By Sherry L. Granader, CNC
Studies continue to show those who eat a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet, lose more weight, and reduce cardiovascular risk factors than those who strictly follow a low-fat diet.
For decades, many health professionals advocated the low-fat diet, hence the kick-off of production of endless food products labeled ‘fat-free’ or ‘low-fat’ to attract those wanting to lose weight.
You can quickly reduce your risk for heart disease and lose weight in the process by eating fewer carbohydrates and more of the ‘good’ fats such as avocado, olive oil and nuts. Eating this way not only helps you lose weight but also reduces body fat. Cutting processed carbohydrates can help you lose weight without counting calories. This, alone, makes it easier to change what you eat with a low-carbohydrate diet.
A low-carbohydrate diet was made popular in the 1970’s through Dr. Atkins that promoted a diet low in carbohydrates, and high in protein and fat. Critics of this eating plan claimed that even though people would lose weight on this diet, cholesterol and other heart disease factors would increase by eating more dairy and meat. In other words, if you are going to eat more fat, your cholesterol levels will go up, leading to other health problems. However, this is not the case.
New studies continue to show that eating a low-carbohydrate diet allows you to lose more weight than a low-fat diet. In addition, lean muscle mass improves with greater loss in body fat. Those eating a low-fat diet will still lose weight but they also tend to lose more muscle than body fat, something you do not want to do. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day, even at rest.
Focusing on keeping lean muscle mass as opposed to focusing on what the scale says is an important factor. Eating a diet with high quality protein and unsaturated fats such as fish, olive oil and nuts with fresh vegetables and salad works well for successful weight loss. A typical day of meals would look like this:
Breakfast – Vegetable Omelet
Lunch – Tuna salad with sliced tomato
Snack – Apple with 1½ tablespoons of fresh ground almond butter
Dinner – Grilled Chicken with asparagus sautéed in garlic and olive oil
A low-fat meal plan would include more grains, cereals and starches while reducing total fat intake to less than 30% of daily calories. This is what you often see in the Food Pyramid diagrams that follow the federal government guidelines for diet. The one factor that a low-carbohydrate and a low-fat diet have in common is eating more vegetables.
However, when all is said and done, people on a low-carbohydrate diet, not only lose more weight, but their inflammation markers and triglycerides (a type of fat that circulates in the blood) are reduced. HDL (good) cholesterol also increases significantly with a low-carbohydrate diet as opposed to a low-fat diet. LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure tend to stay the same.
It turns out that eating refined, highly processed carbohydrates tend to increase the number of LDL (bad) cholesterol particles and makes them denser – and that is what contributes to heart disease and atherosclerosis. Eating more saturated fat makes LDL particles larger and lighter and less likely to clog arteries, as long as carbohydrate intake is not high. Dense, small LDL particles are often found in those with abdominal fat, high triglycerides, and heart disease, also known as metabolic syndrome.
The bottom line is to embrace the concept of eating fewer processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates. Enjoy good fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds and olive or coconut oil. Stay away from fat-free foods such as fat-free salad dressings that are loaded with sugar. The verdict is in – low-carbohydrate diets work for weight loss and better health in more ways than one.
Carb Manager is the easiest and most powerful way to count carbs and live the low carb life. In this blog, we've invited experts on LCHF to contribute their views on everything low carb.