Friday, December 01, 2006

Low Carb Diets: Craze or Crazy?

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Low Carb Diets: Craze or Crazy?

Low carb diets, though popular, have met with much controversy. This type of diet simply doesnt fit with what the American Heart Association recommends. But the success that so many people have had with low carb diets can really make you wonder if the food pyramid that we all learned in grade school, has been wrong all along.

Some carbohydrates give us energy while others actually make us more sluggish once we lose the sugar buzz. Those carbs also tend to make us crave more of the same thing and it becomes an unstoppable cycle. So where the food pyramid tells us that we need to eat carbs, it doesnt tell us which ones are going to be good for us.

Some low carb diets go to the extreme and cut out all carbohydrates for extended periods of time. Our bodies were not designed to tolerate this deprivation and the response is ketosis. What happens is that your body metabolizes fats for energy instead of carbohydrates, just as someone whose diabetes goes untreated. It sounds logical though, right? Cut out the carbohydrates and your body is going to dig into that fat reserve for energy. But safety and long term health come into play here. You will certainly lose weight this way, but at what cost?

Many people have tried every diet under the sun and finally found a satisfying and successful solution in low carb diets. That doesnt mean they are for everyone. You should always check with your doctor before beginning any new weight loss program. Your individual weight loss needs may warrant a low carb diet and your doctor should be able to help you find the one thats right for you.

James is a published author at Fitness Freaks, a site dedicted to bringing you up to date information on Health and Fitness related topics. For more great articles, visit our Fitness Articles page.

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Low-Carb Diets: Are You Losing More than Weight?

The average American eats about twice as much protein than what they require. Some people, in the pursuit of thinness, are going on low-carb diets and are eating up to four times the protein their body needs. Protein deficiency is certainly not a problem in America. So exactly how much protein do you really need? Much less than you think.

Protein is a vital nutrient, essential to your health. In its purest form, protein consists of chains of amino acids. There are 22 amino acids that combine to form different proteins, and 8 to 9 of these must come from the foods we eat. Our body uses these amino acids to create muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails and internal organs. Proteins help replace and form new tissue, transports oxygen and nutrients in our blood and cells, regulates the balance of water and acids, and is essential for making antibodies.

However, too much of a good thing may not be so good for you. Many people are putting their health at risk by eating to much protein. Excessive protein consumption, particularly animal protein, can result in heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. As important as protein is for our body, there are many misconceptions about how much we really need in our diet, and the best way to obtain it.

According to the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, as little as 50-60 grams of protein is enough for most adults. This breaks down to about 10-12% of total calories. Your body only needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. To calculate the exact amount you need, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36 (if using kilograms, multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8). This will give you your optimum daily protein requirement in grams. Infants, children, pregnant and nursing women require more protein.

People on low-carb diets are consuming up to 34% of their total calories in the form of protein and up to 53% of total calories from fat. Most of these people are unaware of the amount of protein and fat that is contained in the foods they eat. For instance, a typical 3-ounce beef hamburger, which is small by American standards, contains about 22 grams of protein and 20 grams of fat. You achieve quick weight loss on these diets because of this high fat content.

High fat foods give you the sensation of feeling full, faster, so you end up eating fewer total calories. However, this type of protein and fat combination is not the healthiest. Animal proteins are loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat. Many people on these diets also experience an elevation in their LDL (the bad) cholesterol when they remain on this diet for long periods. High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood, clog arteries and is the chief culprit in heart disease, particularly heart attack and stroke. So while you may lose weight in the short-run, you are putting your cardiovascular health in jeopardy in the long-run.

Another reason weight loss is achieved on these low-carb diets, at least temporarily, is due to water loss. The increase in the amount of protein consumed, especially from meat and dairy products, raises the levels of uric acid and urea in the blood. These are toxic by-products of protein breakdown and metabolism. The body eliminates this uric acid and urea by pumping lots of water into the kidneys and urinary tract to help flush it out. However, a detrimental side effect of this diuretic response is the loss of essential minerals from the body, including calcium. The high intake of protein leaches calcium from the bones, which leads to osteoporosis.

Medical evidence shows that for every 1 gram increase in animal protein ingested the body loses an average of 1.75 milligrams of calcium in the urine. Additionally, as calcium and other minerals are leached from our bones, they are deposited in the kidneys, which can form into painful kidney stones. If a kidney stone becomes large enough to cause a blockage, it stops the flow of urine from the kidney and must be removed by surgery or other methods.

