High Carbohydrate Diets

High-Carbohydrate diets contain a preponderance of plant-based foods.

Some are extreme in that they ban fat.


Heart protective diets are advised to people with a family history of heart disease.

The diet is based on consuming extremely low fat and very high carbohydrates foods.

While the precise definition of low and high is open to argument, the theory behind this dietary formula is simple. It is based on the opinion that dietary fat is the ingredient most responsible for the ill health of heart patients.

Heart protective diets emphasize complex carbohydrates and whole grain products. They elininates highly refined products and sugar as well.

They emphasize complex carbohydrates based on the diminished insulin response that accompanies these foods.

They have an aversion to fat. Any and all fat. Their restrictive obsession with fat is not only unhealthy but it removes pleasure from eating.

Certain fats are essential to health and extremely important. This is especially true for people who exercise.

By eliminating foods that contain these healthy fats, dieters are damaging their bodies.

This type of obsession with fat mirrors the way high protein gurus demonize carbohydrates.  

Both schools are right... for some people but are dead wrong for athletes.

High protein diets are unhealthy for people who exercise because they do not provide enough fuel, vitamins, minerals or antioxidants. They do not provide what is required to support and recover from activity.

They do however, meet the needs of America’s sedentary majority. 


While saturated fat is universally condemned, monounsaturated, olive and omega-3 fats are beneficial and essential to health.

Fat does clogs arteries. Eliminating fats in the diet is thought to reduce this.


Low fat diets are beneficial to sedentary people since these people don’t exercise and therefore don’t need as much omega-3 and 7 fatty acids nor the library of antioxidants needed to quench the avalanche of free radicals that follows exercise.

This website describes a high, colorful, complex carbohydrate diet as an athlete's best diet.

Its main difference with all other diets and programs is its dependence on exercise to a disproportionate degree.

Based on and this assumption, this program recommends foods that contain all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and oils needed to fuel and recover from exercise.

From a health standpoint, all the benefits that athletes achieve are due to the positive effect of exercise.

The foods are chosen because of the support they provide to a body engaged or recovering from exercise.

Any diet that purports to be healthy must provide the body with the nutrients it needs to meet the demands required by the dieter’s activity. Diets that do not provide them should be considered as unhealthy.

High complex carbohydrate diets contain intricately bound compounds phytonutrients created buy of the plant's cells. Phytonutrients are ingested along with the complex grains, whole vegetables and fresh fruit of foods. These compounds are botanical antioxidants that provide protection against free radical attack.

Free radicals are produced in greater amounts during exercise and aerobic metabolism.

Followers of high carbohydrate diets avoid the ubiquitous snacks, sweets and sugars that saturate the American diet. They also avoid animal sources for protein because they are rich in saturated fat. The advocates of high protein diets point to the insulin effect that carbohydrates produce in explaining why carbohydrates need to be limited. The fact is, it is not carbohydrates in general that are bad, it is the refined ones.

One adverse consequence of refined carbohydrates is a loss of fiber. Due to a higher concentration of simple sugars and reduced fiber content, refined carbohydrates are rapidly absorbed and are either immediately used as an energy source or stored as fat.

Heart Protective Diets

The late Nathan Pritikin, M.D. advocated a diet very high in carbohydrates and with his son Robert Pritikin, created The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise. A diet they claim was mankind’s original meal plan.

A diet that included 30 minutes a day of exercise. A diet based on unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans ) whole grains (brown rice), starchy vegetables (potatoes), lean meat, and seafood. The goal of this approach is to lower dietary fat consumption, which they reduce to a scant 10 percent of calories, thereby lowering the risk of obesity and heart disease.

Their guidelines also restrict the amount of protein consumed to 15% of total calories.

According to these extreme carbohydrate proponents, a regimen that eliminates fats and oils and reduces protein can drastically reduce plasma lipids. This, they believe is, a significant advantage to individuals at risk for heart disease. According to their advocates, low fat diets can also improve the lipid profile of an unhealthy dieter based on their very restrictive eating pattern.

Dr. Dean Ornish developed a program that goes even further than Dr. Pritkin's program. He advocates that only 5-10% of calories should be derived from fat and 10% from protein. In his book, Eat More, Weigh Less Dr. Ornish offers 'a spiritual and authoritarian approach to achieving a healthy heart'. Dieters on his plan increase their carbohydrate intake as a consequence of reducing fat intake; not of willfully increasing complex carbohydrate consumption. Ornish’s Spartan theory removes all oils from the diet.

Ornish rejects olives and its oil. He rejects all fatty acids. Ornish refuses to appreciate the importance of gustatory pleasures nor the usefulness of foods that contain fat.

Ornish’s followers have developed a cult-like devotion to ant-fat principals and believe that along with meditation and moderate exercise, they can reverse coronary heart disease.

This diet, according to its adherents, is useful for adults who smoke, have high cholesterol levels or suffer from diabetes. On the other hand, it offers no benefit to already healthy individuals and its restrictive obsession with fat, removes many of the pleasures of eating.

The Fat Reduction Rationale

The American Heart Association recommends limiting fat intake to no more than twenty percent of total calories and reducing saturated fat intake to ten percent or less. Along with the reduction in saturated fat, the association suggests the elimination of trans-fatty acids, a process that has become much easier due to the cooperation of the major food manufacturers who have removed these harmful fats from many of their products.

Trans-fat contains structurally unnatural fatty acids that do not bind properly with fat receptors and the fat carriers they interact with. As a result, they tend to clump and clog arteries.

Trans-fatty acids are formed during the process that solidifies vegetable oils. Partially hydrogenated oils contain more trans-fatty acids than natural oils, which have none.

The goal of reduced fat intake is to prevent heart disease. It is based on controlling lipid metabolism. Dietary saturated fat is a major regulator of blood cholesterol levels. And so by restricting the intake of dietary fat, a decrease in circulating free fatty acids follows.  Without the excess of fatty acids in the blood, theyl won't be available to the adipocytes and therefore not converted into fat. The decrease in circulating fatty acids furthermore inhibits the formation of atherosclerotic plaques within blood vessels.

Fat buildup is the manifestation of the body’s efficient energy conservation system and the consequence of excess caloric intake. The inadequate energy expenditure that occurs in sedentary life guarantees that any increase in energy intake will be deposited as fat.

Two Extremes

High protein diets limit and severely restrict the amount of carbohydrates in meals. High carbohydrate diets severely limit or eliminate the amount of fat in meals.

If there is a pattern to these two opposite style diets it is this. Both low carbohydrate diets and low fat diets are extreme restriction diets. They work best in people who are afflicted with a disorder in metabolism. They should not be used by people who have an active and normal metabolism. 

Those people who fail to metabolize sugar properly develop diabetes while those who fail to metabolize fats properly develop atherosclerosis. The two extreme schools attempt to reverse the chronic disorder by its choice of restricted nutrient. They either reverse the metabolic stress caused by sugar or they reverse the stress caused by fat by eliminating it.

Cardiac patients respond well to low fat diets because these diets best oppose the stress involved with the improper formation, transportation and removal of lipoproteins.  Lipid metabolism has a profound effect on cholesterol levels, the leading cause of atherosclerosis.

Obese patients respond well to high protein diets because these diets best reverse the stress associated with improper insulin binding and glucose regulation known as diabetes. So starving the body of carbohydrates makes medical sense. It doesn't for people who exercise.

All diets are not alike. One diet can never fit all. The best diet is the one that best meets the needs of the individual.

An individual who exercise is best served by a diet that meets those needs. And that diet is a diet built on colorful, complex carbohydrates.