Fruits and Vegetables

Low Carb Diet vs. High Starch Diet: Which One is Better? The Answer May Not be so Obvious

Probably the most confusing part of nutrition is just trying to figure out how to eat healthily. This is difficult because you have doctors, trainers, and nutritionists who all say different things, which just confuses all of us, including myself.

Just for fun, I asked the general public using Quora what the pros and cons of high starch (high-carb) diets are. Generally, we accept that a low carbohydrate diet helps with weight loss, so I wanted to see what people thought about a high starch / high carb diet. The answers I received were very different from one another. One “advocate of low carb lifestyle” explained that a high starch diet is the cause of obesity, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease, and cancer, and these occur because of the lack of human adaptation to an agriculturally based diet. An athletic trainer commented saying there are absolutely no pros to a high starch diet and that the whole idea is a fraud. A food security consultant countered that viewpoint saying complex carbohydrates like what are found in starches are not the problem, simple carbohydrates such as sugar is the problem. There were a couple comments that I would consider to be the ‘voices of reason’ that explained the conditions of each diet, and how it depends on what you need individually. Then someone posted saying the only cons to a high starch diet are that “people love to eat what they have always eaten. You will be made fun of and ostracized by the ignorant…Eat starch be healthier and live better.” With only 12 answers to my question, I got a full spectrum of answers.

 

 

 

Here’s another good example of this spectrum of opinions. Both of these books were written by very intelligent doctors, and both books are highly rated best sellers. The difference is one book is telling you to eat zero grains to lose or maintain your weight, while the other book is saying you should eat predominately starches, which include grains, to lose or maintain your weight. So hold on a second, no wonder everyone is confused, these books are telling you to do two completely different things to lose weight.

It turns out there is a very simple reason why people have seen such great successes and such great failures with both diets. Losing weight is more of a factor of energy use and consumption rather than the kinds of foods you are eating. So 1000 calories of starches are pretty much the same as 1000 calories of beef in the context of weight loss. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other health benefits besides just weight loss. The general consensus believes that a plant based diet is healthier than a diet based on animal products. That should mean a starch based vegan diet like what is described in the book The Starch Solution should be healthier than a no-grain diet as described in The No-Grain Diet. Nonetheless, people are living healthy lives on both of these diets. How are both of these polar opposite diets allowing us to stay healthy?

I believe the answer is simple, both diets allow you to eat fruits and vegetables and encourage a vast majority of your calories to come from them. A typical meal on a high starch diet, according to the book, will consist of mostly fruits and vegetables with perhaps some dish with beans, corn, rice, and/or potatoes. A typical meal on the no grain diet, according to the book, will also consist of mostly fruits and vegetables but will also include a portion of meat. When eating a diet with a large focus on fruits and vegetables it’s hard to go wrong. Where people begin to see problems with their no-grain/low-carb or high-starch/high-carb diet is they will not base their diet on fruits and vegetables, but rather eat other foods that fall into their diet category. For example, someone may begin a low-carb diet and only eat beef, pork, and chicken with no other food groups.

Regardless of what diet you choose, if you want to be successful, start by filling your plate with the fruits and vegetables your diet allows.  The remaining calories you can fill with anything. The high carb high starch diet says to fill it with rice, pasta, and potatoes. The no grain diet says to fill it with meat and dairy. One or the other may fit you better, but both, when prioritizing fruits and vegetables, can help you lose weight and stay healthy. That is why both books, although contradictory to one another, are highly rated by the readers. There are many ways to reach your goals, so if one way doesn’t work for you, try another and you may be surprised that something you once believed to be the cause of weight gain can actually help you lose weight.

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5 Surprising Reasons That May Prevent You From Losing Weight

2 Weeks to Health recently surveyed 226 people who have attempted to lose weight. Of the 226 people, 38% claimed they reached their weight goal and were able to keep the weight off for at least a year. The other 62% were unable to reach their goals and keep the weight off. 2 Weeks to Health analyzed the differences between those who were and were not successful and found 5 surprising methods that actually hurt your chances of reaching your weight loss goals. All of these methods have worked for many people under certain conditions, but based on our survey doing any one of these make you at least 10% less likely to achieve your weight loss goals.

