Low Carb Diet 101: What You Need To Know About Atkins, Net Carbs & GI

Both Low Carb and Low GI (glycemic index) diets have taken the world by storm.  Both have been proven to be highly efficient at reducing weight and improving health, and both concentrate of how much glucose the body produces. Whilst both diets centre around restricting carbohydrate intake there are some significant differences between the two.

Low Carb Diet

The Low Carb diet was pioneered by US Cardiologist Dr. Robert C. Atkins in 1972 and uses a process called ketosis to burn fat as fuel instead of glucose.  To achieve this, the overall intake of carbohydrate, which the body turns into glucose, needs to be severely restricted.  The initial stage of the New Atkins diet only allows for 20g of net carbs per day (an average slice of white bread contains 15g of net carbs). Along with all grain based carbohydrates, many vegetables are also banned for the initial stages of the diet as they contain high levels of starch. The bulk of the diet is made up from protein in the form of meat, fish and eggs, low carbohydrate vegetables such as salad vegetables, fruit, and dairy.

A low carb diet is very good for rapid weight reduction and is ideal for people who are very overweight. Because of its quick results, it’s considered a good diet plan for motivation as people can see the effects of the Low Carb plan rapidly while not struggling with hunger. The Low Carb diet is often used to treat ailments such as diabetes, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and even extreme epilepsy.

Some of the proven positive effects of a low carb diet are:

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced blood glucose for diabetics
  • Increased HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lower blood insulin level
  • Increased energy
  • Sugar cravings reduced
  • Improved concentration
  • Less mood swings
Low GI Diet
Low GI diets such as the South Beach diet and Zone diet concentrate on the Glycemic Index, which rates all foods on its index with a number between 1 and 100 with foods numbered 55 or less as low GI, 56-69 as medium GI, and above 70 as high GI.  Food are categorized as low, medium or high GI by looking at a number of elements.
1.  Does a food contain carbohydrates?
Any foods that don’t contain carbohydrates such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy and fats have zero effect on the body’s ability to product glucose so are considered low GI.
2.  How much starch does a food contain?
Raw foods that contain starch are usually in a compact form that the body will be unable to break down easily, so they are therefore low GI. However, starchy foods such as grains that have been processed have had this compact form altered so that the body can more easily digest them and turn into glucose.
3. How much fiber does a food contain?
The more fiber a food contains, the slower the body can break it down and turn it into glucose.  Therefore most grains and beans are either low or medium GI.
4.  What kind of sugar does a food contain?
Along with glucose, there are another 3 types of sugar.  Fructose found in fruit, and lactose found in dairy are both slow to break down and convert into glucose so are low GI.  Sucrose has a medium GI.
5.  Does the food contain fat?
Fat does not effect glucose, but it does slow down the speed of food in your system so therefore has an overall slowing effect in the production of glucose in your body.
6.  How acidic is a food?
Acidity also slows a food down through the digestive tract, thus helping to slow the rate at which it is converted to glucose.
The basis of a low GI diet is to ensure that you eat only foods that have low or medium GI ratings and that you avoid high GI foods.  Although, if you do eat high GI foods they should be small portions and be eaten alongside low GI foods that will decrease the overall GI rating of the meal.
Benefits of a low GI diet include:
  • Appetite control
  • Lowered risk of diabetes type 2
  • Better physical endurance
  • Lowered risk of heart disease
  • Increase of body’s sensitivity to insulin
  • Weight loss & maintenance of healthy body weight
  • Doesn’t ban any foods
  • High in fiber
  • Lowers blood lipids
  • Lessen fatigues and enhances moods
As you can see, both diet plans have many similarities, and both have been proven to be exceptional aids for weight loss. Both plans are to be treated as lifestyle changes rather than short fix diets and the long term effects of reducing your overall processed, starchy carbohydrates has proven healthy benefits that more and more people are realizing.

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