Friday, February 8, 2008

Forgot a book in the January roundup

The Glycemic Load Diet by Rob Thompson
Or perhaps a better title, Low Carb Diets for Wusses. This book makes the excellent point that most low-carb diets are based on the glycemic index, which measures how much blood sugar rises after eating 50 grams of available carbohydrates (fiber would be an example of unavailable carbohydrates). However, this can result in absurd results because testing based on an arbitrary amount often has no relation to how much people typically eat in a serving. For instance, carrots are often forbidden on low-carb diets. But the amount of water and fiber in carrots meant that to get 50 available grams of carbohydrates, they had to feed the test subjects eight pounds of carrot. Glycemic load takes portion size into account, so carrots come out much more reasonably, unless you want to eat twenty pounds at one sitting (and at that point, I think you'll have bigger problems than just blood sugar spikes).

This certainly seems like a much more reasonable diet than your average low-carb diet. There's nothing really specifically forbidden. There isn't any nonsense of forbidding perfectly healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. You can even have a spoondful of sugar in your tea or coffee, since he points out that the glycemic load of a small amount of sugar isn't that high. The big boogeyman in this diet isn't all carbohydrates, but starch, as found in potatoes, rice and wheat. But even those aren't completely forbidden. His general rule of thumb is that you save them for after you've eaten other foods so a full stomach slows the metabolism of the starch, and that you eat about 1/4 as much. Also, do exercise like walking or biking 20-30 minutes every other day to activate the slow twitch muscles that help reduce insulin resistance. As diets go, particularly the kind that singles out particular foods as evil, that's pretty darn reasonable. It's still a diet, with all of the issues those entail (deprivation, assigning moral values to foods, etc.), but at least it's not the kind where all is lost if you dare let a morsel of bread pass your lips because you'll no longer be in ketosis.

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