The most important thing I learned in graduate school was how to “curate” reams of information and synthesize it into something understandable and coherent. There is currently extensive debate over which nutritional approach leads to the most effective diets. While it is certainly challenging to define absolutes around diet and health, there are commonalities with the more evidence-based approaches.
As a diet and health coach I am faced with a wide range of questions as esoteric as, “how do male and female bodies respond differently to insulin spikes from carbs?” and as specific as “is chewing gum with Erythritol as the sweetener OK to have on a low carb diet?
The answers to all questions are out there on the internet somewhere. It’s just that the answers may be opinions from a body-builder, or they may be from a long-held (but inaccurate) myth. In other words the answers may not be “evidence-based” at all. Just opinions.
As a “curator” of evidence-based information and as a coach to people with pressing diet and/or health issues I have come to the conclusion that my current answer to the question of “the most effective diet” is a high-protein-low-carb-medium-fat diet. Effective meaning it is the most efficient and healthy way to a achieve long-term, permanent, sustainable fat loss.
Now a high-protein-low-carb-medium-fat diet isn’t exactly a phrase suited to a book cover. If you break down the most popular, evidence-based diet programs currently catching our interest however, they are all a nuanced version of high-protein-low-carb.
The Slow Carb Diet is nuanced by adding beans and a cheat day. Paleo, on the other hand, includes no beans and no cheat day, but does include fruit. Atkins includes cheese and more fat, but no fruit, no beans and no cheat day. Primal, South Beach, the Zone, the Duke University Medical Diet, and many more are all nuanced forms of high-protein-low-carb diets.
Even the Blue Zones diet information is high-protein-low-carb, just more plant based.
For a detailed comparison of low carb vs slow carb vs keto, click here.
Why are these high-protein-low carb diets effective?
Two main reasons:
1) Protein and fat are satiating and so you do not get hungry. Hunger can derail a diet quicker than anything. The fact that you don’t get hungry is a significant component that makes these types of diets sustainable.
2) Refined carbs are essentially sugar as far as your hormones and insulin are concerned, and sugar is directly correlated to obesity. Sugar is also known to be addictive. If you are diligent in following a low carb diet for a while (at least 6 weeks) the sugar cravings decrease to the point of sustainability.
Future Research on Diet & Health
There is a lot of research going on in the diet and nutrition field these days, with the most interesting ideas surrounding gut bacteria and probiotics. I am looking forward to the information that comes out of the clinical research around gut health. I believe it will allow us to nuance the high-protein-low -carb diet even further!