Living the Low-Carb Life: From Atkins to the Zone Choosing the Diet That's Right for You

by Jonny Bowden
ISBN: 1402713983

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A Review of: Living the Low Carb Life
by Greg Gatenby

If, like me, your hobbies include trying to lose weight, you will have read, oh, at least a thousand diet books a year in the ongoing attempt to learn how to curtail cravings, consume the right mixture of proteins, calories, and carbohydrates, and still find a sneaky method for occasional culinary indulgences of chocolate and other creations of the Devil. A large part of the problem is sticking to just one diet for any meaningful length of time, especially if you live or work downtown where the pressures (the excuses?) to cheat or be lax are everywhere. But another problem is the mass of conflicting data hurled at the aspiring dieter: one guru swears that pasta is nothing but junk food while another swears that eating pasta al dente is actually a healthy food choice. One expert makes a compelling argument for eating lots of whole-grain bread. Another expert is doubly persuasive that bread is practically poison. These days, the lowering of carbohydrates in the diet is all the rage, but, alas, the rage has engendered its own library of diet books and manifestos, each, apparently, contradicting the other, slamming the other, defaming the other to the point of sounding as though they are trying to be elected to our Parliament.
So it was with some trepidation that I began Living the Low Carb Life by Jonny Bowden, for I feared it would be just another Ten Commandments for the low-carb life. But within a few pages, the combination of chatty tone and erudite summation of the latest research won me over. Bowden is an American nutritionist but refreshingly seems up-to-date on the world-leading role in glycemic research undertaken by scientists at the University of Toronto, and also up-to-date on Canadian websites (including the granddaddy of them all, www.lowcarb.ca). Indeed, I can recall no other American author in this field so conscious of Canadian contributions to nutritional science. The book begins with a history of nourishment and cooking, including Vilhjalmur Stefansson's discovery nearly a century ago that the Inuit, despite a regime of nothing but meat and fish, led healthier lives than medical doctors in Manhattan. Bowden then gives substantial detail on the latest thinking vis--vis insulin, hypertension, heart disease, vitamin and other supplements in pill form, and one of his strengths as a reporter is to indicate when the evidence seems to be contradictory, as when the experts are in vicious disagreement, thereby informing us that we will have to wait some years before a question can be resolved. In other words, he avoids that pontifical tone into which so many diet gurus are wont to slip. One of the most interesting chapters is his side-by-side analysis of fourteen of the most popular diets, including The South Beach, Atkins, The Zone, and one that was new to me: The Schwarzbein Principle. He compares apples with apples in his analysis, and justifies his laudatory remarks with a plethora of readily-understood science, and offers scathing assessments of, for example, The Scarsdale Diet, with equal support from the scientific literature. There is a thick chapter of "frequently-asked questions", followed by perhaps the most useful chapter of all, a long-delightfully long-chapter devoted to resources and support for those who want to live a low-carb life for a while. As well as listing relevant websites, there is, in effect, an annotated bibliography of cookbooks, recipes, online food stores, online nutrition shops, and sites of a more general nature related to overall health. This is a thinking-person's diet guide, and is the best in its class.

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