Food fads tend to replicate the whims of fashion-when you're hot you're hot and when you're not...well, when's the last time you saw anyone wearing love beads?
While low-carb diets show signs of receding they are perhaps more resilient than some of their forgotten predecessors, most of them nutritional equivalents to the hula hoop, because they appear to work in the short-term, with adherents pointing to big losses at the outset.
It is hard to banish carbs over the long haul-and eliminating any of the food groups is not without peril-carbohydrates, for example, supply the body with essential energy. What's more, there is good reason to suspect that the combination of fibre and carbohydrates is a tool the body uses to help normalize weight.
At least that's the conclusion of a recent study conducted by the University of Southern California and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The eating habits of 52 normal-weight study participants were compared to the habits of 52 overweight people and the differences were significant and categorical-the former group ate an average of 33 per cent more dietary fibre and 43 per cent more complex carbohydrates on a daily basis and it appears to have served them well.
According to results obtained by the study the overweight subjects were on average 31 kg. heavier than their leaner counterparts and carried a whopping 71 per cent more body fat.
So how do the results of the study reflect on low-carb diets and calorie counting?
"Overweight/obese subjects consumed more total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. They are taking more calories from high fat diet even though they are taking low carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not the complex type," says Dr. Lalita Kaul, national spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association and a professor of nutrition at Howard University.
"In high protein diets the food is very high in proteins, moderate fat, low complex carbohydrates. No simple carbohydrates."
Simple carbohydrates such as those found in milk, sugar, and yogurt represent typical problem spots for most of us-they are quickly digested and frequently contain refined sugars.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand take longer to digest and are fiber-dense, rich with vitamins and minerals and are found in cereals, legumes, pasta, vegetables and bread.
Most experts suggest that complex carbohydrates should form the basis for at least half of our daily food intake.
"Twenty to 30 grams of fibre per day is recommended. Fiber-rich foods are generally low in calories and fat. Because they take longer to chew, fiber-rich foods may help slow you down, so you eat less. With their added bulk, they help you feel full longer, making you less inclined to nibble too soon after eating. Fiber itself can't be fattening or provide calories-it isn't digested," says Dr. Kaul.
Researchers involved with the study posit that dietary fibre, by slowing the digestive process, may contribute to feelings of satiety, making people less inclined to nibble and graze.
"The study suggests that increasing dietary fibre and complex carbohydrates in the diet will help to normalize weight," confirms Dr. Kaul.
Changing your diet is frequently a matter of altering habits. Dr. Kaul offers some practical suggestions to help you make the shift to more fruit and fibre: