthy, regular exercise and avoiding most processed food is an excellent strategy.

You don’t have to follow a low-carb diet. The sugar-free, wheat-free diet, focuses on whole, real foods, which allows you to maintain your health.

It doesn't get much simpler than that.