A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared three diets: low-fat, low-carb and low-glycemic. In the short term, the low-fat diet was the “loser” in weight loss and the low-carb the clear winner, but the low-glycemic diet was the best diet for the long term.
And the long term is important because, on average, only 1 out of 6 people who lose weight have kept that weight loss after a year. But why was the low-glycemic diet the best long term? Mike Rogers, a participant in the study who kept off the 40 pounds he lost, said that there was a huge difference between the three diets. He says “the low-glycemic diet reminded me of the way my mom and grandmom cooked while I was growing up; I felt far better on the low-glycemic diet than on either of the other two.”
While I think that there are some problems with the glycemic index chart (such as over-simplification), a commonsense diet that includes a lot of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed foods just makes good sense, doesn’t it? Too often, dieters go to extremes to lose weight more quickly but then have the plan backfire in the end when they gorge on sweets after starving for carbs for weeks. The research presented in the book "The Serotonin Power Diet" says that people can be starved for serotonin when on low-carb diets. Your brain uses carbohydrates (with the exception of fruit and honey) to create serotonin, and as your body becomes starved for it, you will want it more and more. Those who don’t do well on a low-carb diet and end up gorging on sweets at some point are actually proving the author’s point. While the book is disappointing in application, the serotonin research is interesting, and could provide a clue as to why some people don’t feel good when they follow a low-carb diet.
In much the same way, those on low-fat diets can end up craving a needed, critical part to their diet, and end up not only unhappy during the dieting, but having a hard time eating a balanced diet directly after finishing the diet program.
So, why not just try a diet with “slow-carbs” — lots of produce and nourishing protein and fats, just like grandma’s regular food on the table? (Or, in my case, perhaps my great-grandma's table!). I’d be interested to read more details in this research, as well as any follow up, not simply because of the weight-loss angle, but because it goes along with a simpler attitude of what a “healthy” diet is. After all, a diet based on good ingredients, non-processed foods, and “slow-carbs” is basically what us “traditional” food lovers eat.
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