Monday, November 27, 2006

Low-Carb Diets - An Introduction

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Low-Carb Diets - An Introduction

According to a recent survey by the National Health Institute, about a third of overweight Americans who are trying to lose weight, are doing so by eating less carbohydrates (carbs) largely because of the increased popularity of fad diets like Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet.

Who Invented Low-Carb Diets?

The term "low-carb" was coined around 1992 when the USDA recommended that Americans include six to eleven servings daily of grains and starches in their diet.

In fact, low-carb dieting dates back more than 100 years to 1864, before the trendy Atkins diet, when a pamphlet titled "Letter on Corpulence" was written by William Banting. This was as close to the first commercial low-carb diet as you could get.

Banting's diet eventually fell out of favor, but low-carb diets began appearing again in the 20th century. The most famous of these are the Atkins and Scarsdale diets that came to popularity in the 1970s.

While Scarsdale has a set 14-day meal plan that must be followed and greatly restricts calories, the Atkins diet allows for unlimited calorie consumption as long as those calories are from protein, fat and vegetables and carbohydrate intake is kept low.

Atkins and Scarsdale fell out of favor in the 1980's when the USDA encouraged the consumption of grains and grain products.

It was only in the 1990's that we began to see a return to low-carb dieting that seems to be more than a fad. Low-carb is now a lifestyle!

As more and more people realize the weight loss and other health benefits that are available to people who eat low-carb, the number of diets and stores that sell specialty low-carb products continue to rise.

In a nutshell, most low-carb diets carry the same basic premise: that too much of simple, refined carbohydrates leads to over overproduction of insulin, which leads to the storage of too much fat in the body. This fat storage is especially prominent around the middle.

While there are degrees of difference among the many diets, they all agree on the negative effects that excess insulin production have on our systems.

While it might be great to lower the body's sugar content and be healthier, wouldn't it be great to learn how to do so while being part of this fast-paced world?

People want and need simpler solutions. And they need simpler dieting plans.

Forget spending mega bucks on gourmet, hard-to-find items. Forget spending hours just to prepare meals. And forget counting, measuring, and weighing ingredients.

Either a low-carb plan fit into real-world lives, or it doesn't. So how do low-carb diets fit into the real world today?

Low Carb, Slow Carb

In a nutshell, there are two kinds of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Some refer to them as bad and good carbs, fast and slow digestion carbs and other possibly confusing lingo. Here's the scoop.

Simple Carbs

Foods with simple or refined carbohydrates most often have a low nutrient content and a high-glycemic index. They are quick to digest and can cause blood sugar to soar then fall dramatically within a short span of time.

In order to keep the body running more healthy and stable, health advisors recommend that these type foods be limited.

Examples of these simple carbs are white bread, potatoes, bananas, and sugary treats like cookies, candy, cupcakes and cakes, and soda beverages like popular cola products.

Complex Carbs

Foods with complex carbohydrates contain many nutrients and have a low- to moderate-glycemic index.

Higher fiber content in these foods means slower digestion, which is healthier for the body. And these foods are considered good choices by health advisors.

Examples of these complex carbs are whole grains, most fruits and vegetables. Legumes, plants of the pea or bean family, are also in this category.

Which Is Best?

While studies like one from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in January of 2004 show that low-carb diets can help with weight loss; the carbs need to be of the complex, low-glycemic type.

However, it is not necessary to totally avoid the simple carbs. A treat now and then, in moderation (and approved per your dietary advisor or in accordance with your health practitioner), should be fine.

As a side note, your teeth will also be healthier without the build up of sugar decay from simple carb foods. So healthier smiles will shine with healthier bodies.

Priya Shah is the Editor of The Glutathione Report and the webmaster of Glutathione - Your Whey To Health
Read our online report on Low-Carb Dieting Secrets and get a Free Booklet titled "Low Carb Recipes and Food Ideas People On The Go"

Related Links:

How to Select the Best Diet for You?

Five Serious Dangers of Low Carbohydrate Diets

Low-Carb Diets - An Introduction

Low Fat versus Low Carb Diets

Low Carb and Lowfat Diets...A Scam?!

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Low Carb and Lowfat Diets...A Scam?!

If anyone knows anything about fitness, its that a low fat diet is the healthiest way to avoid serious diseases, right? Maybe wrong.

In many instances quality research has shown just the oppositethat a low fat diet, sometimes even a vegetarian diet, can be harmful to your health. Although vegetarian and low-fat diets have been proven to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, they have not demonstrated significant reductions in deaths from any disease.

