Low Carb Diet Books and Plan Basics

thyroid diet book
Bestselling Low-Carb Option for Thyroid Patients: The Thyroid Diet.

In case you’ve been in a cave, counting calories is out, counting carbs is in. The old food pyramid, based on a diet heavy in carbohydrates has left America the heftiest nation on the planet. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 64% of Americans are either overweight or obese. No wonder we are looking for new ways to slim down. And according to a poll by the Opinion Dynamics Corporation, one of the ways to slim down is to cut carbohydrates, or go “low-carb.” Currently, about 95 million Americans limit their carbohydrate intake.

Basically low-carb diets ban or severely restrict white foods: white sugar, white flour, and other comforting whites like potatoes and pasta. Fruits and vegetables high in natural sugars are also no-nos. The reason: complex carbohydrates break down easily in the body, causing more dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin, which contributes to cravings, hunger, and weight gain. Cutting back on carbs goes a long way toward balancing blood sugar, and helping control hunger pangs.

But what about some of the various low-carb approaches you may be hearing about? By the end of 2004, there will be nearly 200 different low-carb diet books and diets to pick from. How can you know which one will work best for you? No need to work up a sweat toting all those tomes! Here’s your quick guide to the most popular low-carb diets, with an extra focus of information that may be of interest to thyroid patients.

The Thyroid Diet
by Mary Shomon, HarperCollins, 2004

Many people who are overweight are so because they have an undiagnosed and untreated thyroid condition. Getting diagnosed and treated may be the main action needed in order to restore metabolism and weight to normal. For some patients, however, weight loss is still difficult, and for them, a low-glycemic, lower or controlled carbohydrate approach is often the optimal way for thyroid patients to lose weight.

The rationale behind low-glycemic, controlled carbohydrate eating for thyroid patients, as well as a complete diet program of food, supplements, exercise and mind-body help for metabolism is featured in my book, “The Thyroid Diet: Manage Your Metabolism for Lasting Weight Loss,” which as of September 2004 is a New York Times Bestseller, and a Top 100 Bestseller on the Amazon.com list. (Find out more details about The Thyroid Diet now.)

Dr. Atkin's Diet Revolution
by Robert C. Atkins, Bantam Publishers, originally published 1972

This is literally the grand-daddy of all low-carb diets. Back in the 1970’s, Atkins turned the diet world upside down by ditching carbohydrates in favor of proteins and fats. He republished his plan again in1992 and 2002, calling it Dr. Atkin's NEW Diet Revolution. The newer editions focus more on the foods you can eat and less on those that are not allowed. Although Dr. Atkins passed away last year, his movement lives on, and the term “Atkins” is considered synonymous with “low-carb.” Forbidden foods on some diets – such as meat, butter, and eggs – are more staples on the Atkins approach. Forget about most starches, they are verboten.

The principle behind Atkin’s weight loss plan is ketosis, a state achieved by focusing almost exclusively on proteins that help you burn your fat instead of storing it.

Ketosis is typically reached in the 14-day first phase of the diet, called Induction. In the remaining three phases of the diet, higher-fiber carbohydrates are slowly added back into your diet until you get to a point of weight maintenance. Vitamins are recommended to make up for the missing food groups.

While many people tend to characterize the Atkins diet as “all the steak and bacon you want,” this is actually not an accurate depiction of the latest version of the diet. The Atkins approach technically emphasizes leaner protein over fattier meats, good fats (like olive oil) over butter, avoidance of processed foods and trans-fats, and sufficient low-carbohydrate good vegetables and fruits.

It’s thought that Atkins works in two ways – first, by limiting the insulin and blood sugar peaks and valleys, it allows for more efficient metabolism, and less of an insulin response, and second, that the effect of the protein and fat, plus the more balanced blood sugar, reduces appetite to the extent that overall caloric intake is reduced.

Is Atkins a good choice for thyroid patients? It has worked for some, but I’ve also heard from many thyroid patients who found that they gained weight on Atkins. (I know that I did.) I simply have too good an appetite, and could eat quite a sizeable amount of protein every day. The higher amounts of protein did not have the desired appetite suppressant effect, and so I simply ate too many calories.

For those people, I recommend The Thyroid Diet’s “Calorie-sensitive Plan,” which offers a low-glycemic, low-carbohydrate plan specifically for thyroid patients who can’t tolerate an “all you can eat” approach.

Find the best prices online for Dr. Atkin's NEW Diet Revolution.

The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss
by Arthur Agatston, Rodale Books; (April 5, 2003)

This diet book still sells like the hotcakes it advises you not to eat. Its key buzz phrase – glycemic index. Foods with a low glycemic index won’t make your blood sugar and insulin levels fluctuate. That helps you stay on the diet and keep your metabolism on a steady fat-burning keel.

South Beach’s three phase approach starts with a first phase that emphasizes lean proteins, like chicken and fish. Some vegetables are ok, as are legumes/beans, low fat cheeses and eggs. Omega 3 fats like canola and olive oil are included. The subsequent phases embrace whole grain breads, some pasta, whole fruit, yogurt and fat free milk. Once you have achieved your ideal weight you move into maintenance. If you start to gain the weight back, you can downshift back to phase two.

Many dieters find the more balanced offerings appealing. The variety of acceptable foods keeps burnout at bay. Plus the South Beach offers 3 balanced meals and 2 snacks, which is a lot like the rest of the universe eats. Many of the foods Dr. Agaston, a cardiologist, recommends -- like nuts, olive oil and whole grains -- contribute to good heart health.

