We’re giving you the low down on low-carb.
A pasta dish in a grey bowl on a light blue tablecloth with a little bowl filled with basil next to it.

Antipasto Chicken Pasta, a recipe from our new Low-Carb book.

Low-carb isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s been around for so long that people might have forgotten about it. But in a world full of nutrition noise, few diets have undergone the type of rigorous testing and research which still hold true.

With so many variations and options out there, we’re providing a science-based insight into the world of eating low-carb.

You have (low-carb diet) questions, we have answers

What is ‘low-carb’?

Low-carb is often defined as a diet providing less than 130 grams of total carbohydrates per day. In our CSIRO Low-Carb Diet, we’ve classified it as 50-70 grams of good quality unrefined, low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates. This is compared to the average Australian eating 225 grams per day (Australian Bureau of Statistics).

In a low-carb diet, approximately 10-14 per cent of your total energy intake each day comes from carbs and 58 per cent from healthy fats. We also use a higher protein approach across our meals, reaching 25-30 per cent of your total energy needs for the day. They’re a lot of numbers, but essentially it is a low-carb, high protein and healthy fat plan.

Aren’t fats bad for me?

Since the ’70s many of us have been told a low fat, high-carb, low protein diet is best. So you would be forgiven for thinking fats are bad. But over time, research has shown that all fats aren’t equal. Eating foods high in good fats, like avocado, nuts, olive oil and fish, can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Replacing carbohydrates with higher levels of good fat in your meals and diet can also help to improve blood glucose control (blood sugar, defined in the next question) and reduce the level of blood glucose spikes after eating.

Why are too many carbs or sugars bad for me?

The lower amounts of carbs and higher amounts of proteins and healthy fats in the CSIRO Low-Carb Diet helps the system by reducing these big increases in glucose levels so the system doesn’t have to work as hard. People with type 2 diabetes could see a reduction in their blood glucose levels.

How does a higher amount of protein help me?

Part of the reason low-carb diets are effective at helping you lose weight is increasing the amount of protein you eat. This helps control cravings and suppress your appetite. Eating higher amounts of protein also helps to maintain your muscle mass, which gets your metabolism burning more calories. Just like fats, replacing carbohydrates with higher levels of protein in your diet can also help to improve blood glucose control and reduce the level of blood glucose spikes after eating.

Do I still have to exercise?

Ideally exercise combined with the nutrition plan is best. Research shows that the level of physical activity you engage in each week is one of the strongest predictors of losing weight and keeping it off. Exercise can also improve your blood glucose control and health and wellbeing, whether you lose weight or not. But if you can’t exercise, the nutrition plan by itself can still make a big difference.

A recipe card for pita bread pizzas with the ingredients around it.

A sample recipe from our Low-Carb book.

So, what’s the science behind it? Why should you go low-carb?

In 2012 we began one of the most significant clinical trials on low-carb and its effectiveness for weight loss and management of type 2 diabetes. The study ran for two years and included one group of people who were given the CSIRO Low-Carb diet, and another group who were given a more traditional high carbohydrate, low protein, low fat diet that had the same amount of calories. All participants had type 2 diabetes and were either overweight or obese adults. Both groups also participated in the same amount and type of exercise (60 minutes of aerobic and weight training, three times a week).

Year one results

Both groups benefitted from reductions in body fat, blood pressure and blood glucose, and improved their quality of life and mood. However, there were striking differences in several important areas.

The low-carb group saw a reduction in their diabetes medication that was twice as large as the high-carb group. The low-carb group also saw an improvement in their glycaemic stability – the peaks and troughs in blood glucose levels across the day being balanced – by three times compared to the high-carb group. This means greater improvements in blood glucose control and reduced risk of health complications associated with diabetes. The low-carb group also had a larger improvement in good fats (High Density Lipoprotein or HDL for short), and a greater reduction in bad ones (Low Density Lipoprotein LDL). This means a greater reduction in the risk of heart disease.

