Low Carb vs Low Fat Diets

Low Carb vs Low Fat Diets

I read a great article on the Wall Street Journal that inspired this post.

Over the last 20 years marketers and food manufactures have coaxed consumers into believing that the cause of rising obesity rates is due to our surplus fat intake. Consumers make choices they believe are healthy based on “healthy labels” when in fact they are not.We’re bombarded with supposedly guilt-free options: baked potato chips, fat-free ice cream, low-fat candies, which people think are healthy options because they are marketed as “low-fat” or “natural”. Yes, a high amount of saturated fat and trans fat is not good, but healthy fats such as the monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3s have the opposite effect and are essential to a healthy/well-balanced diet.

Myth: All fats are equal—and equally bad for you.

Fact: Saturated fats and trans fats are bad for you because they raise your cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease. But monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are good for you, lowering cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease.

Myth: Fat-free means healthy.

Fact: A “fat-free” label doesn’t mean you can eat all you want without consequences to your waistline. Many fat-free foods are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories.

Myth: Eating a low-fat diet is the key to weight loss.

Fact: The obesity rates for Americans have doubled in the last 20 years, coinciding with the low-fat revolution. Cutting calories is the key to weight loss, and since fats are filling, they can help curb overeating.

In recent years people have started to figure out that fat may not be main contributor to rising obesity rates, but a surplus of processed carbohydrates may actually be at the forefront of our problems. Cue, the “low-carb” diets where consumers restrict carb intake to under 100g/day. A recent article published by the Wall Street Journal claims that “A diet based on healthy carbohydrates—rather than a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet—offers the best chance of keeping weight off without bringing unwanted side effects”… and I couldn’t agree more.

The Study

Goal:  The study was designed to look at the impact of the three diets on measures of energy expenditure, in addition to assessing hormones, fat levels in the blood and other health markers.

  • Participants followed a low glycemic food plan that focused on  fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. The Study explains while people who follow a low-carb diet also lose weight effectively, they have trouble keeping it off and encounter unwanted side effects.
  • Participants were placed on one of three diets for a month: a low-fat diet limiting fats to 20% of total calories; a low-carbohydrate diet modeled on the Atkins diet, limiting carbohydrate intake to 10% of total calories; and a low-glycemic-index diet, which contained 40% of total calories from carbohydrates, 40% from fats and 20% from protein. Participants were then switched to the other two diets during two additional four-week periods.

Results

  • “The low-fat diet had the worst effect” on energy expenditure, Dr. Ludwig said. Participants on that diet also had increases in triglycerides, a type of fat, and lower levels of so-called good cholesterol. “We should avoid severely restricting any major nutrient and focus on the quality of the nutrient,”
  • The low-carb diet had the biggest boost in total energy expenditure, burning about 300 calories more per day than those on the low-fat diet—about the same as an hour of moderate exercise. But that bump came at a cost: increases in cortisol, a stress hormone, and a measure of inflammation called CRP, which can raise the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
  • Those on the low-glycemic-index diet burned about 150 calories a day more than those on the low-fat diet without any negative impacts on cholesterol levels or various hormones, making it the ideal diet, Dr. Ludwig said. The glycemic index measures the impact of carbohydrates on blood-sugar levels.

Conclusion and Takeaway

A balanced diet filled with healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates is ideal for loosing weight and keeping it off. Yes a low-carb diet can be effective, but you may develop other health risks, suffer from low energy levels, and risk  putting weight back on. Carbohydrates are used by our body as energy that can help sustain an efficient and worth-while workout. If your workout is jeopardized due to an nonavailability of adequate energy levels from carbohydrates then your exercise goals are compromised. Just to clarify; I am not advocating people go load up on pasta, breads, cereals, and other processed carbs. The key is to make sure the carbohydrates you do consume all come with a healthy dose of fiber and protein with a low glycemic index from things like fruit, vegetables, minimally processed oats and whole grains.

My Favorite Carb Sources

Quinoa

Steel Cut Oats

Black Beans

Source:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304458604577490943279845790.html?mod=e2tw

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin
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The Truth About Nutrition Bars

The Truth About Nutrition Bars

In a recent study published by consumerlabs.com 30 nutrition bars were broken down/analyzed and over 60% of the bars failed to meet labeling claims! What is really in your “health or nutrition bar”?