1. Signing up for a gym membership

percentage-of-successful-weight-losers-that-had-a-gym-membership
Only 29% of people who successfully reached their weight goals had a gym membership.

We all know that there are tremendous benefits to buying a gym membership. However, our survey showed that you are 10% less likely to reach your weight loss goal if you have a gym membership. Only 29% of people who achieved their weight loss goals had a gym membership. Why is this? Usually one of the first things people will do when they decide to lose weight is to purchase a gym membership. Whether or not the gym membership is used is a different story. By just owning a gym membership, statistically you are less likely to lose weight, but consistently using what the gym has to offer will inevitably help your weight loss goals.

2. Going on a low-carb diet

Percentage-of-people-who-sucessfully-lost-weight-on-a-low-carb-diet
Out of everyone who successfully kept their weight off for a year, only 18% claimed to have lost weight using a low carbohydrate diet.

Besides purchasing a gym membership, when someone decides to lose weight they usually choose 1 of 2 diets, the low-carb diet or the low-calorie diet. The low-carb diet has become popularized by diets such as the Adkins diet, and are also on par with most ketogenic diets. While low-carb diets have been proven to help people lose weight, a crash low-carb diet is never sustainable. Our bodies and minds need energy from carbohydrates to function normally, which means people who lose weight on a low-carb diet are usually unable to keep it off for a full year. While many people would benefit from a reduction in how many carbs they eat, a strict low or no carb diet is usually unnecessary.

3. Going on a low-calorie diet

percentage-of-people-who-used-a-low-carlorie-diet
44% of people who were successful in losing weight used a low-calorie diet, while 55% of people who were unsuccessful used the same technique.

This is the one that surprised me the most. Out of everyone who attempted a low-calorie diet to lose weight, a higher percentage of the unsuccessful people tried this diet than the successful people. Overall, roughly half of people on a weight loss mission try this, but out of everyone who was successful, only 44% of the success stories incorporated a low-calorie diet. But how? Calories in, calories out, right? Well, yes, the basics of weight loss are that you must use more calories per day than you consume to lose weight, but you don’t particularly need to go on a strict low-calorie diet to achieve this. Instead of going on a low-calorie diet, you can try exercising more often and promising yourself that you remove soda and/or dessert from your diet. You can set a standard for yourself to eat only whole foods with plenty of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. It appears that most people who successfully lose weight and keep it off for a year don’t specify a low-calorie diet, but focus on eating good foods and exercising, which in return leads to a calorie deficit that leads to weight loss.

4. Being a woman

percentage-of-men-and-women-who-sucessfully-lost-weight
According to our recent survey, 62% of males achieve their weight loss goals and keep the weight off for a year while only 38% of women achieve their goals.

Almost 2 out of every 3 men who attempted to lose weight reported they were able to achieve their weight goal and keep their weight off for a year. Meanwhile, only 1 in every 3 women reported they were able to do the same. Unfortunately for women, human physiology makes it easier for men to lose weight than women. The average man has less body fat and more muscle than the average woman. This means the man’s metabolism is going to run faster than the woman’s, and the man will burn more calories. Men can naturally eat more and burn more calories than women, which means if you are a woman, you are automatically 33% less likely to reach your weight goals as compared to men.

 

5. Adopting a diet that requires a strict program such as Weight Watchers

Success-rate-of-weight-watchers

Compared to the successful group, the unsuccessful group was 10% more likely to attempt Weight Watchers to lose weight. Of those who tried Weight Watchers, only 19% were successful. Taking on a strict and quantitative meal and exercise plan like weight watchers may work for some, but the majority were unable to reach their weight loss goals using this plan.

 

These 5 reasons that may prevent you from losing weight can all be very useful for certain people in certain conditions and when used correctly. Next time you set a weight loss goal, ask yourself “does this work for me”. If the answer is no, then you have 2 options, change yourself or change your methods. While changing yourself by increasing your discipline and motivation is always a good option, it is even better to look at your methods for losing weight and ensure they are sustainable. Just because you bought a gym membership and put yourself on a diet does not mean you will see results, and based on statistics you are less likely to reach your goals. You must always put in the work and adapt your strategies to fit your needs.