The Low-Fat Approach

Popular diets of today encouraging low-fat approaches, such as the diets of Dr. Pritkin, Dr. Ornish, Macrobiotics, and Weight Watchers, are generally effective with weight-loss and reduction in blood fats. The low-fat approach has even been proven to overcome serious illness successfully.

But the majority of dieters find these plans difficult to stick with. And most research trials have not shown these diets effective in decreasing death rates from diseases in general, long-term.

Fats in a meal make you feel more full. They slow the time it takes for your stomach to empty, thus ensuring you will not feel hungry too soon.

Generally, high-carb, low-fat meals have the opposite effect. The stomach empties quicker and insulin levels increase following the meal. This means you may be hungry sooner than youd like.

Research shows the higher insulin levels of a low-fat, high-carb diet may predispose you to adult onset diabetes, hypoglycemia, and even heart disease.

The Low-Carb Approach

These diets claim that limiting carbs, like sugars, grains, fruits, and some vegetables, is the solution. The Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, and even the Zone Diet all suggest if you cut out the carbs or have a balance of fat/carbs/protein in every meal, you will experience weight loss and better health. Many dedicated dieters find this to be true.

Although a low-carb diet can cause weight loss, the goal of any program should be life long radiant health. It is still up for debate if this approach leads to any significant health advantages. It is possible to hasten heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and aging with a diet too high in the wrong fats and too low in essential nutrients from various fruits and veggies.

Many health care professionals find it difficult to prescribe to either of the above theories. If there is no definitive answer in either direction that is indisputable, then there must be a middle ground.

A Healthy Solution for Everyone

It is difficult to imagine that reducing intake of the wonderful fruits and vegetables that keep people well is the way to a healthy future. Research will back this up. The average American already ingests too little fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other factors present in whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

In much of our history, it was rare to have many of the diseases we live with today. Most people in native cultures eating diets dictated by availability experienced vibrant health. Their death was caused by accidents, bacterial or viral diseases, or by old age. Very few died of our number one killers: cardiovascular disease and cancer.

People did not begin to experience heart disease and cancer in such great numbers until the advent of our more modern diet and lifestyle customs.

These advances included:

* growing and eating more grains

* discovering how to refine and preserve foods to extend shelf-life

* consuming sugar and simple carbohydrates

* pasteurizing and homogenizing dairy products

With the human tampering of food overall health took an undeniable turn for the worse.

Almost exclusively we now eat, even in so called healthy or organic foods, the following: refined products, products with added sugar, preservatives, additives, petroleum products, animal products laden with antibiotics and hormones, and animals that are fed diets that they would never eat in the wild (wild cattle do not eat other cattle, poultry by-products, or even grains; cattle eat grass).

Native cultures worldwide, before being indoctrinated with more westernized food choices, eat remarkably similar diets.

Since many food products spoil without refrigeration or freezing, most people fermented their foods. This supplies necessary probiotic bacteria, which many people supplement with today since we eat natural fermented foods so infrequently.

Whether or not they inhabited the same regions, most people ate a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and animal products in season. Very few societies tip the scales by eating mostly animal products (Inuit cultures) or mostly vegetarian (a few tribes in Africa and South America).

The similarities that bind the historical human diet together are:

* A diet based on fresh or fermented whole, unrefined foods

* A diet high in essential fatty acids with an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 4:1 (current US diets have a ratio of 16:1)

* A diet where spirituality around food is more meaningful than the material

* A diet with 10 times the level of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)

* A diet lower in total calories overall

Wisdom passed down through the ages says that a varied diet with foods found abundant in nature is best. In almost all cultures this means a diet, as available, of fresh or dried wild meats and fish, fermented cheeses, fresh whole or fermented milk, butter, eggs, fresh, dried, or fermented fruits, fresh or fermented vegetables, whole grains (these were fermented normally, even if dried), some beans, and water or fermented beverages to drink.

It is interesting to note that instead of eating fresh foods or those naturally fermented, we chose to cook or destroy what could spoil in our foods then add additives and preservatives. Are these foods as digestible? Do they supply the same nutrients? Does the magic number of carbohydrates versus fats or proteins really matter? What if the answer lies in ancient wisdom and thousands of years of knowledge?

Something to think about.

About The Author

For more information or questions on related topics, please visit Get all your health questions answered from a licensed Naturopathic physician without the wait for an office visit. Well-researched, reliable information is now available and easy to find.

