Take the good, leave the bad
The good news? Many of the weight-loss advantages of low-carb diets may have nothing at all to do with restricting carbohydrates. The main benefit may be due to the extra protein—and you can add protein to your diet even if you don’t drastically cut carbs. Protein-rich foods can really help with weight control. One reason may be that protein stimulates the body to burn slightly more calories than carbohydrates or fats do.
The main reason, though, is that protein foods curb hunger better. When people eat protein-rich foods, they feel fuller longer, and when they diet, they consume fewer calories and lose more weight when they eat a lot of protein.
One recent study puts it in perspective. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle gave volunteers a diet that got 50 per cent of its calories from carbohydrates. That’s certainly not a low-carb diet, though it’s not a high-carb diet either. It’s actually a good goal, on par with what we suggest.
To start, the volunteers got only 15 per cent of their calories from protein and 35 per cent from fat. That’s about what most people get. Then they switched: Carbs stayed the same, but fat was decreased to 20 per cent of calories, and protein was doubled to 30 per cent. The participants were allowed to eat as much as they wanted— but they ate less.
Over 14 weeks, they lost an average of 11 pounds (5 kg), including 8 pounds (3.5 kg) of body fat, thanks to the extra protein.
More protein, and carbohydrates in moderation
No matter how you slice it, we eat too many carbohydrates. We consume many more calories than we used to, and most of those extra calories come from extra carbs (so many chips and cookies!). Thus, it makes sense to cut back some on carbs. It also makes sense to choose lower-glycemic carbohydrate foods instead of “fast-acting” carbs that send your blood sugar soaring.
That approach provides the benefits of a drastically low-carb diet with none of the hazards. You’ll get the blood sugar advantages, including lower insulin levels. By eating plenty of lean protein, you’ll feel satisfied and less hungry. And by choosing “good” fats and limiting “bad” ones, you’ll keep LDL cholesterol from rising and protect your heart in the process. You’ll also discover a way of eating that you can enjoy—rather than endure—for the rest of your life.