A few weeks ago while I was lifting weights at the JCC before my Sunday morning spin class, a member I have known there for years (50 something lawyer with two grown kids), was telling another member about the new weight loss plan he had just started. It is essentially a low-carb diet that eliminates most starchy carbs and fruit.
I listened for a few minutes and then couldn't bite my tongue any longer. "M, you know I don't approve of that!" I teased. M respectfully sees me as a trusted authority on fitness and nutrition so, with sincere interest, he asked me to explain why.
I told him there is no magic to these diets. The reason high protein, low carb diets work short-term is that protein is filling so people are rarely hungry. The problem is, excessive protein consumption can cause kidney damage over the long-term and low-carb diets leave many people depressed, tired, irritable and craving sugar. That is because carbohydrates affect seratonin levels in the brain. Personally just thinking about limiting my carbs makes me feel down. Researchers have found - likely for these reasons - that few people can stick to these diets long-term and end up regaining the weight.
The key is to find a healthy way to eat that you can maintain FOR LIFE. This means it has to be enjoyable.
Although the Atkins diet craze seems (thankfully!) to be over, other low-carb diets have cropped up in its place. Recently there was some discussion in the media about some nutrition experts who claim that fruit, because it is high in sugar, should be avoided because it may cause weight gain.
Sigh! Do you really think North Americans are facing an obesity epidemic because they are eating too much fresh fruit? Come on, let's get real folks!
Leslie Beck, nutrition expert for the Globe and Mail, did an excellent job addressing this issue in today's paper:
Of course, as she points out, fruit are a source of calories so you cannot eat UNLIMITED amounts. She also discusses the quality and quantity debate when it comes to individuals with health concerns like diabetes. But I will expand on this discussion to address the weightloss debate.
Some fruits are less satisfying than others (i.e. melon, grapes, pineapple) because it has less fibre. Personally, I avoid these because, aside from not really liking melons and grapes, they make me feel bloated and give me a quick sugar rush, followed by a crash that leaves me hungry and tired soon after. Other fruits are more satisfying because they have more fibre (apples, cherries, pears, plums, berries, oranges, etc.).
Does this mean you have to give up melon and grapes if you are trying to lose weight, even if you love them? Not at all. What you eat WITH your fruit also makes a big difference. Pairing grapes with some low-fat cheese, that adds some fat and protein to your snack will slow down the rate at which you absorb the sugar from the fruit and is more likely to keep you full until your next meal and full of energy.
Even better, try 2 plums, which contain a type of soluble fibre that is particularly good at filling you up, along with a handful of almonds. This is a healthy, low-cal snack that is guaranteed to keep you feeling satisfied and energetic.
Another good choice is fresh (high fibre!) berries with low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt.
Yes fibre can cause excessive (and smelly!) flatulence, but you can take Beano and increase your water intake to counteract this. Also keep in mind, that your body takes time to adjust to any increases in fibre.
So in a nutshell, if you are trying to lose weight or struggling to maintain a healthy weight, no need to avoid fruit. Just eat it in moderation and, ideally, pair it with a protein source to slow down the rate at which the sugar is released into your bloodstream.