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FOR RELEASE: January 15, 2004
Check the Nutrition Value of Your Diet with Your Doctor First
Many people have made at least one New Year’s resolution to lose weight. But have you checked on the nutrition value of your diet with your doctor or a nutritionist? The Oklahoma State Department of Health is encouraging people to eat right and exercise safely in recognition of Healthy Weight Week, January 18-24, 2004.
Of particular concern is the recent popularity of low carbohydrate (low carb) diets that may lure many “would be losers” into consuming a diet composed primarily of protein and fat. Low carb diets first surfaced in the mid to late 1800s and resurfaced again in the 1970s, so low carb dieting is hardly a new concept.
“Studies show that many people lose weight on low carb plans, at least in the short term. However, there are a few things people should know before adopting a low carb lifestyle and it would be advisable to check with your physician or a nutritionist prior to beginning any diet,” said OSDH Nutritionist Sandy Richardson.
The basic theory behind low carb dieting is blood sugar control. Carbs raise blood sugar and the hormone insulin is then released into the blood stream allowing blood sugar to exit and enter the body’s cells. Insulin may cause blood sugar to drop too low causing increased hunger and food cravings. In order to raise blood sugar levels and fend off hunger, more high carbohydrate foods are often consumed and the cycle starts again. Before long, extra pounds are gained and cells become insulin resistant. Type 2 diabetes can occur and the risk of cardiovascular disease increases.
Yet, we need carbohydrates to live, so how much is too much? As Richardson explained, “It isn’t so much how many carbs to consume but rather which carbs to consume.” Some raise blood sugar more than others. A measurement known as the glycemic index (GI) is an indicator of how much a carb can be expected to raise blood sugar. The more refined a carb is, the less “work” the body has to do to digest it, and the higher the GI may be. Whole grain cereals, breads and pastas, and brown rice have a lower GI. Plus, they provide fiber and many vitamins and minerals. Refined foods like white bread, white rice, and many breakfast cereals have a high GI. For example, corn flakes will cause a considerable spike in blood sugar while All Bran will not.
Whole vegetables and fruits also have low GIs and provide fiber, minerals and vitamins. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn are exceptions and contain more than twice the number of calories per serving as non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, green beans, asparagus, or cauliflower. Fruits should be consumed as whole fruits rather than fruit juice. While fruit juice has redeeming qualities, it is too easily digested. Have a whole apple or banana instead. And don’t forget about legumes like pinto beans and black eyed peas. Legumes generally have only a small effect on blood sugar levels.
Remember that low carb dieting frequently means a high fat intake. Fats, like carbs, are not created equal. Unlimited amounts of sausage, butter and cheese are a bad idea. Fats slow down digestion so having a little fat can help prevent hunger between meals, but choose fats wisely. Heart healthy fats are unsaturated ones like olive, canola, peanut, corn, and soybean oils. Good fats are also found in fatty fish like salmon, nuts and avocados.
“Can you eat all you want and still lose weight? Probably not. Calories still count. Consuming more whole grains, fruits and vegetables along with heart healthy fats (in moderation) is still the best bet. Don’t forget to check with your doctor before beginning any weight loss diet,” Richardson said.
For more information about nutrition and safe dieting, contact your county health department and ask for the local nutritionist.
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