Dieting in America Today
Americans are obsessed with dieting. Questing for the perfect combination of foods to result in a Hollywood-grade body is practically a hobby. At the same time, they are also very attached to Krispy Kreme burgers, super-sized sodas, and deep fried everything. It’s no wonder that Americans have such a high instance of obesity and weight-related health disorders. The heart of the problem stems from two sources.
Firstly, it’s hard to eat the same things, in the same way, with perfect discipline forever. Everyone gets bored even if they do see results- and cherry pie is tasty.
Secondly, given the number of dietary issues, allergies, and intolerances that exist in the human population, it isn’t logical to assume there is a ‘magic bullet diet’. There is no one plan that will instantly make everybody slim, toned, and perpetually youthful.
Any major change of diet should first be discussed with a qualified doctor or registered nutritionist; this is especially important if you currently experience any chronic physical issues. This is the only body you will ever have, so it is imperative you feed and care for it correctly.
That being said, many versions of a low carb/high protein diet have been healthy and effective for some populations- but may not be the answer to every dietary problem out there. Some of the most consistent benefits are listed here.
1) Overall Weight Loss
Whether trying simple low carb diet, the paleo diet, or the Mediterranean diet, the desired result is always the same: weight loss. The official Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that 225-325g of carbs for a 2000 calorie diet is acceptable.
Low carb diets dictate a rather different approach; depending on the variant of the diet, anywhere between 60-130g of carbs is suggested. The initial phases of this diet are usually rather intensive and restrictive, making it a drastic change from standard patterns of eating.
People typically lose a great deal of weight within the first few weeks of a low carb diet as the body excretes more water and salt through the kidneys. While effective for weight loss, this diet is suggested only for people with healthy kidney function. It must be noted here that for best results, a low carb diet must be part of a balanced lifestyle of eating and exercise, and not just a fad.
2) Increased Visceral Weight Loss
Fat is stored in the body in two ways: under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and in the abdomen around the organs (visceral fat). Of the two types, visceral fat is the more dangerous as it can lead to tissue inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic dysfunction.
Low carb diets are particularly effective at reducing visceral fat over time, and do so even more successfully than low-fat diets. Maintaining this discipline has been proven to dramatically reduce the incidences of heart disease and type II diabetes.
3) Decreased Appetite
Due to the high percentage of rich, healthy fats and lean proteins suggested, people on low carb diets tend to be less hungry. Because of the quality and composition of the foods that are consumed, they are digested more slowly and release energy more consistently in the course of a day.
This leads to an overall decrease in the average number of calories eaten daily- without a sense of deprivation, and still accompanied by successful weight loss.
4) Hypertension and Cholesterol Issues
Maintaining a healthy weight is not only more comfortable and attractive, it balances a host of blood factors within desirable parameters. Low carb diets have been shown to alter both cholesterol and triglyceride levels favorably.
Increased levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and lowered levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) have been consistent results from a carefully monitored low carb diet. With the restriction of carbohydrates, the levels of fasting triglyceride levels drop significantly, leading to a decreased risk of heart disease.
5) Effective For Diabetics
With a decreased intake of carbohydrates, systemic blood sugar levels are much less likely to spike- leading to less stress on the pancreas to produce insulin.
Insulin is absolutely essential in the absorption of glucose into cells from the blood stream. With very high levels of blood sugar, it becomes increasingly difficult for insulin to function properly, leading to ‘insulin resistance’ and type II diabetes.
In general diabetics on low carb diets tend to flourish, and can often reduce their insulin dosages with their doctors’ observation and intervention.
The human brain runs on glucose, but it can also function well on the products of a low carb diet. In particular, a strict version of low carb consumption called the ‘ketogenic diet’ has been found to be beneficial to children suffering from epilepsy.
In some studies, it has shown to decrease the instances of seizures in children who did not respond well to other medications- but again, this is a case to consult with a proper expert on the subject.
New and exciting research is emerging linking brain health and low carb diets, though. Several variants of a low-carb diet are now being studied as part of treatment plans for Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, with some exciting first findings.
Give It Some Thought
Low carb/high protein diets seem to be the way of the future, but a great deal of care and planning is necessary for your best health. High protein diets can put undue strain on the kidneys and cause side effects like fatigue, bad breath, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and digestive upset.
Collaborating with a qualified professional is always the best bet, and having a confident resource to rely upon is most likely to increase your overall health and decrease your risk factors.