The low carb diet plan has been around for well over a century in one form or another. The diet has gained popularity over recent years making dieting more confusing than ever. High carb, low carb, no carb, good carb, bad carb… it’s tough for people to figure out just what type of low carb diet plan, if any, will aid in their weight loss. And if so, is it healthful?
Let’s start with the negative aspects of a low carb diet and end on a positive note with the up side to low carbohydrate dieting.
Clearly, a low carb diet is really no different than any other type of fad diet. Though one might be lead to believe that carbohydrates are the evil behind flabby abs and big bums, what the diet is really doing is cutting calories. As we all know, healthful weight loss occurs when caloric intake is lowered to allow for more calories burned than consumed. A low carbohydrate diet’s gimmick is that by cutting out a lot of if not all carbohydrate from the diet, far fewer calories are consumed. Sounds good, right?
Not really. There are some healthful aspects of carbohydrate that are also going to be missing. Fiber is an important aspect of weight loss, gastrointestinal health, cardiovascular health and possibly cancer prevention. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These food sources are only allowed in small portions if not eliminated all together.
What else is lost along with the fiber? Fruits and vegetables contain many, many important nutrients that not only aid in weight loss but promote good overall health. Vitamins and minerals can be severely lacking in strict diets and lead to all sorts of health problems.
It’s imperative that people consume plenty of vegetables and some fruit in their daily diets. One simply can’t be healthy and lose weight without consuming vegetables. Any fad low carb diet that advises limiting vegetables is simply ludicrous. What better food group to offer optimum nutrition and so few calories at the same time?
Another problem is the general misunderstanding of the diet. Because many dieters have been lead to believe that carbohydrate is evil, they tend to think that any protein is good and fill their plates with low carb diet food that is high in saturated fat. Though they may still be able to lose weight while dining on bacon every morning due to the extreme calorie cutting, there’s a good possibility that they are doing all sorts of miserable things to their bodies such as clogging their arteries or making themselves more susceptible to developing certain types of cancers such as breast cancer or prostate cancer.
Probably the most damning problem with following a low carb diet plan is the mere fact that long term weight loss is extremely difficult. Depending on how extreme the diet is, much of the initial weight loss could be due to the fact that the body is in a state of ketosis where water weight is lost. Not to mention that eventually, normal eating will resume and folks who have starved themselves from breads and the like may go overboard when they finally begin eating carbohydrates again. The simple fact is that most low carb diets are very difficult to maintain for an extended period of time and due to the aforementioned problems, it may even be detrimental to one’s overall health to remain on such an eating plan for too long.
That being said, there are few benefits to low carb dieting.
As I’ve said, healthful dieting has everything to do with lowering caloric intake as well as increasing caloric deficit through exercise. We all have different energy requirements. People who are more active can tolerate a higher level of caloric intake than people who live a sedentary life.
When we wish to lower our caloric intake in order to lose weight, we need to eliminate things in our diet. What should be eliminated? We need protein to maintain cellular integrity, hormonal function and a vast plethora of other activities in the body. We need carbohydrate as well for energy needs. Some carbohydrates, however, offer little more than this and we need the other benefits of good carbohydrates as well.
Good carbohydrates offer more than energy. Whole grains which are made with the whole grain kernel rather than processed flour offer fiber. Fruits and vegetables offer both fiber and vital vitamins and minerals; all of which not only support bodily functions and thus overall good health, but also have been known to aid in weight loss.
If a low carb diet plan advocates eliminating carbohydrates that are nutritionally poor such as refined sugars in junk food, and instead tell the dieter to choose carbohydrates that are high in fiber and other vitamins and minerals, then the diet could be a very sound eating plan.
As well, if the low carb diet advocates the use of lean protein sources instead of randomly assigning “choose from the protein group,” then the diet will probably help lower cardiovascular risk disease by lowering the amount of saturated fat in the average American’s diet.
The fact is that because some things in our diet have to be eliminated, we need to eliminate those things that are nutritionally poor. By doing this, you’re able to lose weight without leaving the body susceptible to all the problems that come with poor nutrition.
As weight is lost and the dieter has been trained to enjoy things like fruits, vegetables and whole grains over junky carbohydrates, lasting weight loss results are far more likely. This is because the person, rather than simply following a fad diet, has learned to eat properly possibly for the first time in his or her life.
Add to that plenty of exercise, water and sleep and this person will be at optimum overall health!