Low Carbohydrate Diets

Low-carbohydrate diets are founded on a theory that carbohydrates are the foods which are most easily stored into body fats. This means that an overabundance of carbohydrates in one's diet is the culprit for the spread of obesity, rather than an abundance of fatty foods in one's diet, which was previously believed. Processed foods, especially refined sugar and white flour, are the highest contributors to carbohydrate counts, have the most rapid effect on blood sugar levels, and are more easily turned into body fat, according to this philosophy. Fruits, vegetables and grains contain carbohydrates and contribute to this process to different degrees. Between the various diets, there is debate as to how much saturated fat can be eaten and how much fibre an individual needs to eat.

Insulin Resistance

Low carbohydrate diets share a theory of insulin resistance. The idea of insulin resistance states that a diet with large amounts of refined carbohydrates (and some also say complex carbohydrates) lead to high levels of insulin in the bloodstream, causing a resistance to insulin. A flood of insulin would be the cause of excess fat storage, health problems and unnecessary hunger. Nutritionists and doctors warn that insulin resistance is not a condition which can be self-diagnosed. Only a doctor can officially diagnose someone with insulin resistance.

Sugars & Carbohydrates

There are three main types of carbohydrates: simple sugars, double sugars, and complex carbohydrates. Simple sugars, or monosaccharides, are the blood sugar glucose which our bodies produce, and fructose which is produced by fruit. Double sugars, or disaccharides, are lactose, which is only found in milk. Complex carbohydrates, or polysaccharides, are starches and cellulose, which are found in potatoes, rice, grains and dietary vegetables. The more complex the carbohydrates, the longer the body takes to break down food down into glucose. As a result, complex carbohydrates have smaller effects on blood sugar levels, and are not stored into fat as quickly.

Density Value

In order to determine foods to be eaten on a low-carbohydrate diet, foods are measured in a density value of carbohydrates, which measures the amount of carbohydrates in a food in relation to fibre and water content. The more fibre and water that a fruit or vegetable contains, the fewer carbohydrates they will have as part of their makeup.

Glycemic Index (GI)

Carbohydrate foods are measured on the glycaemic index. The glycaemic index is measured by the amount of insulin necessary to break down foods. Different low-carbohydrate diets measure foods and their glycaemic effects in different ways. Some will places foods on a ladder and some will distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' carbohydrates. High GI foods have an immediate effect on glucose levels in the body. Food can be measured by one of two indexes: one places glucose as 100, the other places white bread as 100.

Macronutrients

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (necessary nutrients) in our diet. The other two are protein and fat. Because carbohydrates are a macronutrient, and are contained in grains, fruits and vegetables, they cannot be eliminated from one's diet, nor should they be. However, some people have found that their bodies are well-suited to low-carbohydrate diets. They experience health benefits such as lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, improved triglycerides, and better mood and concentration. Western diets are often overloaded with cereals, breads, pastas and other grain-based meals and the shift to a low-carbohydrate diet can be a positive health choice, moving away from an otherwise 'normal' overeating of a particular food group.