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Lets Talk About Fad Diets

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Lets Talk About Fad Diets

Although the big push for fad diets has died down a little bit, it is still estimated that at least two-thirds of Americans are on some type of diet at any given time. Although research shows the importance of eating from all the major food groups, people are still confused about what type of diet to follow, keeping the window open for more quacky solutions to pop up.

In an effort to help readers determine what makes a diet healthy and when its time to steer clear, I am going to discuss what makes a diet a fad diet and why these diets are something best to stay away from. Along the way, we will discover what each food group has to offer that can be beneficial to our health.

Our bodies are uniquely designed to take advantage of the proteins, carbohydrates and fats that we eat. In order for the liver to do the best job it can for us, we actually need all of these nutrients, known as macronutrients. Even a detoxifying diet should also include all of these macronutrients!

During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. Currently, more than 64% of US adults are either overweight or obese, according to results from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). So, look at the facts: Two thirds of all Americans are on some diet, yet we are getting fatter and fatter. Would that perhaps mean that the fad diets dont work? Lets talk about it.

Identifying a fad diet

A fad diet is defined as something temporary. Therefore, its no surprise that these diets are not successful. Lets begin by looking at how to identify a fad diet.

#1 Promises a fast weight loss.

This is great, in the short term, but how many readers have or know someone who has followed one of these diets, only to regain the weight back, plus more for added bonus? When people lose weight very quickly, they lose a lot of lean muscle tissue, and the weight that comes back will most likely be more fat and less muscle, making it easier and easier to regain weight each time they drop the last fad diet. A healthy diet to follow will be one that will encourage slow, progressive weight loss over a longer period of time. It will have enough calories to support vigorous exercise, so that you lose fat and not muscle. Diets that are too low for the bodys basic needs will result in the body breaking down its protein stores (muscle) for the fuel it needs. Sort of defeats the whole purpose of the diet!

#2 Eliminates foods or food groups.

The very first thing that alerts us that a diet is a fad is when a particular food, or entire food group, is considered off-limits. This is a good time to talk about the low carb diets.

What is it that has made carbohydrates a bad nutrient? When you look at other countries, where the intake of carbohydrates is as high as 80%, and see that many of these countries are not suffering even close to the obesity rates we are in America, you have to wonder why they are not having the same problem. So, can it really be the carbs? Probably not. But, maybe its the type of carbs. Many people who decide to go on one of the popular low carbohydrate diets start to eliminate a lot of food from their diets, including all the snack foods they were eating, particularly at night. Gone are the chips, the cookies, the crackers, the ice cream. Gone are up to 300 to 1,000 calories per day! Anyone would lose weight if they cut out those many calories from their daily diet.

Another problem with eliminating entire food groups, especially on low carb diets, is that they are recommending eliminating or limiting the intake of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. With all the substantial research showing how beneficial these foods are to preventing various diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, its amazing that anyone involved in healthcare would recommend such a diet. Something to also notice, however, is that none of these fad diet books are written by anyone with a degree in nutrition. Even the medical community is confused, which explains why physicians will fall for some of the hype fad diet authors write.

But lets talk a little more about fruits, vegetables and starches: A diet high in animal protein and animal fat has been linked to various disease and inflammation states. A diet very high in protein puts a great load on our kidneys and can contribute to constipation, gout and bone loss due to calcium depletion from the high protein load. Combine that with decreased fiber from lack of whole grains and fiber-rich fruit and vegetables, and many people just dont feel well; they feel fatigued, sluggish and their immune system is depressed.

#3 Starts with a shock or follows a strict plan.

When the diet says you have to start with an extremely restricted diet, or you can only eat certain foods on particular days, you know its a fad diet. They justify this by saying you have to clean out the body, or only certain foods will help with the weight loss process. Any change in how you currently eat will result in changes on the scale. Very few people can remain on these diets very long, so once they are off the diet, the weight returns. The dieter learned nothing other than the misinformation the author provided them with. This can actually have far-reaching consequences, as then the dieter is more confused than ever and doesnt know what to believe!

Once a person learns what the qualities of a healthy diet consist of, they find that their optimum calorie level is for their own needs, and they are able to achieve their goals, combining their eating plan with exercise. Not only do they start to enjoy life again, but enjoy food AND see weight loss! Although fad diet authors want you to believe their miracle (and buy their products), there really is no get-thin-quick solution that is permanent.

