So, what about that low carb diet?

I feel like this diet has stuck around forever!  Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty or shall we say, the meat and potatoes?  The low carb diet, also known as the ketogenic diet, gained it’s greatest popularity in the 90’s with the Atkins diet and as with all low-carb diets where one must severely restrict one particular food group, calories must come from an alternate source, i.e. fat and protein.  Carbohydrates include breads, cereals, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes as well as legumes (beans and peas), fruit, milk and yogurt. Your body uses carbohydrates as the preferred fuel for energy.  From carbohydrates, the body makes glucose, used for everyday activities, to maintain blood sugar and to give immediate energy in times of stress.  Carbohydrates provide B vitamins, like folate, fiber, minerals, calcium, vitamin D, potassium and iron. B vitamins boost your immune system and protect babies from life-long debilitating neural tube defects.  Fiber helps control weight by helping you feel fuller, longer.  Fiber also maintains a healthy GI tract (your guts, people), helps control diabetes and prevents other diseases such as diverticulosis and certain cancers.  Calcium and vitamin D are needed for strong teeth and bones.  Potassium controls your muscles, including your heart and promotes new cell growth.  Iron prevents anemia and fatigue. If you are limiting carbs, you are missing out on a lot of these important nutrients.  Sure, you can take a multi-vitamin but, when vitamins are isolated from foods, you don’t absorb them as well.  Low carb diet promoters will tell you to get these nutrients from other sources, like calcium from broccoli and you can, but some of the alternate foods contain very small amounts and are not considered to be a good source.  For example: Calcium content of 1 cup broccoli    = 94 mg                                                                                     Calcium content of 1 cup skim milk = 302 mg Here’s what happens during 1 year of low carb dieting in a nutshell:                                       In the beginning, a low carb diet will jump-start weight loss as long as you aren’t over-eating other foods, but weight loss slows down significantly at around 6 months because your body is protecting itself from what it interprets as starvation.  Remember, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel.  Suddenly, you’ll notice that all that weight you’ve been losing has practically slowed to a halt.  Your body starts to cling on to everything you take in and doesn’t want to let go of it’s precious stores.  The following 6 months will likely result in very little weight loss and more restrictive eating from the frustrated dieter.  Many of the popular diets, like South Beach will tell you to begin adding back carbs and if you start to gain weight, fall back to the previous diet phase, again over-restricting carbs.  You see, you will never successfully reach the final phase because when you begin eating carbs again, your body is smart enough to store those carbs more efficiently and the excess becomes much harder to lose. Besides making yourself miserable, passing up the warm dinner roll and the side of delicious pasta, you’re tired!  You’re finding it harder to peel yourself from the sheets in the mornings and you are starting to feel like you’d rather eat a bug than muster up the energy to get in 30-45 minutes of exercise.  You are starting to avoid your friends and co-workers you’ve been bragging about your weight loss to, as you no longer have a good report, not to mention the unnecessary work you’re putting on your liver and kidneys.  Guess what?  In the last year, if you’d spent your days watching your portion sizes, fast food intake, excess empty calories like sodas, cakes and cookies and included at least 50% of your calories as carbs, making an effort to make at least half as whole grains, you would have lost the same amount of weight and been far happier! Something you may not know:  Low carb diets have been shown to increase fatigue, decrease motivation to exercise and cause general mood disturbances. 

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