Move over, low-carbohydrate diets -- it's time to start thinking slow, suggests the author of "The 4-Hour Body," Tim Ferriss. He first described the slow-carb diet in one of his blog posts in 2007 and later went into detail in his book. Instead of limiting the total amount of carbs you eat, as you would with a low-carb diet, the slow-carb approach allows all carbs, but classifies them differently to help you make better food choices.
Fast Vs. Slow
Weight-loss programs that implement the slow-carb approach categorize carbohydrates based on how fast or slow you digest them, which is determined by their glycemic index. The GI is a measurement of how rapidly and dramatically a carbohydrate-containing food raises your blood sugar. Foods with a lower GI raise your blood sugar slowly as opposed to foods with a higher GI, which cause a rapid blood glucose spike. For example, a white bagel, cookies and ice cream are all high-glycemic, while soybeans, old-fashioned oatmeal and cherries are low-glycemic.
What This Means
Some people believe keeping your blood sugar stable and avoiding large insulin spikes provides a weight-loss advantage. Insulin is a hormone that acts as a key of sorts, unlocking your cells and directing them to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin acts on cells in your muscles but also stimulates your fat cells to take in glucose. The journal "Cell Metabolism" published a study in September 2010 in which National Institutes of Health researchers found insulin causes a dramatic spike in the amount of glucose fat cells take in.
Putting It to the Test
Dietary approaches involving the glycemic index aren't new. Researchers have put this theory to the test in various clinical trials. "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" published one such trial in April 2014. Researchers compared the effectiveness of a moderate-carb, low-glycemic diet to a moderate-carb, high-glycemic diet and a moderate-carb, low-fat diet for weight loss. They found the low-GI diet was more effective than the other two diets at reducing body weight and resulted in a significant reduction in fasting insulin and overall glucose control.
Have This Instead of That
Slow-carb diet programs focus on lean, protein-rich foods such as meats, low-fat dairy, nuts, eggs and seafood, as well as a moderate amount of mostly slow carbs. Fast carbs aren't banned, but they make up a much smaller percentage of your total carbohydrate intake. Start by replacing fast carbohydrates with slow-carb alternatives. For breakfast have steel-cut oatmeal with no-sugar-added yogurt, instead of instant oatmeal with a bagel. Have a grilled turkey sandwich on 100-percent whole-grain bread instead of on refined white bread for lunch. For dinner, have salmon with asparagus and a yam, as opposed to a white potato.
- Fitness Magazine: The Slow-Carb Diet
- National Institutes of Health: NIH Study Shows How Insulin Stimulates Fat Cells to Take in Glucose
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effect of the Glycemic Index of the Diet on Weight Loss, Modulation of Satiety, Inflammation, and Other Metabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized Controlled Trial
- The 4-Hour Body; Tim Ferriss