Northwest NEWS

March 6, 2000

Home & Garden

Lowdown on low carbohydrate diets

by Dr. Angela C. Hein, naturopathic physician

   Can you lose weight on a low carb diet? Yes.

   Can it be done healthfully? Yes.

   The history: In the 1970s, low fat diets became very popular. These diets recommended fat-free foods such as: pasta, bagels, white rice, potatoes, pretzels, etc., to fill up on while avoiding saturated (animal) fats, which also contain cholesterol. The science: carbohydrates = sugar > stored as fat.

   High carbohydrate diets, especially simple carbos (refined sugar and flour), drive insulin up, as the body, in its wisdom, tries to feed our tissues with this simple fuel. Eventually, the insulin is maintained so high, that the tissues build up resistance to it and most of the sugar goes to be stored as fat, which is very difficult to burn as fuel (even with exercise). The result is happy taste buds, but overall fat gain, and possibly cholesterol problems.

   The solution: Avoid refined carbohydrates, foods like pasta, bagels, pretzels, chips, fat-free ice cream, etc. Reduce the number of carbohydrate servings in your diet to 2-3 servings/day (most people take 5-7 servings/day). Make high fiber, nutrient-rich carbo choices like: whole grain bread, cereal or crackers, brown rice, whole oats, yams, etc.

   Secondly, you don't have to eat bacon! In fact, I don't recommend that anyone take smoked or cured meats routinely. Consider fish, nuts, eggs, chicken, lamb, and tofu over processed meats. An example menu: might be a soy protein shake in the AM, with sunflower seeds added to boost protein, a salad with shrimp/chicken for lunch without a piece of bread, and chicken or fish for dinner with rice, broccoli, and a salad, but no extra bread. Another example might be; two eggs +/- a piece of toast for breakfast, a turkey sandwich on one piece of bread with veggie sticks, and stir fry with a small amount of rice for dinner.

   Snacks? You bet! Keep fresh fruit, veggies, raw nuts, hard-boiled eggs, or yogurt available to keep your blood sugar regulated. Being hungry is not necessary to lose weight in most cases. Keeping fluids up helps to cleanse the system. Keeping exercise up boosts metabolism by keeping the tissues hungrier. Realistic goals help keep up morale.

   I recommend the Schwarzbein Diet for those "do-it-yourself" folks.