The truth about low-carb diets

The truth about low-carb diets

Diets: no-carb, low-carb, high protein, gluten-free...the choices are endless and can sometimes be downright confusing. These days, low-carb diets such as the ever-popular Atkins and South Beach diets, are doing the rounds once more. Are low-carb diets really good for you though? We bring you some facts about low-carb diets...read on and find out more!

low-carb diet

Is a low-carb diet good for you?

Low-carb diets seem to be THE trend in the ‘dieting’ world right now— some people swear by the Atkins diet (low-carb, high protein) while others are totally into the South Beach diet (low-carb, ‘good’ fats). Is the low-carb frenzy just a passing trend or should you seriously consider cutting down on your carbs? We give you the facts on low-carb diets to make your decision a tad easier.

Low-carb diets are unhealthy: Myth or reality?

Definitely a myth. A low-carb diet that cuts out refined foods like white rice, products made from white flour (such as white breads and pastas), sugary foods, sugar-laden cereals and sodas (even the so-called diet ones) can only do wonders for your health. That’s because these processed ‘foods’ have been stripped of most of their nutrients and only contribute to increased insulin levels and body flab accumulation. And instead of having a satiating effect, processed carbohydrates actually cause sugar cravings.

RELATED: Counting calories

Several studies have associated low-carb diets with:

1. Improved blood glucose control and lower blood levels of insulin — this in turn reduces risks of cancer.

2. Weight loss and a reduction in overall body fat.

3. Reduced cardiovascular risks — low-carb diets appear to normalize blood pressure and improve lipid profile by increasing good HDL-cholesterol and decreasing triglyceride levels.

Other than fruits and vegetables, healthy (but non-essential) carbohydrate foods include whole foods like sweet potatoes, yams, oats (not the instant ones), quinoa, barley, brown rice, millet and buckwheat.

Low-carb or no-carb? Find out on the next page!

Low-carb or no-carb?

low-carb diet

Decisions, decisions…low-carb or no-carb?

I often hear people say ‘I don’t eat any carbs anymore and I feel great!’. I doubt that. You see, virtually all foods (veggies, fruits, dairy products, legumes, grains, seeds, nuts) contain carbohydrates. So, for you to have zero carbohydrates in a meal would be impossible unless you only ate some butter or oil accompanied by some plain protein. Unrealistic right? It would not only be really hard to adhere to this type of dietary regime, but it would be totally unhealthy as your diet would be lacking in several essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.

Eating virtually no carbs would also force your body to use up its glycogen stores and start digging into your muscles for energy; something you most definitely don’t want.

The Gwyneth Paltrow low-carb diet

The brouhaha around this low-carb fad was caused by an excerpt from Paltrow’s new low-carb, gluten-free cookbook where she said that she avoids feeding her kids white bread, rice and pasta. Critics said her children were at risk of nutrient deficiencies, but the defenders said there are no nutrients in starchy carb-rich foods that children can’t get elsewhere, and often in a superior form.

Paltrow’s diet is actually quite smart because she’s simply avoiding refined carbohydrates, gluten-containing foods, dairy products and soy foods. There’s no harm in following her diet as long as you and your family consume a variety of fruits and veggies, lean protein and healthy fats (such as virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil) daily, to prevent deficiencies.

RELATED: Study-based benefits of coconut oil

Should you cut carbohydrates from your kids’ diet?

low-carb diet

There are plenty of healthy alternatives to white bread, pasta and rice for your child.

While it’s true that growing kids have a higher energy and macronutrient requirement, giving them refined carbohydrates like pasta, white bread and white rice all the time is not the healthiest choice. I’m not saying you have to ban these products forever. Instead, if your kids are old enough to understand, explain to them how whole foods are way better for their growing bodies. There are also plenty of healthy alternatives for your kids: nutrient-rich multigrain bread, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, and a huge variety of nuts and pulses to name a few. Introduce these healthy options to your kids early on, and they will eventually refuse to eat the nasty, over-processed “white” products.

RELATED: 10 must-have nutrients that children need

If you do decide to go low-carb, reduce your carb intake gradually; this will help keep hunger cravings at bay. And do remember to always consult your doctor before you start any diet for yourself (dieting for kids is a definite NO).

Have you tried any low-carb diets and have they worked for you? Or do you know of any other diets that will help shed those unwanted kilos? Let us know, leave a comment!

References

1. American Association for Cancer Research Press Release (2011) ‘Intermittent, Low-Carbohydrate Diets More Successful Than Standard Dieting, Present Possible Intervention for Breast Cancer Prevention.’ (Retrieved 26/03/13)

2. Ebbeling CB et al. (2012) Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight-Loss Maintenance. JAMA 307(24):2627-2634.

3. Foster GD et al. (2010) Weight and Metabolic Outcomes After 2 Years on a Low-Carbohydrate Versus Low-Fat Diet – A Randomized Trial.

Annals of Internal Medicine 153(3): 147-157

4. Santos FL et al. (2012) Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors. Obes Rev. (11):1048-66

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