Newsletter 04, January 2007
At this time of year, many of us make 'New Year's Resolutions', and one of the top ones is to lose some weight! But choosing the right diet is far from easy. In this issue of the Good Diet Good Health Newsletter we focus on the weight loss diets which are now popular and look at their safety and how and why they work. These are the diets which stabilize blood sugar and insulin, such as the Atkins and other low carb diets, and their close relations low GI (glycemic index) and low GL (glycemic load) diets.
This issue of the Good Diet Good Health Newsletter includes...
- New Year makeover for our sites
- Low carb diets - are they safe and do they work
- The science behind low carb, low GI and low GL diets
- Hot tips for living the low carb life
- Latest recipe released in the Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook
- Visit our newsletter archive
- Test your knowledge
- Tell us what you think
- Your successes, requests and questions
1) New Year makeover for our sites
Those of you who are visitors to Good Diet Good Health.com's other websites Low Carb is Easy.com, GI Diet Recipes.com and Special Diets Are Easy.com may have noticed a change of image. We're not changing the content of our sites, we're just giving them a makeover to match the look and feel of our new parent site, Good Diet Good Health.com. We hope you'll like the new look, and that you'll find the new layout easier to read. Most of the changeover is done, but we ask you to bear with us while we convert the remaining areas, such as the Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook. Everything should work just the same - you may just not see the new colour scheme on every page of our sites yet.
2) Low carb diets - are they safe and do they work
Mainstream medicine is still reluctant to accept the low carb way as a healthy way to eat, mostly because it is not low fat. However, evidence continues to mount that low carb diets are not only more effective than the 'conventional' low fat / low calorie diet, but that they are also safe for your heart. Read more about the results of a 20-year study on participants in the Harvard Medical School Nurses' Health Study which were published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.
If you're really in the mood for reading eye-opening articles about why a low fat diet is not the healthy diet we thought it was, then have a look at the following:
Researchers at the University of Florida, USA have published a paper entitled 'Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-regression'. They conclude: 'Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets favorably affect body mass and composition independent of energy intake, which in part supports the proposed metabolic advantage of these diets'. In other words, they are confirming what seasoned low carbers have been saying for a long time: (1) losing fat and/or weight is not a simple matter of calorie intake, and (2) low carb/high protein diets are better than low calorie diets at reducing fat and preserving lean body mass. The importance for permanent weight loss of ensuring that you lose fat and not lean muscle is explained further in the e-book "Why Can't I Lose Weight - The Real Reasons Diets Fail And What To Do About It".
3) The Science Behind Low Carb, Low GI And Low GL Diets
Recently we were asked the following question: 'Aren't low carb and low GI diets just the latest fad way of restricting calories?' Here is our answer:
Well, no. Their critics say they are, but that's because they haven't bothered to do their homework properly. Low carb and their close relations low GI (glycemic index) diets are fundamentally different to conventional low calorie diets. Low calorie diets are designed simply to restrict the number of calories that you eat, on the basis that if you take in less calories than you burn in your daily activities, you're bound to lose weight. In contrast, low carb, low GI and low GL diets take into account that the body is not just a simple machine which increases in weight when we feed it more calories and decreases in weight when we feed it less. The body is much more complex than that. Low carb, low GI and low GL diets recognize the many complex biochemical processes involved, not least our blood sugar control system.
What happens is this: carbohydrates are broken down during digestion into a sugar called glucose, which causes our blood sugar level to rise. In response, the hormone insulin is produced by the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone that enables the cells to take in the glucose from the bloodstream and convert it to energy to be used or stored. Unfortunately, many of us are highly sensitive to carbohydrates and we produce an exaggerated insulin response when we eat carbohydrate foods, particularly highly refined and processed foods such as white flour and sugar. As a result, we become super-efficient at storing energy. We simply cannot handle today's typical diet, high in refined carbohydrates, without becoming fat. And there's a double whammy - all that circulating insulin prevents stored fat from being broken down - which puts extra barriers in our way when we try to lose the surplus weight.
What low carb diet authors such as Dr Richard Mackarness and Dr Robert Atkins realised was that low calorie/low fat diets are of little help to those of us who are especially carbohydrate-sensitive in this way. They believed that up to about 60 per cent of the population in the western world share this problem. So they based their diets on restriction of the foods which trigger an exaggerated insulin response, thereby tackling the root cause of many people's weight problem.
Low carb diets have another serious purpose besides weight loss. This relates to the fact that eventually, the pancreas may stop producing enough insulin, resulting in type 2 diabetes. A disease which can cause many other serious health problems from blindness to kidney disease and amputations, it ranks alongside obesity as one of the greatest public health concerns of all western governments today. The low carb diet authors maintain that a low carb diet can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by avoiding the root cause - an overworked pancreas.
Far from being unhealthy fad diets, low carb diets are also strongly rooted in good nutrition. They emphasize fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods and discourage processed foods high in additives and low in fiber, vitamins, minerals and essential fats. Contrary to popular belief, they do not advocate limitless amounts of steak, bacon, eggs, cheese and cream. Nor do they exclude vegetables and salads. If this is your idea of a low carb diet, then you cannot have read the books properly!
