Updated 19 October 2015

What should we believe when it comes to low carb diets?

Never has the word health and diet had so many connotations and permutations. So, should you go low-carb or not? The debate continues.


We all want to be healthy and live longer, but it seems that this is not an easy quest as we are bombarded with information about what to eat and what not to eat. We are confused by the proverbial words that accompany health - like GI, GL, high protein, banting, paleo and the different fat combinations!

So what's the real deal when it comes to health and dieting?

Conventional dietetic groups endorse a unified set of dietary guidelines for people who want to maintain both their health and their weight. If one wants to lose weight, then eat a low fat diet and cut your kilojoules or calories. It really is about energy in and energy out for the most. If you want to reduce your risk of a lifestyle disease, such as heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes as well as some cancers, then limit your ‘bad’ nutrients, such as fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt.

The science behind going low-carb

Fashionable or seasonal diets, which promote eating either one group of foods at the exclusion of another make their rounds every few years. You will no doubt have heard the following diets been given the thumbs up over the years - ‘Dr Atkins’, ‘pro-protein, high fat’, ‘Cabbage’, and the list goes on.

These diets don’t turn to low fat or kilojoule limits, but rather to reducing carbohydrates.

According to supporters of these theories, when you reduce the carbohydrates in your diet and increase protein and/or fat, you will find it much easier to decrease your kilojoules, and hence lose weight. There has been much controversy over the years and debates have been heated over the exclusion of certain foods above others.

Read: 10 Golden rules of banting

Advocates of the low-fat diet claim that low-carbohydrate diets are ineffective while low-carb fans say the same about the low-fat diet. While this is in debate, an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, notes correctly that a kilojoule is the same whether it comes from a low-carb or a low-fat diet.

Researchers did not find resounding evidence that the low-carb diet makes it easier to lose weight than the low-fat diet. In fact, for a diet to succeed in maintaining health or weight loss, it really is about balance and staying power and perseverance. It is certainly not a ‘one fit for all’.

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So what should you eat?

In order to balance one’s diet and maintain weight, you need to balance your energy levels in line with your physical activity output.

When it comes to food, choosing foods that release energy slowly will sustain your energy for longer without your blood sugar dropping, this means that you'll eat less.

GI is related to carbohydrate containing foods. Jungle Oats is a low GI food, low fat food. It is wholegrain, and thus has added benefits to the digestive system.

Read: The lowdown on low-carbs

Diets that is high in monounsaturated fats (eg, olive oil), such as the Mediterranean diet, have also been shown to have a positive spin on health and weight.

So how do you turn up your health?

Exercise every day, eat three meals a day starting with breakfast, follow a low GL diet, eat low GI food, eat carbs with an equal amount of protein, eat a range of fresh fruit and veggies every day. Ensure optimal intake of essential fats from nuts, seeds, and oily fish, such as sardines. Avoid caffeine, don’t smoke, drink loads of water. Keeping a positive attitude to life also reduces stress.

Read more:

Foods that keep the kilos down
The 10 worst diet myths
Why you need carbs


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