Looking to lose weight or just eat healthier in the New Year? Let us help you weigh the many options out there with our Diets 101 series. Today's diet is the Low-Carb and Smart-Carb Diet.
You know the names: Atkins, South Beach , New Glucose Revolution, and Low GL. Find out how these carb-counting diets work-plus get our low-carb recipes and tips from a nutritionist.
- Carbohydrates are the root of all evil.
- The day starts off with a high-protein meal, and continues in the same vein
- Fast-burning carbs such as white bread, rice, potatoes, and sweets are off the table
- Beans, whole grains, and fruits are allowed in moderation
- Nonstarchy vegetables add nutrients and fiber
- Fat is your friend
This Is Your Diet If...
- You're looking for a high-protein diet
- You're ready to give up white foods
- You need to control your blood sugar
- You'd rather count carbs than calories
Probably Not for You If...
- You cannot live without bread and potatoes
- Your life involves a lot of strenuous physical activity (e.g., you're an athlete)
- You prefer a low-fat diet
- You need to limit saturated fat or cholesterol
For those whose daily lives include hours of strenuous physical activity, carbohydrates are an indispensable source of energy. When you're Michael Phelps, you can eat your weight in pasta and still maintain 5 percent body fat. For the rest of us, all that "ready fuel" simply turns our metabolism toward fat storage. A low-carbohydrate diet is one way of adapting to the fact that for most of us life isn't as (physically) strenuous as it used to be.
Carbohydrates also send our blood-sugar levels on a roller coaster ride, which results in a cruel irony: The more carbs you eat, the more you want. Cutting carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, potatoes, pastries, and pasta out of the diet not only reduces calories, it can also help shift the body out of carb-craving and fat-storage mode.
However, drastically reducing your intake of carbohydrates usually requires increasing your intake of protein and fat. For most low-carb dieters, this means a bigger intake of animal protein (dairy, meat, and fish). Although it's possible for vegans to follow a low-carb diet, it's very tough. Most vegetarian protein sources (beans, nuts, and grains) come packaged with a lot of carbohydrates too.
Giving up carbohydrates can be challenging. No cereal for breakfast. No sandwiches for lunch. No cocktail before dinner. In exchange, you get to enjoy high-fat foods that are often off-limits to dieters. Ultimately, though, you still need to eat fewer calories than you burn if you want to lose weight.
A Day on the Low-Carb Diet
with a glass of tomato juice
with peanut butter on celery sticks
with steamed brown rice
More Great Low-Carb Recipes
- Caper-Rosemary Tuna with Herb Salad
- Crispy-Skin Fish Fillets with Wilted Escarole
- Eggplant Cannelloni
- Grilled Oregano Shrimp
- Grilled Tuna with Provençal Vegetables and Easy Aioli
- Lemon-Roasted Green Beans with Marcona Almonds
- Moroccan Style Lamb and Carrots with Chickpea Purée
Books on the Low-Carb/Smart-Carb Diet
Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution
by Robert Atkins, M.D.
The original low-carb diet plan, the Atkins Diet virtually eliminates carbohydrates, at least in the early stages of the diet. The resulting regimen is very high in both fat (60 percent) and protein (35 percent). No restrictions are placed on the type of protein and fat you consume, leading to the bacon, Brie, and bratwurst diet. Although it can peel the weight off quickly, the diet's long-term healthfulness is questioned by many experts.
Atkins refined his approach in later years, acknowledging that people probably should eat a few fruits and vegetables once in a while. Although "Atkins" remains synonymous with "low-carb," most people who say they are on the Atkins Diet actually follow a modified Atkins regime.
The New Glucose Revolution
by Jenny Brand-Miller, Ph.D.
The principle behind Brand-Miller's many glucose-centric books is that some carbs are more damaging than others. The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates by their effect on blood-sugar levels. High GI carbs, such as white bread and sugar, send blood-sugar levels soaring and are to be avoided. Foods with a moderate GI, such as whole fruits, grains, dairy, and legumes, are eaten in moderation. You can eat low GI foods, such as green vegetables in unlimited quantities.
The Holford Low GL Diet
by Patrick Holford
Glycemic load (GL) takes into account the serving size (quantity) as well as the glycemic index (quality) of carbs. Instead of having you counting carbs, Holford has you tally up the GL of your meals. Keeping your GL total in the target range and including lean protein in every meal, he claims, will balance your hormones, curb your appetite, and peel off the pounds.
The South Beach Diet
by Arthur Agatston, M.D.
Like Atkins, the South Beach Diet starts with an extremely low-carb phase to break the high-carb cycle and jump-start weight loss. Agatston avoids one of the chief complaints leveled against the Atkins-style low-carb diet by introducing the notion of "good" and "bad" fats. Although South Beach allows you a generous amount of fat, the bacon cheeseburgers have been replaced by heart-healthy nuts, avocado, and olive oil. When carbs are added back, the emphasis is on smart (low GI) carbs.
By Monica Reinagel
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