Lo-carbing Basics

Why Count Carbs?

The USDA Food Guide Pyramid
The USDA Food Guide Pyramid
USDA Food pyramid courtesy Food and Nutrition Information Center

Now you know what carbohydrates are and how your body uses them. But, how does following a low-carb plan result in weight loss? The theory goes something like this: According to low-carb proponents, certain carbohydrates have a huge impact on blood sugar levels, while other carbohydrates have a minimal impact. By regulating your blood sugar levels and avoiding spikes (like those that occur after eating a meal rich in carbohydrates) you'll be able to better regulate your appetite. It's believed that sugar spikes can cause some of our cravings and overeating habits. For example, have you ever been hungry after lunch and eaten a candy bar to "hold you over" until dinner -- only to be even more hungry afterward? Low-carb plans avoid this pitfall by focusing a person's diet on foods -- like meat, cheese and high-fiber vegetables, that don't instigate a blood sugar roller coaster.

Battle of the Food Pyramids

The USDA Food Pyramid recommends a diet rich in carbohydrate consumption. As you can see in the image below, the foundation of the pyramid is a recommended six to eleven servings of carbohydrates daily.

Low-carb dieters follow an entirely different food map. For example, consider the Atkins Food Guide Pyramid.

The Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid™ The Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid™
The Atkins Lifestyle Food Guide Pyramid™
Image courtesy Atkins®

Unlike the traditional food pyramid, the Atkins pyramid places dietary emphasis on protein sources as opposed to whole grain foods.