Low-Carb Diets



Low-carb diets are surprisingly healthy and, not so surprisingly, excellent for temporary weight loss.

Studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets reduce triglycerides and good cholesterol as well as producing weight loss. The problem is, those same studies show that almost no one who begins a low-carb diet can continue it longer than a year. Not only do they come off the diet, but they also gain all their weight back.

This is because low-carb diets do not teach adherents the principles of a good diet. Eating primarily meat and vegetables automatically reduces calories. I've been told that the average person on a low-carb diet eats about 1700 calories a day, which qualifies a low-carb diet as a low-calorie diet as well. This is the reason that low-carbohydrate diets produce weight loss. We must remember that weight loss boils down to calories consumed versus calories burned. That system cannot be cheated.

I have not researched the statement that a person on this type of diet eats only 1700 calories a day. Nonetheless, I am sure it is true.

Why?

Because a well-marbled steak provides about 60 calories per ounce. This allows you three 8-oz. steaks per day, a total of 1440 calories, and 260 calories of vegetables, which is just about as many vegetables as you want if you avoid peas. You would replace those three 8-oz. steaks with 14 pieces of chicken, or 8 or 9 if they are fried with skin on. I have no problem believing that the average person would limit themselves to that amount of food naturally.

Health Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet

Despite a pretty good diet and a lot of exercise, my short-term memory is pitiful. I'm sure that's the combined result of age, extensive chemotherapy, some brain radiation, and drug abuse as a young man.

As a result, I don't remember where I read the comparison, just this week, between a low-carb diet, a Mediterranean diet, a low-fat diet, and one other. The participants that were given a low-carb diet fared better on weight loss and had better heart health indicators than participants who received the other diets. However, as usual, they also gained all their weight back afterward more than the other participants did.

Here are some articles that can be looked at:

  • USA Today reports on a metastudy, which is a review of other studies. It addressed only obese patients on low-carb diet plans. I recommend ignoring the comments of scientists who are commenting on anything other than the study itself. You don't know what studies they are leaning on, nor how easily they are influenced. The metastudy shows an average loss of 18 pounds and improvements in triglycerides, blood pressure, good cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar (indicator of diabetes or pre-diabetes).
  • If you want to research individual studies, this site has produced a list of studies that can be read. Excellent resource.

Those references are just that, references. They will tell you the same things that I tell you above.

Note that a lot of these studies are comparing these low-carb diets, which are usually high in animal fat (saturated fats), with low-fat diets. Low-fat diets always lose. There is nothing healthy about a low-fat diet. Note that many vitamins are "fat-soluble." Some fats are characterized by "essential fatty acids." We need fat; it is good for us. Fat is filling, and it helps us feel full and avoid feeling hungry.

That said, I am not willing, yet, to support the idea that saturated fat is perfectly healthy to eat, even though dietdoctor.com, linked above as well, lists some studies questioning the dangers of saturated fat. The general opposition of nutritionists to the eating of saturated fat leaves me very hesitant to go against their recommendations.

Vitamins, Minerals, Fiber, and Good Health

Heart health indicators are not the only thing going on in our body. A strong heart with clear arteries are of no benefit if you die of scurvy because you got no vitamin C. If you don't eat fruit or eat your meat raw, you will not get any vitamin C without supplements. I dont recommend surviving by supplements nor eating raw meat, due to the risk of bacterial infection.

The Atkins diet, the most famous of low-carb diets, tries to take care of the vitamin problem by vitamin pills. I just can't imagine that is a healthy way to live.As I have said, it is also not sustainable. I have found no studies to cite, but I am convinced that you will find yourself more energetic and more resistant to disease if you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables so that you are getting the vitamins and minerals that you need.

Further, the long-term benefits of fiber, both grain and fruit fiber, are well-established. Low-carb means low fiber unless you artificially supplement your fiber as well. This can be done, but it hardly seems like a good idea for the long term.

A low-carb diet is lacking in fiber as well.

Conclusions

As a result of all the above, I recommend a low-carb diet for short term (6 months to a year) weight loss. It works, and it is very good for your heart.

In the long term, you are far more certain of getting the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that is helpful for avoiding cancers, heart attacks, and promoting a strong immune system on a diet that includes grains and fruit. Something like AARP's "THe New American Diet" is a much safer long-term recommendation and will prove to be a much easier long-term commitment than a low-carb diet.



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