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 High Protein? High Carb? Your Best Diet May Surprise You 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Women's Nutrition Detective by . View all columns in series
We typically review our diets and make New Year’s resolutions the first of the year. Like me, I’ll bet you’ve made — and broken — plenty of resolutions. These days, though, it’s tough to know which diet you should follow. Should you follow some of the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets? Or should you try one of the high-carbohydrate, low-protein programs?

This year, instead of starting another weight-loss program, concentrate on eating a healthy diet. The best diet for you will help you reach your ideal weight while providing you with the nutrients you need to be and stay healthy.

But what makes a good diet — concentrating on high protein or high carbohydrate? Some people burn calories fast and do better eating more complex carbohydrates. Hint: They’re usually thin people. Others burn calories slowly. These people feel and look best when they eat more protein. Either way, getting sufficient protein is vital. So is eating good quality foods — foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fats, and low in toxins.

You might think that because I’m a vegetarian, I’m biased against meat-based diets. Actually, I’m biased against unhealthy diets. It’s tough to be a healthy vegetarian and get enough protein. It’s not much easier to be a healthy carnivore and eat good quality protein that’s not laced with toxins.

Carbohydrate sensitivity
Call it insulin resistance, Syndrome X, or hyperinsulinemia — they all mean that when you eat a lot of starches or sugars, your blood sugar rises too high and your body doesn’t secrete insulin appropriately. Instead of using these foods for energy, your body stores its calories in fat tissues. Carbohydrate sensitivity causes weight gain, raises your cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease, and contributes to diabetes.

Yo-yo dieting, not exercising, and a diet high in refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, white rice), alcohol abuse, and smoking all contribute to carbohydrate sensitivity. About 25 percent of all Americans and 75 percent of overweight people have insulin resistance. Dr. Robert Atkins developed his high-protein diet to correct this problem.

Enter Dr. Atkins
For more than 40 years, Robert Atkins was a medical doctor who used nutrition in his practice. He noticed a common problem in many patients that affected their health and weight: Fluctuating blood-sugar levels. His solution was simple. Avoid refined carbohydrates and greatly increase animal protein and unprocessed fats to stabilize blood sugar. Eat more fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants to counteract the damage from free radicals that occur in a diet high in rancid and processed fats.

To meet the needs of his overweight patients, he developed a radical weight-loss program emphasizing animal protein and eliminating carbohydrates, even those that were unrefined. His patients lost weight and their glucose levels stabilized. However, this diet is high in pesticides, hormones, and other toxins that are stored in the fat tissues of meat, chicken, dairy, and fish. And a large study on nutrition and disease concluded that a diet high in animal protein contributes to cancer and heart disease.

While Dr. Atkins insists that eating so much meat won’t raise your cholesterol, my brother’s cholesterol skyrocketed on this diet – and he ate lots of veggies like a good boy. If you eat a high animal-protein diet for more than a few months, get your cholesterol checked. My greatest quarrel with the Atkins weight loss diet is that it doesn’t emphasize food quality. Ann Louise Gittleman does.

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 Comments Add your comment 
successfulmastery wrote
   7/9/2010 9:33:00 AM    (report abuse)
It is refreshing to read such a balance article on proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The concept of bio-individuality is important in choosing the foods that work the best for us. There is no one plan that is right for everyone. The quality of food is a very important factor no matter what diet choices we make. Getting the right fats are important. I have learned that grass fed beef is the best choice for health. It is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and has a good Omega 3 to 6 ratio. Good work.
 About The Author
Nan Fuchs, Ph.D. is an authority on nutrition and the editor and writer of Women's Health Letter, the leading health advisory on nutritional healing for......moreNan Fuchs PhD
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