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Living Low-Carb review

What is a low-carb diet?

Low- carbohydrate diets, often referred to as low-carb, are used by some people as a way to help lose weight.

Eating fewer carbs tends to increase the amount of protein and fats in the diet.

Generally, changing from the normal balance of foods we eat by cutting out food groups is not recommended by dietitians. It can mean fewer nutrients are eaten, and some low-carb diet plans involve eating less fruit and vegetables.

Low-carb diets can also cause side-effects including constipation, headache, bad breath and nausea.

Low-carb diets

Since low-carbohydrate diets were developed, cookery books followed. First came The Low-Carb Cookbook, succeeded by Living Low-Carb, both by Fran McCullough, an avowed foodie and award-winning cookery book editor. Struggling to keep her own weight down, McCullough was led to a low-carb diet, which suited her down to her toes. In her quest for mealtime pleasure without plumpness, she put together a collection of more than 250 recipes for 1997's The Low-Carb Cookbook. The book was an instant success and best-seller. Living Low-Carb followed in 2002, which contains more explanation and adds 175 recipes.

Fran McCullough's book explains the differences between the most stringent low-carb diet plans and the more liberal ones that she favours. She then outlines how to adapt the latter group of diets to fit a pleasure-eater's perspective. Rather than a "diet" book, Living Low-Carb is more of a lifestyle and self-help guide with recipes for everything from simple potatoes to Moroccan-style chicken to what she calls Intense Chocolate Cake.

Fran McCullough dismisses the raft of objections to the low-carb diet by the nutritional establishment, but she does note that for some people this type of routine is not ideal. She discusses the particular needs of people with diabetes, those with low- thyroid function (her own condition), and includes caveats for those pregnant or breastfeeding. Living Low-Carb is full of motivational suggestions, as well as practical ones for stocking the cupboard, eating on the road, in restaurants, and at the homes of friends, and finally how to deal with a dieter's bête noir, the sweet tooth.

She encourages exercise, not because it will make you lose fat, but because it's good for you, and she gives you more than a dozen reasons why you should.

How a low-carb diet works

Fran McCullough gives you lots of choices, because neither Living Low-Carb nor The Low-Carb Cookbook is a diet book as such. The recipes are for everything from canapés to puddings. However, she does present a basic plan for low-carb eating:

  • Have protein at every meal -- about one-half gram of protein for every pound of your ideal weight, typically somewhere between 60 to 85 grams unless you're very large or very small.
  • For weight loss, keep the carbs low, anywhere from zero to 30 grams daily.
  • Choose whole foods, organic if possible, and raw, ideally. The more fibre, the better.
  • Avoid nearly everything white -- potatoes, rice, bread, flour, sugar, popcorn. Of course, this doesn't include cauliflower, turnips or giant white radishes.
  • Eat fruit at breakfast, particularly low-carb fruits, such as berries, melon, peaches, kiwi. Half a banana is all you get.
  • Although you are allowed cream and butter, save it for treats, and cut down on them if you are trying to lose weight. Choose cold-pressed olive and nut oils, and avoid processed oils, partially hydrogenated fats and margarine.
  • Eat dinner early and make it minimal.

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