Plant-based proteins, like beans, legumes and soyfoods, also provide fiber, which helps lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL (the good) cholesterol. This prevents the build up of arterial plaque, which leads to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart disease, thus reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The amount and type of protein in your diet also has an important impact on calcium absorption and excretion.

Vegetable-protein diets enhance calcium retention in the body, and causes less calcium excretion in the urine. This reduces the risk of osteoporosis and kidney problems. Interestingly, kidney disease is far less common in people who eat a vegetable-based diet than it is in people who eat an animal-based diet.

By replacing animal protein with vegetable protein, and replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat (like olive and canola oils), you can avoid the pitfalls of the typical high-protein low-carb diet. You will improve your health and regulate your weight while enjoying a vast array of delicious, nutritionally dense, high fiber foods.

Remember, eat everything in moderation and nothing in excess. Also, the healthy way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat nutritiously and make permanent lifestyle changes that allow you burn more calories than you take in.

Copyright 2005 Monique N. Gilbert. All rights reserved.

Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc. is a Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach, Certified Personal Trainer/Fitness Counselor, Recipe Developer, Freelance Writer and Author of Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook. To learn more about Monique's personal coaching program, go to


Author Bio . . .

Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc. has offered guidance in natural health, nutrition, fitness, weight-loss and stress management since 1989. Through her coaching and writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living. For more information, visit


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Low Carb Diets - Are They For You?

The revolution is here. Weight Loss as we know it has changed forever because of one diet.

One diet that has reached beyond the weight loss program boundaries and invaded areas heretofore unknown: areas like beer commercials and even the all sacred fast food menus.

There was even a recent report on how this diet has taken a huge revenue chunk out of the bread and flour industries. Now that's power.

You know which diet I'm talking about of course.

The big LC - LOW CARB

(also known as lo carb, Atkins, protein diet, Adkins,no carb, etc)

The low carb diet isn't new. In fact it's been around for years (long before Atkins wrote about it). And yet it just keeps pressing on, affecting our food choices and popular culture.

So what is it about the low carb diet that makes it so popular? Here are 3 reasons:

#1 You can eat as much as you want (of certain low carb foods)

While the type of food is restricted to low carb or no carb, you don't have to restrict how much food you eat (in theory).

This fact makes the low carb diet popular with those of us who have been starved and deprived by low fat diets for years.

It's a kind of 'have your cake and eat it too mentality' (as long as the cake is low carb!) Essentially the low carb diets says 'Eat all you want and STILL lose weight'

Hey, sign me up.

#2 You can eat 'bad' food.

Human nature being what it is, we love to break the rules, step over the line, tempt fate, and do something 'bad'.

We've been told for years that low carb foods - foods like eggs bacon, cheese, cream cheese, butter etc, are bad for us. With low carb diets we can lose weight while breaking all the low fat rules we've come to resent.

#3 People feel out of control with carbs

You've seen the plethora of new books and articles surfacing regarding carbohydrate addictions or cravings. Many people have bought into the mentality that they are 'addicted' to carbs (much the same way we get addicted to cigarettes or caffeine).

They feel that when they eat carbs, their cravings get out of control and instead of having one brownie for example, they can't stop the cravings and they eat the whole tray. So for some, low carb foods become the safe territory where they can eat and not feel out of control.

Those are several reasons why low carb diets are so popular but do they work?

That depends on which study you read. There have been mixed reports, some say they work, some say they give you the same results as a low fat diet.

But to break it down to an individual level, here's my take:

For the low carb diet to be successful, you have to approach it as a life change (and that's a big life change).

You have to be dedicated to getting over the transition period (often called carb withdrawal) which can feel pretty lousy.

You have to dedicate yourself to finding new low carb ways of eating, new low carb recipes and products. It can be done - but you'd better be willing to put the work in.

However for those just looking for a chance to eat all the 'bad' food they want and still lose tons of weight in 2 weeks - save yourself the pain, the carb withdrawal and the keto-strips and just cut down your portion sizes.

Kathryn O'Neill is a contributing writer to Diet and Weight Loss Reviews.

For more free weight loss tips and diet reviews, visit

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