One big trend I have noticed is towards ‘low carb’ diets – from the extreme ones like Paleo and Atkins to the more middle ground sorts of regimes everyone seems to be heading towards a gentle curbing of the carbohydrate addiction.
Anyway, in my view it all seems to hinge on one thing – insulin, so for that reason, I have been looking into this interesting hormone and why it could turn out to be the key to long term, healthy weight loss.
Insulin is a storage hormone which serves to remove glucose from the blood stream – this much is a good thing, since too much glucose is toxic. Our bodies produce insulin automatically to prevent any ill effects.
Glucose of course is what we get when we break down carbohydrates. Sugar is turned into glucose very easily, but even the most complex of carbs will eventually be digested into glucose – and hence insulin is produced to mop it all up.
The theory behind a lot of low carb diets is that insulin inhibits fat being burned for energy and if glucose is available in abundance insulin will tell the body to store the excess energy as fat.
What really makes for compelling reading is when you consider (as the Paleo diet points out) that our ancestors, several hundred thousand years ago would in fact have eaten a diet consisting mostly of: meat, nuts and seeds, fruit and berries, vegetables and eggs.
If in practice you ate only these things you would find it very difficult to consume more than 50-100 grams of carbs per day, and if you believe in evolution it seems pretty reasonable to assume that our ancestors lived healthier lives than we do.
Sure we live longer now because of hygiene improvements and modern medicine, but we also have diseases such as diabetes which are a direct result of our diets. Paleo dieters argue that we must have evolved to work best on the sorts of diets that would have been available all those years ago.
Following a diet with low carbs and in particular avoiding sugar and processed foods has been recommended for some time now, and conversely we are being told more and more of the health benefits of consuming ‘good’ fats like olive oil.
You don’t have to go as extreme as Atkins though, just avoiding sugar where you can will improve your insulin sensitivity, which means that when you do splurge your body will be able to handle it faster and more efficiently.
Following a low carb diet it seems can actually change the way you eat and many low carbers report that high carb foods like cake and cookies no longer even appeal to them, so this diet principal can even help you on a motivational level. Not bad eh?
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