The Low Down on Low Carbs

Eating a low-carbohydrate diet can help you lose weight. But not all carbs are bad!

By FamilyTime

 Everywhere you turn these days you see diets that emphasize protein and fats and shun carbohydrates. Forget bread, potatoes, rice, and pasta, food gurus say. Stick with steak and cheese.

Could this be true? Can we really eat nothing but porterhouse steak and greens tossed with gorgonzola salad dressing?

While steak and cheese-laden salad dressing can be part of a sensible diet, most of the old common-sense advice about dieting still holds. Eat healthfully, eat less if you are trying to lose weight, and stay active.

Good and Not-So-Good Carbs
The truth about carbohydrates is that our bodies need them. They provide energy and valuable nutrients. But not all carbohydrates are created equal.

While our bodies need some simple carbohydrates, the best carbohydrates to consume are complex ones.

Simple carbohydrates are sugar. This might be in the form of granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, or fruit juice. Candies and sweet baked goods offer high concentrations of simple carbohydrates, and so you should eat these sparingly (as you would on any diet).

Complex carbohydrates include vegetables, whole fruits, and whole grains.

Complex carbs also supply our bodies with much-need fiber. Good choices include green vegetables, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Fruit, if consumed whole, is also good.

Don't be afraid of "white foods," but ingest them in moderation. These include white flour, white pasta, and white rice. Milk and yogurt also contain carbohydrates, which is something to be aware of if you are limiting your intake. On the other hand, they are excellent sources of calcium.

Protein and Fat
Folks who religiously follow a low-carb diet find themselves consuming large amounts of protein and fat. In the old days, diet such as the Atkins diet said we could eat as much beef, cheese, bacon, and butter as our hearts desired.

This actually proved to be bad news for our hearts. Overloading on these foods when you cut back on carbs may drop the pounds temporarily but this does not mean they don't still contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other dangers that lead to heart disease.

Instead, eat lean proteins such as chicken and fish. Other good protein sources include beans (which double as excellent ways to work fiber into your diet) and tofu (it's not just for health-food nuts!).

When it comes to fat, skip the butter and hard cheeses and instead reach for fats from plants. These include olive oil and vegetable oils such as canola, peanut, and soybean. It also includes nuts, which are low in carbohydrates and high in satisfaction. (They also are high in calories, so go easy.)

You Know What To Do!
Buying into low-carb diets is a good idea, as long as you are sensible about. (Before you begin any diet, check with your doctor.)

Limit your carbs but don't fear them. Think about eating whole foods - the less processing, the better.

Whole grains are very good for your health. They lower the risks of heart disease and diabetes. They also help with digestive problems. And they fill you up in satisfying ways!

Eat your fill of vegetables and, to a slightly lesser degree, fruits. Eat lean proteins such as chicken and fish.

Limit sugar. Limit animal fat. Limit alcohol.

Increase your activity level. Low-carb diet or not, your body benefits enormously from exercise and everyone does better when they get up and move!

When you come down to it, a sensible diet that contains a balance of poultry, fish, beans, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains is optimal for most people. Plus, it gives you a lot of delicious choices.