Is the South Beach Diet a good fit for thyroid patients? Certainly, from the start, Dr. Agatson has emphasized a healthier mix of foods, and has not advocated the total avoidance of carbohydrates, as was seen with Atkins at various points. South Beach Diet also has some great ideas for desserts (I happen to love their ricotta with cocoa powder dessert), and easy-to-eat on-the-go foods (like their breakfast egg cups).

It’s far easier for me to recommend South Beach overall, versus Atkins, simply because it’s a generally more balanced approach that is easier to adopt as a lifestyle, and not view as a “crash diet.”

Get a great price on the South Beach Diet from Pricegrabber

The Fat Flush Plan
by Ann Louise Gittleman. McGraw Hill/Contemporary Books December 6 2001

The first two weeks of this low-carb diet focuses on flushing the toxins from your liver and the pounds from your body at the same time. Operating on the theory that your liver is your number one fat burning organ, it relies on fruits and vegetables with low glycemic levers, rich in phytonutrient s and minerals they help cleanse your system.

According to the author, Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, a liver accustomed to filtering caffeine, diet sodas and excess fats and sugars can block your attempts to lose weight. A clean liver, the book maintains, will bolster your immune system, relieve depression and give you more energy.

Once your weight is where you want it, you need to maintain this non-toxic state by eating large quantities of cleansing vegetables, thermogenic herbs and spices, and low glycemic fruits.

Eliminating stress is another tenet of this diet. Since stress can add pounds, the book emphasizes improved sleeping habits, moderate exercise and eliminating caffeine and sugar.

I think Fat Flush is a very healthy low-carb option for people who want to lose weight. Whenever anyone asks me about food or supplement “detox” programs, I always direct them to “Fat Flush” because I feel it offers a safe and healthy way to detox in its initial toxin-flushing phase.

Compare the best online prices for Fat Flush at Pricegrabber

Enter The Zone: A Dietary Road Map to Lose Weight Permanently: Reset Your Generic Code : Prevent Disease : Achieve Maximum Physical Performance
by Barry Sears, Bill Lawren ReganBooks, June, 1995

Another popular plan calls itself “The Zone.” It aims to keep you in a hormonally balanced state – “the zone” -- 24 hours a day by maintaining ideal insulin levels. The answer lies in learning how to combine carbs, proteins and fats in a 40-30-30 ratio. Dieters are encouraged to eat meals and snacks in these proportions five times a day.

But in Zone theory, not all carbs are created equal. Some vegetables and fruits carry a lot more sugar and you won’t find them in the Zone. They have been banished in favor of slow burning or low glycemic produce.

Portion size, the downfall of many a diet, is measured by fistfuls. One relaxed fist of protein, two loose fists of approved fruits and vegetables. And if you are satisfying a carb craving, you should skip one of the fruits and veggies and substitute a tight fist of rice, potato or pasta.

Find a good-priced copy of The Zone now at Pricegrabber

Protein Power
Michael R Eades, MD, Mary Dan Eades published by Bantam January 1996

Protein Power owes a lot to the original low-carb diet developed by Dr. Atkins. Here you will find the now familiar insulin production theory that is the mantra of the low-carb advocates.

During phase one of Protein Power, known as intervention, you can consume up to 30 grams of carbohydrates a day but never more. A formula based on your bone structure, your weight and your activity level will tell you how many protein grams you can eat every day to get rid of your “fat pounds.” You can consume more than the recommended number of protein grams on this part of the plan, but never less.

How long you stay in any phase depends on your diet goals. Those who have a lot of pounds to shed would stay in the intervention stage until they are closer to an ideal weight. Then they can shift to phase two to tone up and continue weight loss. Just like the other low-carb diets, you are allowed to increase your carb intake as the phases of Protein Power evolve.

When it comes to carbs, the authors have developed an equation called Effective carbohydrate content or ECC, that measures undigested fiber and allows more fruits and vegetables than the standard charts.

Compare prices on copies of Protein Power now

The Hamptons Diet : Lose Weight Quickly and Safely with the Doctor’s Delicious Meal Plans 
by Fred Pescatore John Wiley & Sons April 16, 2004
The Hamptons Diet is perhaps the newest low carb diet you will find in the bookstores. The author claims he named it after the exclusive Long Island community because the residents there eat the closest thing to a Mediterranean diet he’s found in the USA. But at least subliminally it implies that you aspire to resemble the thin rich and famous of the Hamptons!

And not surprisingly, the price of following this diet may require a Hamptons salary! One of the central ingredients in this plan is macadamia nut oil. And while it may be the most mono saturated oil on earth, it may also be one of the most expensive - at $17 for a 500 ml bottle. Throw in the fact that it is not good for cooking at high temperatures and you have spent a lot of money for salad oil.

On the plus side, this diet that morphs Atkins with Mediterranean means eating healthy – whole grains, lean protein and organic vegetables are the staples. Skip the white sugar and don’t even think about processed foods.


At www.ediets.com you can sign up for internet support for your low carb diet of choice – Atkins and The Zone are both offered. What you’ll find at the website besides the eating plans is healthy lifestyle tips as well as accessible advice from experts and mentors. A yearly subscription to ediets costs $99 or you can sign on for 9 weeks at $5 a week.

Recent studies have shown that getting advice and support online helps dieters lose weight and keep it off better than simply seeking diet information. Time saving , convenience and confidentiality make this approach popular.

Weight Watchers

Given the success of internet dieters, Weight Watchers International, in business for more than 40 years, now accepts online members for $65 for a three month program at www.weightwatchers.com. In addition to laying out their diet plan, this website gives internet users access to newsletters, bulletin boards and online chat rooms.


Fran Murphy contributed to this article.

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