Are you dieting? Learn the difference between good vs. bad calories

by Staff Writer

That dreaded word: diet. The bane of want-to-be healthy people struggling with caloric intake, fats, carbs, proteins, and nutrients. They come and go with their own benefits and detractions, and there are enough of them to make a person go crazy.

The New York Times takes a good look at the contents of our diets and while there is always a new fad in the diet0sphere (Atkins! Fruit! Carbs! Nut! Jellybeans! The list goes on), they may have benefits past just the number of calories that you can digest in a given day.

An Excerpt:

There’s an increasing body of evidence, however, that calories from highly processed carbohydrates like white flour (and of course sugar) provide calories that the body treats differently, spiking both blood sugar and insulin and causing us to retain fat instead of burning it off.

In other words, all calories are not alike. You might need a little background here: To differentiate “bad” carbs from “good,” scientists use the term “glycemic index” (or “load”) to express the effect of the carbs on blood sugar. High glycemic diets cause problems by dramatically increasing blood sugar and insulin after meals; low glycemic diets don’t. Highly processed carbohydrates (even highly processed whole grains, like instant oatmeal and fluffy whole-grain breads) tend to make for higher glycemic diets; less processed grains, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, legumes and nuts — along with fat and protein — make for a lower glycemic diet.

A new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association adds powerfully to the notion that low glycemic diets are the way forward. (Or, actually, backward, since the low glycemic diet is largely traditional.) The work took place at the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center  of Boston Children’s Hospital, and looked at people’s ability to maintain weight loss, which is far more difficult than losing weight. (Few people maintain even a small portion of their weight loss after dieting.) To do this, the researchers — led by the center’s associate director Cara Ebbeling and director David Ludwig — put three groups of people on diets to lose 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

They then assigned each of the dieters, in random order, to follow four weeks each of three diets with the same number of calories. One was a standard low-fat diet: 60 percent carbohydrates — with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains (but not unprocessed ones) — 20 percent from protein and 20 percent from fat. This is the low-fat diet that has been reigning “wisdom” for the last 30 years or more.

For more, head to New York Times

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