Beyond Low-Carb Dieting: 12 Nutrition Tips for Your Best Health

| November/December 2004

Reducing calories, carbohydrates and fat might lower your weight, but in the process, you actually might be missing out on the very nutrients that help prevent obesity and diet-related degenerative diseases. Some of today’s popular diets eliminate or ignore foods that contain an abundance of nutrients essential to keeping our bodies at their very best — the dietary equivalent of shooting ourselves in the foot with every pound we lose. So if you’re ready to move beyond mere loss of poundage and into optimum health, the following tips will lead the way.

Melanie Polk, R.D., director for nutrition education for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), says, “The greatest harm done by the fad diets derives from the odd combinations of foods they recommend. They urge people to cut back to a greater or lesser degree on the fruits and vegetables that have been shown to prevent chronic disease. Long-term health is sacrificed to short-term weight loss.”

According to the AICR, diets rich in vegetables and fruits provide the best protection against cancer. Recently, an AICR-established expert panel reviewed 247 studies investigating links between cancer and consumption of vegetables or fruits. Seventy-eight percent of those studies showed vegetables and fruits help prevent cancer, and none suggested that foods might promote cancer.

In contrast, no studies suggest commercial red meat (beef, lamb or pork) has any cancer-preventive properties, and many studies link grilled, cured, smoked and processed meats to increased risk of some cancers.

Drastically cutting carbs also may increase your risk for cardiovascular disease. According to Harvard experts in a 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association study, diets including whole grains and an abundance of fruits and vegetables can provide substantial protection against heart disease.

Studies comparing meat-based low-carbohydrate and plant-based low-fat diets indicate the low-carbohydrate diets may produce greater weight loss initially, but beyond six months, the plant-based approach works better. Data from the National Weight Control Registry indicates that people successful in maintaining long-term weight loss eat carbohydrate-rich diets in which fats on average provide only 24 percent of calories. A recent research review published in The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found the scientific evidence strongly supports reducing dietary fat, not carbs, as the optimal method for preventing obesity.

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