Lessons from the Low-Carb Diet Craze

Why low-carbohydrate diets got so popular, their drawbacks, and what we can learn from Atkins, South Beach, and others.
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Carb Crazy

Low Carb. It's the newest phrase in our diet-crazed vocabulary. You'll find these two small words on practically everything -- from yogurt containers and cereal boxes to soda cans and even tea! You'd be hard pressed to find a food that doesn't offer a low-carbohydrate option these days.

A mere five years after the low-fat craze, many people are replacing their morning toast with bacon, their turkey on white with turkey on cheese, and their evening pasta with a steak -- hold the potato.

But what does it all mean? Should we all jump on the low-carbohydrate bandwagon, or is this latest diet craze just a passing fad, or worse, dangerous for your health?

"A few elements of the low-carb craze are healthy habits for women and for everybody else, but a lot of these diets are on the radical side," says Peggy O'Shea, RD, LDN, registered dietitian in Boston, and spokesperson for the Massachusetts Dietetic Association. These diets, just as many others, ask you to exclude or include one type of food group over another. Essentially, on a low-carb diet, you're counting carbs instead of calories.

Here's what's helpful about these diets -- and when they can be risky or just plain unrealistic.

Continued on page 2:  What's a Carbohydrate?

 

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