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What's Trending: What's a better eating style: Low-Carb or Low-Fat?

By: Paula Hendricks, Granite Bay View columnist
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Last month, I attended a conference for the Nutrition and Metabolism Society in Denver. The overall theme of the conference focused on which style of eating was better for long-term health:  Low-carb or low-fat? It’s a topic that has been debated over and over. I am bursting with information, no pun intended, that was received from the experts in the field of Nutrition and Obesity Medicine; and I'm excited to share with you what I learned.

Insight One: You can lose weight on either a low-fat or low-carb diet, but you will experience more favorable changes long-term in body chemistry on a low-carb diet.

Study after scientific study showed that a moderate reduction in dietary carbohydrates sufficed to prevent overt illness and inflammation in the body. In other words, consuming a low-carb diet reduces your risk for cancer, reduces or eliminates Type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity, improves blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, and conditions your body to rely on stored fat for energy – all favorable changes.

Interestingly, unfavorable changes in body chemistry are more prevalent in a low-fat diet. This type of diet can have a negative effect on the body by conditioning it to rely more on carbohydrates for energy, which increases insulin production, leading to insulin resistance, carbohydrate intolerance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.

Insight two: People vary widely in their tolerance to carbohydrates. The ‘carbohydrate-tolerant’ person has a wider range of food options, whereas the ‘carbohydrate-intolerant’ person does not and stands to benefit the most from carbohydrate restriction.

Today, humans have become more carbohydrate intolerant because past dietary recommendations have focused on decreasing fats — primarily animal fat in meat — as well as butter, eggs, and oils. This is because all of those were once thought to be the cause of heart disease, obesity and other illnesses. Out went the ‘natural’ fats, which were replaced with ‘unnatural fats,’ margarine and trans fats mixed with carbohydrates, such as high fructose corn syrup, flours, and modified grains. The outcome: a low-fat, low protein, high carbohydrate diet. 

As a result of this unfortunate turn in dietary intake, humans are exposed to a lot more sugar and starches than the body can handle; and the majority is showing signs of significant carbohydrate intolerance, most strikingly in the form of obesity and diabetes. Almost all who are overweight have some degree of carbohydrate intolerance.

Insight three: There are many diet strategies to reduce energy intake (calories) short-term but carbohydrate restriction trumps calorie restriction long-term. 

While a reduction in energy intake is generally required for weight loss, the experts stated that the quality of food intake is more important than just reducing calories. Reducing calories is a temporary fix. Instead, we need to go back to human’s natural ancestral eating style, relying more on quality protein and fats for energy than high sugar foods. We would be much healthier, and obesity and diabetes would no longer be an epidemic of maximum proportions.

Insight four: It was refreshing to hear again that the way I eat every day, and teach others to eat, is a healthy diet that promotes long-term wellness. 

Here are some examples of delicious food items the experts recommend: almonds, broccoli with butter, animal meats, walnuts, tomato drizzled with olive oil, wild salmon, Arugula salad, raspberries, an omelet with herbs and cheese, avocado, tomatoes, red wine and occasionally honey and dark chocolate. The list goes on and on. There are many websites and cookbooks out there geared towards this style of eating; just Google the words Paleo, Low-Carb, or Low-Glycemic eating and find what works best for you.  

The Take-Away. A low-carb eating style trumps a low-fat eating style every day!

Check out my recipe in this month’s magazine– Eggplant Toast.  It’s delicious and low-carb.  Have a comment or question?  Email me at info@hendricksforhealth.com