Paleo. Glycemic Index. Low-Carb diets. Gluten-free diets. We’ve been hearing a lot about these for the past few years. What’s up with all that? Is it worth it? Is there any merit?
Traditional nutritionalists have frowned upon most of these diets as fads, and to be frank I’m inclined to agree. But before I throw my hat in with these guys, I do want to say there’s a grain of truth in all of these new diets. And I say this from personal experience.
When I was 35, I went to a company called Phase IV which did a full analysis and overhaul of my lifestyle – both diet and exercise. Among other things, they put me on a calorie restricted diet. I could eat what I wanted so long as I met the daily calorie goal. I had to document what I ate, and honestly, I recommend everybody do a 3-7 day diet journal and give it to someone who could give them some advice.
Well that kind of diet makes you really appreciate what you’re eating. First of all, with only a limited amount of calories to work with, you quickly realize what satisfies you and what doesn’t. And I quickly found that all the classic carbs in my diet – bread, pasta, cookies, etc – had a ton of calories in them that didn’t satisfy me at all. So long as I kept my diet focused on meat, fruits and veggies, tubers, and just pepper it with reasonable portions of carbs, I could meet my calorie goals without hunger or cravings.
And that’s the grain of truth behind the Paleo / low carb diet. Say you have what I would call a classic diet – 800 calories of meat and veggies and 2200 calories of carbs. That’s a 3000 calorie diet – the classic diet of someone overweight. But if you keep the meat/veggie intake the same and just cut the carbs to 1200 calories – all of a sudden you’re in a nice, healthy 2000 calorie zone. You probably won’t feel any more hungry. And if you feel ashamed about “going Paleo”, then rest assured I and any worthwhile nutritionist would give you a thumbs up.
This is where the gluten-free diet comes in. The whole gluten craze, in itself, is just a fad, sure. Especially if you’re eating all the same foods you’ve been eating and just replacing them with “gluten-free” packaging. The problem with gluten isn’t the gluten itself but all those high-glycemic carbs it’s attached to. So if you take it to heart and cut down the amount of bread and pasta in your diet, and replace it with salads and such, or with nothing at all (also a healthy choice), then more power to you.
Oh, and what is high-glycemic? It means carbs that absorb really quickly into your system. Sugar is higher glycemic than fruit juice (not by much) which is higher than bread which is higher than fruit. Something like that.