Copyright 2006 Donovan Baldwin
Any diet program is going to have its fans and its detractors. Also, many diet plans may have good points and bad points, and the low carbohydrate diet is no exception.
WHAT IS A LOW CARBOHYDRATE DIET?
First of all, you are going to hear a lot of things called “low carbohydrate”, the most famous of which is the Atkins diet. Other programs which do not claim to be low carb, such as the Nutrisystem weight loss program, and the South Beach diet may find themselves dumped into the “low carb” category because their eating plans either control carb intake or concentrate on “good” carbs…that is, carbohydrates that in essence not only fuel the body, thus providing energy, but which also are less likely to wind up as fat deposits in the body.
As a rule, and as their name implies, low carbohydrate diets generally recommend a higher consumption of protein and fat, with decreases in consumption of carbohydrates. Again, as a rule, these eating plans are going to recommend as much as 70% of daily calorie intake coming from fat, with only 5% to 10% coming from carbohydrates. Additionally, most will recommend eating until you are full, as long as you avoid the high carb foods.
THE BODY NEEDS CARBOHYDRATES
The major purpose of carbohydrates is to fuel the body. They provide the energy needed to make it through the day. For athletes, they are the fuel to make it through marathons, bicycle races, basketball games, and every other sort of athletic endeavor. Carbohydrates are also necessary for the proper function of some organs. However, there are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs.
TWO TYPES OF CARBOHYDRATES:
While no carb is inherently evil, or “bad”, there are many which are not “good” for most of us.
When we talk of bad carbs, we are generally referring to things like high sugar, refined flour foods that are quickly digested and which can be quickly transferred into fat. This is because the glut of carbohydrates signals the body to increase the supply of insulin which in turn tells the body to store the carbs as fat. Sadly, your breakfast bagel and the bag of chips you had with your greasy burger are included in the “bad” carb category.
Good carbs, on the other hand tend to be more “nutrient dense”, and demand more digestion and processing by the body. Sweet potatoes, brown rice, grapefruit, fat-free milk, apples, and other fruits, vegetables, and whole grains cause the blood sugar levels to rise more slowly, thus avoiding the insulin “instructions” to store the calories as fat. Instead, they are gradually used as energy. Additionally, these types of foods tend to have more nutritional value in terms of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber. They also seem to be possibly indicated as being involved in better overall health and longevity as well as the avoidance, at least temporarily, of such debilitating conditions such as heart disease and some cancers.
while many diet plans and weight loss programs counsel in favor of using “good” carbs, there are still low carb diets which demand that all carbs are bad and should be avoided.
DRAWBACKS TO A LOW CARBOHYDRATE DIET
Probably the most evident drawback is that denying oneself an entire class of foods puts the dieter at risk of missing vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, that may have been present in those food sources. Additionally, “good” carbs tend to often be rich in fiber which has been shown to have its own value to health. Obviously, limiting all carbs could deprive the body of the fiber it might need to remain healthy.
LONG TERM AFFECTS OF A LOW CARBOHYDRATE DIET
One thing to remember is that each individual will react to their diet based on a range of factors. Heredity, upbringing, social class, lifestyle, religious persuasion, ethnicity may all have influence on how one reacts to dietary events or changes. Just as a simple example, the ice cream in the freezer is going to be of less consequence to someone who exercises regularly and is physically fit than it is to the average, sedentary, TV watching, potato chip munching member of our modern society. While the physically fit individual may down a huge bowl of ice cream with no obvious ill affects, his or her sedentary neighbor may simply be adding to the fat which has already accumulated on their body.
Since most low carbohydrate diets tend to advise large quantities of protein and fats, the dieter is going to be exposed to greater risk of problems such as gout, or even kidney or heart disease. For this reason, low carb diets sometimes recommend that they only be used for a limited time period and that the dieter go off them from time to time.
THE BEST WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM
It has long been understood that the basic equation of weight loss and weight gain is: take in more calories than you burn, you gain fat…burn more calories than you take in, you lose fat. Each individual is different, but there are some basic tips which will allow anyone to move towards better weight management.
If you have a “weight problem” it is almost certain that you need to increase your activity level. It should not be necessary to become a championship athlete, and it may take a while to “train up” to the level of fitness which will help you burn the calories effectively, but increasing activity is almost certainly a step.
If you have a “weight Problem”, then you almost certainly have an eating problem also. The goal, however is NOT to quit eating or to cut huge chunks of food out of your diet. Rather, you should concentrate on getting a balance in your life, and cut out such empty high carbohydrate foods as sugar, refined flour breads, potato chips and the like. Snacking on “good” carbs can provide energy to get through the day while curbing the body’s desire for more carbs. Eating MORE meals per day, as many as six, but stretching them over the entire day often helps. Heavy meals should be earlier in the day, with breakfast being of great importance.
INSTEAD OF THE LOW CARBOHYDRATE DIET
For good health, eat a balanced diet (supplemented with a multivitamin and mineral supplement if you have any doubt), increase your daily activity, get the rest you need (which really should include at least eight hours of sleep to avoid the effects of cortisol), and try to enjoy life more. You are a good, loveable, worthwhile person no matter what your weight or outward appearance. Start with that and you can’t go wrong.