Going Low Carb: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, February 18, 2009

Dieters sometimes fall back on the “low-carb” plans to lose weight easily, but cutting carbs altogether isn’t wise. Certain carbohydrate-rich foods are vital to your good health. Find out if you’re eating the right kinds.

Which Foods Have Carbs?
Healthy carbohydrate-rich foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Foods such as dairy and legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are a combo of protein and carbs. Also on the carbohydrate list are foods that contain few healthy nutrients such refined sugar and white flour.

Carbohydrates provide your body with immediate energy for everything from eye blinks to exercise. As mentioned in a previous post on pasta, only carbohydrates provide your brain with energy. If they aren’t available, the body will convert other nutrients (like fat) into carbs for energy. This process actually wastes energy and takes longer, which can lead to fatigue and a slower metabolism (yes, you’ll be slowing your body down!). Carbohydrate needs are specific to the individual, but everyone needs some in their diet.

Low-Carb Diets
Most low carb diets cut out all sugar and refined starches (such as white flour), which can have a positive impact on health. But they also cut down or wipe out fruit and whole grains – both are full of fiber and vitamins (A and C in fruit and B vitamins in grains) that your body must have to perform properly.

If weight loss does occur, it’s not because carbs were off-limits; it’s because calories were drastically reduced. Dieters are suddenly “not allowed” to eat so many foods that calories become scarce. There is no magical formula — despite what you hear in those infomercials. Calorie reduction is the only way to lose weight.

Many dieters manage to lose weight on a low-carb diet, but a plan that banishes numerous foods and slashes carbohydrates is unsustainable (and so is the weight loss). Since low-carb diets are also tremendously high in saturated fat and protein, dieters are at risk for cardiovascular and kidney problems as well.

Low-Carb Foods
You could fill an entire grocery store with nothing but low-carb versions of ordinarily carb-filled foods such as bread, ice cream, cereal, snacks and candies. Check the labels on these foods — they are edible chemistry experiments. A 2004 New York Times article explains some of the scary ingredients lurking in these foods and why dieters don’t have a free pass to munch.

Foods that are naturally low in carbohydrates such as vegetables, cheese, nuts and seeds are good for you and give your body what it needs when they’re eaten in moderation with fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein.

Bottom Line: If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, your energy levels and metabolism will pay the price. The amount of carbohydrates in a low-carb diet is not one-size-fits-all but no one should go without!

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Comments (2)

  1. Therese Sullivan says:

    Have you actually read the South Beach diet? Low fat cooking, no fried foods, olive oil and plenty plenty of whole grains and fruits. My physician put me on this diet because I was borderline diabetic. Now I don’t even test that way. I have lost 40 pounds and I have never eaten healthier in my life. Maybe you need to take a closer look at this diet because your description is of the atkins diet and not the south beach.

  2. Dinos Tsapatsaris says:

    Frankly, I think the advice was ignorant, medical dogma not fact. The lack of energy comment was gratuitous nonsense. The research is ample: A high carb diet antithetical to health. The government’s food pyramid is exactly upside down. The bad advice that spawned the geometric garbage is what is behind the diabetes epidemic, the heart disease epidemic and the constant loosing battle against cancer. The low carb lifestyle is the healthiest, and the data to prove it is all over the place. The medical community 50 years ago backed the wrong cause and made fat the culprit. They have invested billions and staked careers on the wrong cause. And that is why the “epidemics” will continue and lousy reports like the one above will be written. The fats are slowly being rehabilitated and the high carbs slowly cast aside (along with that rocket fuel for your pancreas, high fructose corn syrup.) But it will take a generation or more and millions of early deaths before the medical community gets its head out of it fats. The medical community is so wrong on diet and health that I have come to view that profession as simply disgusting.

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