“Diet” often is thought of as some sort of restriction or sacrifice in food intake, but in reality, we all are on a “diet,” which actually means any eating and drinking pattern. However, to make things easier, throughout this column, “diet” will refer to some eating pattern involving restrictions.
Literally hundreds of diets have hit the market over the past few years, often from completely unknowledgeable people with little, if any, background in nutrition, health, and disease. In fact, I can assure you that most of them are fabricated to make a quick buck, regardless of whether the diet actually works, or has any research behind it. Guess why these diets are so popular? Yes, you guessed it. People are uninformed and gullible. Most just believe what they hear without doing their own research, especially when what they hear relates to a subject they know or care little about.
Despite the multitude of rather inferior diets on the market, and barring that someone actually would exercise and follow a healthy, balanced diet rich in what he or she should be eating (i.e., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, nuts), I actually would endorse one “diet” if someone were severely overweight, or had significantly elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels: a low-carbohydrate diet.
Don’t get me wrong. A low-carbohydrate diet definitely is not for everyone, and not everyone should consider trying it, but one thing is for certain: Low-carb diets improve blood lipids significantly. Numerous research studies have shown that a low-carbohydrate diet improves blood lipids through decreased bad cholesterol levels, increased good cholesterol levels, and decreased triglycerides. Additionally, low-carbohydrate diets may benefit diabetics and prediabetics through improved insulin sensitivity and more stable blood glucose levels.
To top it all off, you will have a nice, clean mouth, with essentially no food for those stenchy, plaque-forming bacteria, as they feed on your dietary sugar. However, you still may have bad breath from the formation of ketones. What the hell are ketones? Look it up if you wish, but suffice it to say they reek, yet are needed as brain fuel once you run out of glycogen/glucose stores in your body from such a low-carb intake. Your mate may want you back on the bacteria-prone diet in no time!
The weight loss experienced on a low-carb eating plan is as much water as fat and muscle. Without carbohydrates, your body breaks down glycogen stores (storage form of glucose, a carbohydrate = energy), which store a lot of water. This water is released as these stores are used for energy, so at least initially, much of the weight loss is from water. Later on, much of it comes from fat, with a little from muscle. The high protein content of the diet actually helps prevent muscle loss when losing weight in comparison to a higher-carb weight-loss plan—hence why protein intake should be increased on just about any weight-loss plan, in my opinion.
Now, for some additional claims people on these diets make that may or may not be true. People have reported enhanced concentration and memory, along with improved mood. Furthermore, many claim to experience fewer cravings for sweets and fewer instances of compulsive overeating when following a low-carb diet.
Part of the reason may be that they just get used to not eating those things. It’s amazing—the willpower that develops once removed from something for a few weeks—please apply this to your own diet! Another reason may be that they are fairly full all the time, considering the bulky, hunger-satisfying properties of protein and fat, which essentially are 100 percent of the low-carb diet. In any case, fewer cravings have been reported by most on this diet.
While a healthy, balanced diet combined with adequate exercise could take care of just about any weight problem and most other disease risk factors, the truth is that most people refuse to follow or even try to follow this recommended lifestyle. This is where we simplify things in the nutrition world by creating diets one easily can follow, and at the same time improve health. There is not much to learn when it comes to a low-carb diet. Eat meat—lots of it. Avoid other foods. If you love meat, have weight issues, and have poor blood lipid profiles, this may be the diet for you.
Other diets out there may work, but I just wanted to highlight one that actually has much scientific and medical research to back up the claims.
Are we ready for that healthy, balanced diet and exercise plan yet?