For the last decade, at least, diet experts have touted some iteration of a low-carb diet as the most effective means of dropping unwanted pounds. The name the diet goes by changes—Atkins, Zone, South Beach, Paleo, Primal, Ketogenic—but the idea behind it remains the same. By strictly limiting your carbohydrate intake while simultaneously increasing your fat intake, proponents claim you can convince your body to burn fat reserves for fuel.
While low carb diets certainly can (and often do) allow you to lose weight in a short period of time, any gratification you might derive from that will soon be outweighed by the long-term health consequences, all of which are backed by sound research. We are especially impressed by the work of Dr. Michael Greger, author of the New York Times bestselling book, How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. Dr. Greger is a world-renowned nutritional expert whose website, Nutritionfacts.org, curates the best and broadest research archive of nutritional science we’ve yet to encounter.
Thanks to the work of Dr. Greger and others like him, it’s now clear that low-carb diets that are high in animal flesh and fat threaten your health and sabotage weight loss over the long haul. Yet, many people are still confused. Here is why.
Two Sneaky Reasons Cutting Carbs Appears to Work
When we opt into a diet regime, we tend to do so because our baseline eating habits tend have veered toward unhealthy choices like processed foods and simple sugars. By cutting your consumption of these foods, as well as decreasing your overall caloric intake, you’re virtually guaranteed to see some weight loss.
Another factor at play in the short-term weight loss linked to low-carb diets is that eating refined carbohydrates, like white rice, corn flakes, and prepackaged snack foods, bombards your bloodstream with simple sugars, necessitating the production of unhealthy levels of insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain.
Cutting out refined carbohydrates can bring your insulin levels back into a healthy range, which can encourage weight loss. Over time, however, you’ll begin to see other, unwanted effects, including…
- Impaired artery function
- Increased strain on liver
- Higher death rates
How Depriving Your Body of Fuel Damages Your Health
By removing refined carbohydrates from your diet, you can see quick results. But seriously restricting your intake of all carbohydrate—your body’s primary source of fuel—damages your health. Without its preferred fuel, your body begins to break down muscle. Then, as it enters a state of starvation, it breaks down fat.
This may seem like a desirable outcome, but it’s not. The state of ketosis is meant to be triggered by an emergency, not a diet. Stressing your body like that adversely impacts many of organs and systems throughout your body, including your…
- Heart and arteries
- Reproductive system
Because low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets include such high concentrations of animal protein, your long-term health prognosis becomes ever grimmer. The more animal protein you eat, the higher your risk of cancer…kidney disease…high cholesterol…cognitive degradation…and, ironically, gaining excess weight.
The Best Diet for Optimal Health and Wellness
So, what is the best diet for losing weight and optimizing your health and wellness? Data supports a diet that resembles natural, centuries-old human dietary patterns. For lasting weight loss results, as well as overall improved health, you should eat a diet that’s rich in whole plant foods that contain complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Focus on filling your plate with local, greens, beans, and starchy vegetables, and keep your intake of dairy and meat to a minimum, if you include any at all. You’ll find that you eat fewer calories without thinking about it, since whole plant foods fill you up with fiber, water, and nutrients that make you feel nourished and satiated.
Whole food, plant-based diets also protect against metabolites and disease-causing gut bacteria that are associated with heart disease and cancer. Studies indicate that eating a plant-based diet can lead to a longer, healthier life. The closer you can come to a purely whole-food, plant-based diet, the better your health will be.