They are the latest trend. Everyone has heard about them. It seems as if everyone is talking about them. They’re on the news, and they’re in the stores. And now they’ve made it to the Yale dining halls. No, I’m not talking about Uggs. I’m talking about low-carb diets, which in recent years have attracted many a health-conscious Yalie.
Low-carb diets vary tremendously in their structures. While some are more drastic and others more gradual, they all seek to turn an individual’s carbohydrate-burning metabolism into a primarily fat-burning metabolism. As a result, these diets urge people to cut back on (if not avoid completely) carbohydrates and sugars. This leaves fish, fowl, meat, eggs, cheese, and some vegetables as possible dietary options.
Two of the best know carb-limiting regimens are the Atkins diet and the South Beach diet. The Atkins diet is the more drastic of the two, permitting no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates a day: no fruit, bread, pasta, grains, or starchy vegetables are allowed.
The first two weeks of the South Beach diet require adherence to similar restrictions. After fourteen days, though, the South Beach diet gradually incorporates more and more carbohydrates and sugars (all in moderation, of course). The South Beach diet claims that it is not “low-carb” or “low-fat” but rather emphasizes the “right carbs” and “right fats.”
Two Ezra Stiles sophomores began the South Beach diet two weeks before Thanksgiving. They pointed out that their limited dining hall options made the diet more difficult to follow.
“Sometimes I just ate five pieces of chicken for my dinner,” one of these determined Stilesians said.
The other Stilesian got more creative. She said that she often ate “lettuce roll-up” sandwiches — in other words, sandwiches with no bread. She said she wraps turkey, hummus, salad dressing, and vegetables in lettuce.
One oft-cited complaint is that many find that it is difficult to give up desserts entirely. As a result, this crafty Stilesian took suggestions from the South Beach book and often brought her own creations to the dining hall. She was a big fan of Sugar-Free Jello, and she also would mix ricotta cheese with cocoa powder and Equal.
The two also basically lived on nuts.
“I finished two bottles of peanuts in two days,” one said.
It’s easy to understand why some dissenters claim that these diets are not healthy — that the regimens are too drastic, and that eliminating one group from the food period never makes sense.
Linda Bell M.S.R.D, the sole nutritionist at Yale University Health Services, explained that the best thing about low-carb diets are that they encourage people to consider what they are eating.
“They make people think,” she said.
Yet Bell also said that she recommends “controlled-carb” diets over “low-carb” diets.
She said everyone should watch the amount of simple sugars and carbohydrates they consume, but total elimination is not necessary.
She added that some people simply find it easier to go “all out” than to eat carbohydrates in moderation.
“One person said that sometimes it is easier to eat no rice than to eat 2/3 of a cup of a rice,” Bell said.
Despite this one conceit, Bell said that she does not agree with every aspect of the aforementioned diets.
She said she would not recommend eliminating fruits from one’s diet, as they carry several health benefits, despite their sugar content. Bell said fruits are not as likely to lead to weight gain, as people do not tend to overeat fruits the way they overeat breads and pastas. She noted that high levels of protein consumption should not be a health problem for students, although all dieters should be cognizant of their family histories, especially whether or not they have a history of high cholesterol.
Furthermore, Bell said people need to be aware of exactly what the food they are eating contains, both calorically and nutritionally. Bell cited that while most people will probably not eat four pieces of bread, they are likely to eat a sub roll, which can be calorically equivalent to those same four pieces.
Bell especially wanted to remind students that the University Dining Services Web site contains nutritional information on all of their meals, a valuable resource for any dieter.
Finally, Bell stressed that reduced-carbohydrate diets, in moderation, are actually not much different from more traditional ways of watching one’s weight.
Although she said that people often “don’t like to hear it,” the most important tenet of healthy living is still “everything in moderation.”
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