Most low carb diets start with an initial more restricted period, often lasting two weeks, which many people mistakenly assume is the entire diet. After that, you are required to start gradually adding back the 'good' carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains, until weight loss stops. This ensures that you find your personal level of tolerance for carbohydrates - everyone has their own critical level.
So if you struggle to control your weight, and especially if you have tried low calorie/low fat diets in the past but had little success, then it is likely that you belong to the carbohydrate-sensitive sector of the population. If that is the case, then you stand to benefit greatly from trying a low carb, low GI or low GL way of eating, not only from a weight loss viewpoint, but in terms of your overall health, too.
If you are thinking about starting a low carb, low GI or low GL diet but need more information on which type of diet is likely to be more successful for you and how to do it, then you will find all the information you need in two guides called the 'Easy Guide to Low Carb, Low GI and Low GL Diets' and 'GI & GL Handy Reference Tables'. These come free with the Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook.
4) Hot Tips For Living The Low Carb Life
- Air travel can be tricky when it comes to eating low carb. Not many airlines offer meal choices which cater specifically for these diets. However, requesting a diabetic meal from the various 'medical diet' options often seems to offer the best chance of a suitable meal. If you take your chances with the 'normal' meal you are quite likely to get a high carb pasta- or rice-based dish containing precious little low carb protein and vegetables that you can pick out of it!
- Don't assume processed meats (such as hot dogs, jerkies, sausages, continental sausage, pepperoni and lunch meats) are carb-free. Check the label first. They often contain sugars and starches. Most processed meats also contain a preservative called sodium nitrite, which can cause dangerous cancer-promoting nitrosamines to form in the body.
- Get some psyllium husk capsules (available from health food stores) or other natural fiber-based product to avoid constipation if you are prone to it (and don't forget to drink lots of water). Better still, get some ground flax seeds as well, and incorporate a spoonful into your daily diet. Adding it to creamy ricotta cheese with desiccated coconut, cinnamon or other spice and a little sweetener makes great low carb porridge!
- Start taking a good multivitamin/mineral if you aren't already (sugar and starch free). Low carb and low GI/low GL diets, when properly done, are not deficient in essential nutrients, but you may already have deficiencies caused by previous ways of eating. Many people, even those who consider they have a so-called balanced diet, have a sub-optimal nutrition status and this may affect weight control.
5) Latest Recipe In The Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook
For those of our readers who are subscribers to the Low Carb/Low GI Cookbook, we've released a new recipe - Spinach Tart. You will find this recipe already in your Cookbook next time you log in.
6) Visit Our Newsletter Archive
Did you miss an issue? Want to review an issue you really enjoyed? Be sure to check out our newsletter archive.
7) Test Your Knowledge
Did you know that ...
- ... even non-carbohydrate foods can trigger insulin production in some people. According to the Atkins Center website in August 03, twenty-five per cent of people react to the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet) with an insulin release.
- ... there is no single definition of the number of carbs allowed per day on a low carb diet. However, with most you start off at around 16 to 20 grams per day. After the first couple of weeks, you usually start adding around 5 grams per day on a weekly basis. You continue this gradual increase as long as you are still losing weight. Once you have reached your healthy weight, you will have gradually switched from a low carb approach of up to 60 grams per day to a controlled carb plan of up to 120 grams per day. Keep in mind, though, that everyone has their own individual tolerance to carbs, which depends upon their metabolism and their activity level. Some people may be able to maintain their weight on a higher level, but equally, some people may never be able move far from the initial very restricted level of carbs without putting on weight.
8) Tell Us What You Think
Your opinions matter to us. If there is something you particularly like or don't like about our newsletter or website, please let us know.
9) Your Successes, Requests and Questions
This is your spot! Whether it's your dietary success story, a request to cover a particular topic in a future newsletter or a question you would like answered, we would love to hear from you. Please do contact us.
Here are some low carbing questions we answered recently:
- Q The site I check carb counts with has updated their veggie database and for 100g raw broccoli they say it is 6.6g carbs and boiled is 2g. What figures do you get?
- A My carb counter says 2.24 g per 100 g for raw broccoli - I imagine the count you've got includes the fiber count, as you are in the US, and I'm in the UK (where fibre is stated separately).
It makes sense that the carb count per 100g will be lower for the boiled version than the raw version, because when you boil it, it takes up water and weighs more.
Carb counts do vary anyway because they can only be averages - a vegetable or fruit (or a seed or grain for that matter) may vary in its sugar/carb, protein, fiber, fat or even water content depending on the time of year it was picked, the weather conditions in which it was grown, the nutrients in the soil, and also the variety.
I always weigh my broccoli before I cook it, and take 2.24g as the carbs per 100g (but that's the carb count net of fiber).
You could look to see what values the USDA nutrient database gives.
With best wishes for your continued good health
Founder Director, Good Diet Good Health.com
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