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Low Glycemic Index Diets

There are a few popular weight loss diets that directly or indirectly emphasize low glycemic foods. In a nutshell:

The Atkins Diet. With it's focus on a low-carb, high-protein diet, the Atkins Diet was a pioneer in the promotion of low glycemic meals. By virtue of the fact that meat protein and fats crowd out carbohydrates in the Atkins Diet plan, there is a sheer absence of high glycemic foods. While it is still a popular diet, critics of the Atkins Diet warn of health dangers associated with long term high-protein and high-fat dieting. Weight loss on the Atkins Diet is quick, and there may be little risk in doing this diet for a short period of time, but by no means should you adopt the Atkins Diet as a life-long dietary plan.

The South Beach Diet. The South Beach Diet is a more moderate cousin to the Atkins Diet, and far more safe. Whereas the Atkins Diet prohibits most all medium to high-glycemic carbs, the South Beach Diet permits medium-glycemic carbs. The emphasis is on the quality of carb. The lower the quality a carbohydrate food (bread made with refined, bleached flour) will have a higher glycemic index because it's starches have been processed and break down very quickly in the body, releasing a relatively high amount of glucose. Higher quality carbohydrate foods (bread made with one or more whole grains), have a lower glycemic index because the starches it contains breaks down more slowly in digestion.

The South Beach Diet advocates moderation and quality: moderate protein, fat and carbohydrate intake. Lean proteins, healthy fats (essential fatty acids, the omega-3 and omega-6 oils), whole grains, and fresh fruit and vegetables. The South Beach Diet recommends low-glycemic grains, fruits and vegetables. This is a sensible diet plan, with no long term health dangers.

The Zone Diet. Whereas the South Beach Diet emphasizes moderation and quality, the Zone Diet is based on balance. Dr. Barry Sears, the creator of the Zone Diet, discovered through extensive biochemistry and medical research, that the body performs best with a diet that maintains a nutritional balance of 40% carbs, 40% protein and 30% fats. High glycemic foods are not forbidden, but amounts of these foods are restricted. You can have a larger serving of whole grain brown rice with your dinner, for example, than of pasta.

The Zone Diet has been widely praised as an excellent formula for balanced dietary nutrition. Hollywood and professional sports stars number among the growing number of Zone dieters across the world. It's a sensible diet, and if followed as directed, the Zone Diet poses no knowable health risks.

The Ornish Diet. Heart specialist Dr. Dean Ornish crafted this diet with heart health in mind, but also has appeal among some dieters because it is very low in fat. The Ornish Diet is similar in most ways to the South Beach Diet, with a healthy emphasis on low-glycemic fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. But Ornish keeps fat intake very, very low. Critics say that the low fat may create food cravings. This is a pretty restrictive diet, and isn't for anyone who has difficulty with dietary discipline.

Our pick: The Zone Diet principle (40-40-30 protein-carb-fat) with the South Beach Diet food recommendations.

Related information on the glycemic index:

The Glycemic Index and Weight Loss

Glycemic Index of Foods [chart]

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