Thank you to Rachel for the suggestion on this topic.

Meal replacement bars, snack bars, weight loss bars, energy bars, and protein bars are a convenient and easy way for people to get a quick snack or meal when they are on the go. The problem is that 99% of the products out there are loaded with carbs and sugars that spike insulin levels and promote fat storage. Despite the hidden ingredients and artificial additives, marketing gurus have duped consumers into thinking that these “nutrition bars” are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals when in reality this is far from the truth. The FDA claims that it currently does not have any formal guidelines for nutrition bars or the labeling on nutrition bars.

The Breakdown

“Protein Bar” is an extremely deceptive term.  Most bars contain more carbs than protein. The consumer labs study found that a typical bar is made up of

  • 49% of calories from carbohydrates (mostly from sugars)
  • 29% of calories from protein
  • 22% of calories from fat
What To Stay Away From 
Clif Bars
The concern here is the 45 grams of carbs and 21 grams of sugar (for comparison a snickers bar has 35 grams of carbs and 28 sugars). If you are not an endurance athlete than that amount of carbs in the form of a small snack is way to high. Ever notice how the Clif Bar rapper conveniently covers the ingredient list. Here is why. With over 30 ingredients, it is hard to decipher what exactly the bar is made up of.  Organic rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, organic evaporated can juice, organic date paste, are all fancy names for sugar that make up this so-called “nutrition bar”. While ingredients like evaporated cane juice are not as detrimental to refined sugar, it is close enough.
The Take Away– Stay away from Clif bars
Atkins Advantage Bar
With Atkins Advantage you get more bang for you buck because the lower carb and sugar levels. You also get a solid 15 grams of protein with only 210 calories. The unfortunate part is the saturated fat and ingredients. With over 50 ingredients, there are several hidden land mines such as glycerin, sucralose, cellulose, artificial flavors, which are all code names for SUGARS!
The take away- Eat only if there is no whole/unprocessed foods available like fruit or nuts.
Nature Valley Bar
I commend General Mills for their bold and forthright honesty. They are not trying to hide anything. The second ingredient is SUGAR! With high levels of carbohydrates and sugar, nature valley bars have nothing “natural” about them. High fructose corn syrup and brown sugar syrup are two ingredients that have single handily added to the obesity problems in the US.
The take away- Don’t even think about it
Power Bars
This label is also very informative as it provides the disclaimer that the FDA has no regulation over these “health bars”. With 45 carbs,  27 grams of sugar, ingredients such as evaporated cane juice, glucose syrup, and fructose, a power bar is basically a glorified candy bar. At least they have less than 30 ingredients as opposed to some of the other examples listed right?
The take away- If you are going to have something with the nutritional equivalent of a candy bar why not actually have a candy bar that tastes great? Opt for a snickers or twix instead.
Why so much sugar?

In their early development, nutrition bars were bland and primarily eaten by fitness enthusiasts. However, the bars underwent a transformation to appeal to general consumers. The bland, stiff, and protein packed bars didn’t necessarily appeal to the general population. To compensate, manufacturers made their products more flavorful by adding corn syrup, sugar, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, colors and hydrogenated oils, which are all bad for your health.

What To Eat Instead

Kind Bar

Definitely the best nutrition bar out there. The calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and sugar content is a well-balanced mixture that can provide an adequate snack  in between meals. What I love about these bars is the simplicity of the ingredients and the natural additives. Unlike the rest of the bars, you don’t see a list of 30 ingredients with names that are too long to pronounce.

The take away– A good snack that offers a variety from eating nuts or dried fruits by themselves or with trail mix.

Conclusion

As a general guideline, the less ingredients the better. Eating something in its most natural state is always your best bet. The best example I can think of is a product like peanut butter. When buying peanut butter look for one ingredient, PEANUTS! Avoid products with ingredients other than peanuts like what you see in most commercial products.  For example, Jif regular peanut butter’s list of ingredients includes peanuts, salt, sugar, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, and diglycerides. I never encourage people to eat anything processed like nutrition bars but I understand there or some times when nothing else is available. If that is the case, choose something like a KIND Bar where there are only a few ingredients or prepare ahead and always carry around some nuts and fruits.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin