As those of you who read my blog regularly may have noticed, I haven't been posting as frequently as I used to. The major reason for this is simply the desire for a more balanced life with the majority of my free time spent away from the computer (I'm already on my PC for several hours at my day job). But to be honest, I've also become a bit irritated by the Paleo/Primal/Weston A Price vs. Low Carbohydrate vs. Very Low Carbohydrate discussions ("safe starches" and others) that dominated some of the online communities over the past several months. Some feel that their way of eating is superior for weight control and blood sugar issues and have made over-the-top claims about what people can expect from following a specific plan. I think that all of the above-mentioned ways of eating can work and disagree that choosing a different plan will eventually lead to health problems. I personally continue to follow a moderately low-carbohydrate, whole foods approach to blood sugar management. There is a relatively new book (published last May) I feel lays out the pros and cons of carbohydrate restriction in a comprehensive, no-hype, easy-to-understand fashion.
Jenny Ruhl is a woman with Type 2 diabetes and author of the acclaimed 2008 book "Blood Sugar 101: What They Don't Tell You About Diabetes," which I reviewed at the end of last year. She also maintains the popular website Blood Sugar 101. Although Jenny has not had professional training in medicine or nutrition, she has done an extensive amount of research on diabetes, particularly Type 2, and in my opinion is one of the most knowledgeable and trustworthy voices on blood sugar management around. Her latest book, "Diet 101: The Truth About Low Carb Diets," is hands-down the best book I've read so far this year and will likely be my favorite read of 2012.
"Diet 101" is an exhaustively researched and referenced work that would be an invaluable resource for anyone embarking on a low-carb diet as well as someone who has eating this way for years. Rather than promoting carb restriction as a way to "turn your body into a fat-burning machine," Jenny focuses on its proven benefits: significant improvement in blood glucose and reduced hunger. She disputes claims asserting there is a metabolic advantage to very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets and instead makes the case that ketosis provides greater initial weight loss due to release of water and glycogen, and that continued loss occurs due to lower caloric intake as a result of a decrease in appetite. Furthermore, there is good research suggesting that moderate carb restriction can be just as effective in achieving weight loss and, for some, improvements in blood glucose as well.
Jenny spends a lot of time discussing why and how low carbohydrate diets work (as well as their potential side effects), which many people may not truly understand given the sensationalism with which certain authors have characterized them. She cautions against trusting the conclusions reached in very-low-carb ketogenic vs. low-carb vs. low-fat research without understanding what actually occurred during the studies. For instance, how many people from each group dropped out? How many were actually following the prescribed diet six months later? Were these ward studies where food was controlled or was intake self-reported? Jenny also devotes a good amount of space to carb restriction's effects on chronic disease, the impact of macronutrient composition and weight loss on the hormones which regulate hunger (leptin, grehlin, peptide yy), nutritional supplements purported to promote weight loss and/or improve blood sugar levels, and the truth about why insulin resistance develops (despite what you might have read, she believes it's not the result of eating too many carbs). She is a strong advocate for "eating to your meter" to determine the optimal amount of carbohydrates that is right for you as an individual. Some people will do well at very low carbohydrate intakes indefinitely, while others may experience the same results by adopting a more moderate low-carb approach.
The organization of "Diet 101" is another strong point. Each chapter builds on the previous one, the Kindle version has links to references for all the studies, and there is a "Points to Remember" summary at the end of every chapter and a "Notes" section at the end of the book with further information many will find helpful.
I enjoyed reading "Diet 101" even more than I thought I would -- knowing Jenny Ruhl, I had some pretty high expectations! I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the latest information on
low-carbohydrate diets and what you can realistically expect from adopting one in a down-to-earth, balanced, and well-written guide.
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE