Low-Carb Diets - An Introduction
According to a recent survey by the National Health Institute, about a third of overweight Americans who are trying to lose weight, are doing so by eating less carbohydrates (carbs) largely because of the increased popularity of fad diets like Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet.
Who Invented Low-Carb Diets?
The term "low-carb" was coined around 1992 when the USDA recommended that Americans include six to eleven servings daily of grains and starches in their diet.
In fact, low-carb dieting dates back more than 100 years to 1864, before the trendy Atkins diet, when a pamphlet titled "Letter on Corpulence" was written by William Banting. This was as close to the first commercial low-carb diet as you could get.
Banting's diet eventually fell out of favor, but low-carb diets began appearing again in the 20th century. The most famous of these are the Atkins and Scarsdale diets that came to popularity in the 1970s.
While Scarsdale has a set 14-day meal plan that must be followed and greatly restricts calories, the Atkins diet allows for unlimited calorie consumption as long as those calories are from protein, fat and vegetables and carbohydrate intake is kept low.
Atkins and Scarsdale fell out of favor in the 1980's when the USDA encouraged the consumption of grains and grain products.
It was only in the 1990's that we began to see a return to low-carb dieting that seems to be more than a fad. Low-carb is now a lifestyle!
As more and more people realize the weight loss and other health benefits that are available to people who eat low-carb, the number of diets and stores that sell specialty low-carb products continue to rise.
In a nutshell, most low-carb diets carry the same basic premise: that too much of simple, refined carbohydrates leads to over overproduction of insulin, which leads to the storage of too much fat in the body. This fat storage is especially prominent around the middle.
While there are degrees of difference among the many diets, they all agree on the negative effects that excess insulin production have on our systems.
While it might be great to lower the body's sugar content and be healthier, wouldn't it be great to learn how to do so while being part of this fast-paced world?
People want and need simpler solutions. And they need simpler dieting plans.
Forget spending mega bucks on gourmet, hard-to-find items. Forget spending hours just to prepare meals. And forget counting, measuring, and weighing ingredients.
Either a low-carb plan fit into real-world lives, or it doesn't. So how do low-carb diets fit into the real world today?
Low Carb, Slow Carb
In a nutshell, there are two kinds of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Some refer to them as bad and good carbs, fast and slow digestion carbs and other possibly confusing lingo. Here's the scoop.
Foods with simple or refined carbohydrates most often have a low nutrient content and a high-glycemic index. They are quick to digest and can cause blood sugar to soar then fall dramatically within a short span of time.
In order to keep the body running more healthy and stable, health advisors recommend that these type foods be limited.
Examples of these simple carbs are white bread, potatoes, bananas, and sugary treats like cookies, candy, cupcakes and cakes, and soda beverages like popular cola products.
Foods with complex carbohydrates contain many nutrients and have a low- to moderate-glycemic index.
Higher fiber content in these foods means slower digestion, which is healthier for the body. And these foods are considered good choices by health advisors.
Examples of these complex carbs are whole grains, most fruits and vegetables. Legumes, plants of the pea or bean family, are also in this category.
Which Is Best?
While studies like one from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in January of 2004 show that low-carb diets can help with weight loss; the carbs need to be of the complex, low-glycemic type.
However, it is not necessary to totally avoid the simple carbs. A treat now and then, in moderation (and approved per your dietary advisor or in accordance with your health practitioner), should be fine.
As a side note, your teeth will also be healthier without the build up of sugar decay from simple carb foods. So healthier smiles will shine with healthier bodies.
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