Health measure Average change in the

Low-Carb Diet group

Average change in the

high-carb group

Diabetes medication needs -40% -20%
Glycaemic variability (high and
low glucose levels)
-30% -10%
Blood triglycerides (bad fats, in millimoles) -0.4 mmol/L -0.01 mmol/L
HDL cholesterol (good fats, in millimoles) +0.1 mmol/L +0.06 mmol/L

Credit: CSIRO Low-Carb Diet Quick and Easy

Year two results

The cover for our new Low carb book with a meal of shredded carrot, salad and vegetables in a tomato based sauce in a white bowl on a grey plate. There is a fork next to it

The cover for our new book, released September 24 2019.

After two years on the assigned diets, the health outcomes remained on par with the results at year one. This showed the low-carb diet was a sustainable and long-term option for weight loss, diabetes control and health improvement

Translating years of research from the lab to the public

After years of research and clinical trials on low-carb eating and its effectiveness for weight loss and the management of type 2 diabetes, we released the first CSIRO Low-Carb Diet in 2017. Following the success of book one, we published book two in 2018 with 80 extra everyday low-carb recipes.

Our third book in the series: The CSIRO Low-Carb Diet Quick and Easy, will be in stores from 24 September. In this edition, we provide an update on the science behind low-carb, including new research on the health benefits of a low-carb diet coupled with exercise.  Designed with a busy lifestyle in mind, the new recipes can be prepared in 30 minutes or less with under 10 ingredients.

We’ve also incorporated some easy to grab and go pre-packed supermarket products into the recipes to make mealtime even simpler. If you’re interested in getting a copy, you can order online.

34 comments

  1. The Carbs reported on Australian Nutritional labels are Net Carbs (that is, the Fibre content has already been deducted from the number reported as Carbohydrate on the panel.

  2. As much as lifestyle changes are important for those with type 2 diabetes, including a good healthy diet, many those who are ‘obese’ are not likely to be doing the type and frequency of exercise as those in the trial groups.

    “Both groups also participated in the same amount and type of exercise (60 minutes of aerobic and weight training, three times a week).

    Lack of exercise is one of the key contributors to obesity along side calorie intake – if you exercise enough you can negate much of the excess calories. The problem is that it often is not the case that those who who have become obese do much exercise at all.

    So it begs the question – where was the third and fourth groups – those that lead a sedentary lifestyle. What positive effects can be achieved on this diet for those groups, if any.

    Lifestyle changes for most, let alone those with type 2 diabetes, are hard at the best of times. For many diabetics making two ‘radical’ changes (diet and exercise) at the same time would be tantamount to failure.

    Like all diets or meal plans – exercise is the proviso that the diet will bring any benefits, but usually in the very fine print.

    ~ Harmony ~

  3. Hi There, I bought your latest low carb recipe book. Love the recipes but just wondering if the carbs listed on th recipes is net carbs or total carbs? Thanks.

    1. Hey Brooke – thanks so much for your message.

      The carbs listed in the recipe book are total carbs.

      Hope this helps!

      Kind regards,
      Kashmi
      Team CSIRO

  4. Find standard keto (less than 20gm carb/day) better for weight loss but you need to take breaks from time to time, so this may be a good inbetween diet. Would like more info on the insulin spiking characteristics of different levels of protein though, including cheeses. On a LCHF diet it’s easy to overdose on meat and cheese proteins and that can undermine the benefits.

  5. Hi there,
    Is this the same recipe booh that is included in the premium Total Wellbeing diet or does it dovetail into that program?
    Regards,
    Kerry

    1. Hi Kerry –

      The books are different. The CSIRO Low Carb Diet is a diet plan lower in carbohydrate and higher in protein and healthy fat which research shows is a highly effective strategy that can produce substantial weight loss and compared to a traditional high carbohydrate low fat diet can magnify the health benefits of weight loss by offering greater improvements in blood glucose control, diabetes medication reduction and improve blood cholesterol profile. This would offer the greatest clinical benefits for people with obesity related health conditions (metabolic syndrome), insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

      They are also different programs and the Low Carb Diet cannot be used interchangeably with the Total Wellbeing Diet. Whilst both are evidence-based effective weight management plans, they are separate plans that offer different value and that you either follow one or the other.

      This is not the book offered with the Total Wellbeing Diet Premium Membership.

      Hope this clears up any confusion. Thanks again for your message.

      Kind regards,
      Kashmi
      Team CSIRO

What do you think?

We love hearing from you, but we have a few guidelines.