To your health

To your health by Pam Schaefer Low-Carb Still Lingers

Many people are still "holding the bread" and ordering "seconds on sausage," all in hopes of shedding excess pounds while on low-carbohydrate diets. There is a lot of contradictory information at the present time about carbohydrates and people are still confused. Let's start with the basics.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the starches, fiber and sugar in foods. Most of the energy needed to move, perform work and live is consumed in the form of carbohydrates. When you consume carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into simple sugar so that they can be absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose (blood sugar).

In response, your pancreas produces insulin to help the body process the glucose. Your body then uses the glucose for energy. Low-carb diet supporters believe that cutting carbs forces the body to use fat as a fuel source. They also claim that carbohydrates increase hunger and that they are addictive.

What does the research show?

There is limited research looking at the low-carb lifestyle. In fact, the evidence available is poor, consisting of several small, short-term studies. One recent study found that over six months, participants following a low-carb diet lost more weight than participants following a low-fat diet. But several other studies show that after a year, both low-carb dieters and low-fat dieters lose about the same amount of weight. So despite evidence that low-carb dieters can lose weight quickly, total weight loss seems to be the same for both diets.

Many experts are still concerned about the safety of these diet plans. The longest low-carb study to date followed dieters for one year. There is good news on the low-carb research front. The National Institute of Health is currently conducting a five-year study comparing long-term health effects of low-carb to conventional diets based on the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid.

What about all of the fat that accompanies low-carb?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fewer that 30 percent of our calories from fat. On low-carb diets, fat intake can reach 50 percent of total calories and in many cases, the fat is saturated fat. The American Cancer Society, the AHA and other health advocacy organizations "have good evidence that high-fat diets are not good for long-term health, no matter what kind of fat."

Cutting carbs does not have to mean increased fat. When looking at your options, choose more lean protein sources such as salmon, tuna, skinless chicken breasts and nuts, and fewer burgers, steak, sausage and bacon. And don't forget to load up on naturally low-carb foods including avocados, asparagus, broccoli, berries, nuts, salmon, tuna, tomatoes and low-fat cheese

The magic formula

Different diets work for different people. While most nutrition experts believe that low-fat, low-calorie diets are still the gold standard, we have to communicate that not all carbs are created equal. It's important for people to eat reasonable portions of food and make healthy carbohydrate choices.

Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole-grains are healthy carbohydrate choices. Processed carbohydrates such as cake, cookies and pretzels are okay sometimes, but should be eaten in moderation. Whichever diet you choose, remember to pay attention to what fits you, your lifestyle and your health goals.

For more information on health and nutrition, go to www.hy-vee.com and click on health.

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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