Basically low-carb diets ban or severely restrict white foods: white sugar, white flour, and other comforting whites like potatoes and pasta. Fruits and vegetables high in natural sugars are also no-nos. The reason: complex carbohydrates break down easily in the body, causing more dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin, which contributes to cravings, hunger, and weight gain. Cutting back on carbs goes a long way toward balancing blood sugar, and helping control hunger pangs.
But what about some of the various low-carb approaches you may be hearing about? By the end of 2004, there will be nearly 200 different low-carb diet books and diets to pick from. How can you know which one will work best for you? No need to work up a sweat toting all those tomes! Heres your quick guide to the most popular low-carb diets, with an extra focus of information that may be of interest to thyroid patients.
The Thyroid Diet
by Mary Shomon, HarperCollins, 2004
Many people who are overweight are so because they have an undiagnosed and untreated thyroid condition. Getting diagnosed and treated may be the main action needed in order to restore metabolism and weight to normal. For some patients, however, weight loss is still difficult, and for them, a low-glycemic, lower or controlled carbohydrate approach is often the optimal way for thyroid patients to lose weight. The rationale behind low-glycemic, controlled carbohydrate eating for thyroid patients, as well as a complete diet program of food, supplements, exercise and mind-body help for metabolism is featured in my book, The Thyroid Diet: Manage Your Metabolism for Lasting Weight Loss, which as of September 2004 is a New York Times Bestseller, and a Top 100 Bestseller on the Amazon.com list. (Find out more details about The Thyroid Diet now.)
Dr. Atkin's Diet Revolution
by Robert C. Atkins, Bantam Publishers, originally published 1972
This is literally the grand-daddy of all low-carb diets. Back in the 1970s, Atkins turned the diet world upside down by ditching carbohydrates in favor of proteins and fats. He republished his plan again in1992 and 2002, calling it Dr. Atkin's NEW Diet Revolution. The newer editions focus more on the foods you can eat and less on those that are not allowed. Although Dr. Atkins passed away last year, his movement lives on, and the term Atkins is considered synonymous with low-carb. Forbidden foods on some diets such as meat, butter, and eggs are more staples on the Atkins approach. Forget about most starches, they are verboten.
The principle behind Atkins weight loss plan is ketosis, a state achieved by focusing almost exclusively on proteins that help you burn your fat instead of storing it. Ketosis is typically reached in the 14-day first phase of the diet, called Induction. In the remaining three phases of the diet, higher-fiber carbohydrates are slowly added back into your diet until you get to a point of weight maintenance. Vitamins are recommended to make up for the missing food groups.
While many people tend to characterize the Atkins diet as all the steak and bacon you want, this is actually not an accurate depiction of the latest version of the diet. The Atkins approach technically emphasizes leaner protein over fattier meats, good fats (like olive oil) over butter, avoidance of processed foods and trans-fats, and sufficient low-carbohydrate good vegetables and fruits.
Its thought that Atkins works in two ways first, by limiting the insulin and blood sugar peaks and valleys, it allows for more efficient metabolism, and less of an insulin response, and second, that the effect of the protein and fat, plus the more balanced blood sugar, reduces appetite to the extent that overall caloric intake is reduced.
Is Atkins a good choice for thyroid patients? It has worked for some, but Ive also heard from many thyroid patients who found that they gained weight on Atkins. (I know that I did.) I simply have too good an appetite, and could eat quite a sizeable amount of protein every day. The higher amounts of protein did not have the desired appetite suppressant effect, and so I simply ate too many calories.