But what does constitute a healthy diet? A healthy diet is one that is adequate in calories to support healthy weight, low in animal fats and saturated fats, animal protein should be very lean and adequate enough to support a diet high in fruits and vegetables and whole grain starches. Any healthy diet can include foods that are just for enjoyment, however. All foods really do fit, in moderation. A general rule is an 80/20 rule: Eighty percent of the time the diet should be healthy and then 20% of the time it can include foods you would not eat on a regular basis if you were trying to eat for health and weight loss.

#4 Contradicts what experts say.

Authors of low carb diets say that the carbohydrates are what have made Americans fat. But they cant explain why other countries whose diets are very high in carbohydrates dont have the same problems with obesity. You know its a fad diet when the author says they have the inside or hidden truth about our health or diets. You also know its a questionable publication when they say there is a hidden agenda among health professionals or the government.

But why is America getting fatter and fatter? America is a country of grab-and-go: The faster, the better. Families seldom sit down to meals, together. There are fewer physical fitness programs in school and many of the school food choices are fast foods. People and entire families eat 2-3 of their daily meals from a drive-through or a restaurant, most of which provide very few of the foods high in nutrients and low in calories. Restaurants add extra fats to their dishes to enhance the taste, so a meal you could make at home without added fats could have up to 60% of its calories coming from fat to make it taste better! Plus, the serving sizes are much larger than they were 20 years ago, so most of the time the size of the meals could actually feed us for 2 to 3 meals, instead of one! However, many people still feel they must clean their plate rather than let the food go to waste. They really should say, go to waist!!

As you read this, think back to the last week. How often did you sit down at home and eat a home-cooked meal? Do you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner each day? How often do you exercise vigorously? In Europe, the meals are much smaller and people walk a great deal more than in America. In some neighborhoods, its actually impossible to walk to work, even if you live very close! Our road systems are no longer built for riding bikes or walking to work. You take your life into your hands, either from passing traffic or crime.

#5 Relies on testimonials rather than scientific research.

The fact that Jane lost pounds in a week because she just ate cabbage soup does not mean its safe, effective, or that it will work for you! What if you dont LIKE cabbage?

An example of testimonials, combined with the research to back it up, is the National Weight Control Registry. In order to join the Registry, a person has to have lost pounds and have kept it off for a year. Currently consisting of over 4500 individuals, the Registry was founded in 1993 as a longitudinal prospective study. Currently, there have been six studies resulting out of the Registry. For more information on the Registry, along with how most of the Registry members have in common, here is the website:

#6 Has a gimmick.

The problem with diet plans that have some type of gimmick, is people cant stay on them and they dont learn how to eat for the long-term. Its no secret that all the books must have something to catch the reader. However, hidden among all the hype are books that really DO offer safe and effective solutions to weight loss. A book written by a registered dietitian (RD) is a guarantee that the material is accurate and safe. An RD is someone whose education, training and experience all revolve around the science and practice of nutrition; these truly ARE nutrition experts.

Consider this: If you had heart disease, you would see a cardiologist who specializes in heart health. If your teeth needed work, you would see a dentist. However, many people will buy diet books from people who are not educated in nutrition! People will buy a diet book from a person who found what worked for them, or a movie star or a physician. In many of these books, because the author does not understand nutrition, many facts are distorted or misrepresented. It may not always be on purpose, but the point is these books are written by someone who really does not know nutrition and the science behind it, so either they distort the facts, or they make them fit the gimmick they are trying to sell.

So, the next time a friend mentions this great new diet theyre on, or you see a new book that offers miracle weight loss or something that health professionals dont really want you to know, take a step back and ask yourself these questions:

1- Does it promise fast weight loss?

2- Does it eliminate any major foods or food groups?

3- Is there a strict plan that must be followed for success?

4- Does it contradict what nutrition experts and science has to say?

5- Does it rely primarily on testimonials and before and after pictures too good to be true?

6- Is there a gimmick?

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, after you have stepped back, walk away and find a better plan. Isnt today time to get real and make your weight loss plan permanent and realistic?

Marjorie Geiser is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and life coach. Marjorie has been the owner of a successful small business, MEG Fitness, since 1996, and now helps other nutrition professionals start up their own private practice.

To learn more about the services Margie offers, go to her website at or email her at

Related Links:

Low Carb and Lowfat Diets...A Scam?!

How to Select the Best Diet for You?

Five Serious Dangers of Low Carbohydrate Diets

Low-Carb Diets - An Introduction