What is Low Carb?
Low carb is all about eating unprocessed whole food. Low carb is amazing, natural, colourful, tasty, nutrient dense real food.
Real food is just that; REAL! Single food ingredients, natural and minimally processed or refined; generally unpackaged, unpreserved and unbranded. Real food rots!
How do I reduce carbs and what should I eat?
Simply cutting out processed foods automatically results in dramatically reducing carbohydrate intake. Avoid sugary fizzy drinks, fruit juice, pasta, bread, and rice.
Instead eat lots of good quality proteins such as unprocessed fresh meats, fish, cheese; healthy fats including nuts, seeds, olive oil and butter; berries and lots of non-starchy vegetables. Low carb is all about going back to basics; eating foods your great grandparents would recognise.
Why is low carb grain free?
Grains, in particular wheat, are not what they used to be, having been genetically modified over the last 40 years to be cheaper to produce and more resistant to pesticides. When modern wheat is broken down by the body it has the ability to cross into the brain and bind to morphine receptors. This explains why wheat stimulates appetite and causes addictive behaviours in susceptible people. Wheat is added to a huge number of processed foods simply because it tastes good and stimulates appetite. This makes you want more, and more; which is great news for the big food company profits. Find out more here at WheatBelly.com
Why is low carb sugar free?
Sugar is pure carbohydrate with no nutritional value other than glucose which the body can use for energy. However there are many more nutritive sources of energy. Therefore it makes sense for sugar to be the first to go when trying to eat healthily and reduce carbs. Sugars naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables and dairy are alright but we need to be wary of sugars removed from their original source and added to other foods.
A high intake of sugar causes our blood sugar levels to shoot up, giving us that feel-good ‘high’ followed by a crashing slump that leaves us tired, irritable and craving more sugary foods. It’s a vicious cycle that may be contributing to our weight problems as well as health conditions like diabetes, acne, certain cancers particularly breast and colon cancers.
Diets high in carbs and sugars have some alarming effects on children too. Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes but it is increasing seen in children; as young a 6 years old! Sugar is also the main cause of tooth decay. I am a nurse in a children’s theatre unit where we see between 25-30 young children a week for dental extractions each week under general anaesthetic. Many of these children will have 6 or more teeth removed due to decay. Children as young as 4 years old, having 14 teeth removed is sadly not uncommon.
Sugar makes you hungry. Not only does it fill you up with empty calories it actually makes you want more. Sugar messes the hormone levels which tell you when you are full. Sugar also spikes insulin and makes it hard for the body to access and burn stored fat. Sugar causes belly fat, or visceral fat, surrounding the organs in the abdominal cavity. This is the worst kind of fat as it is associated with all sorts of diseases, including heart disease which is now the world biggest cause of death.
We know that sugar is bad but we still find it hard to stop eating it because it is addictive. Sugar causes a very similar dopamine response in the brain to that produced by cocaine! Add to this fact that sugar is added to virtually all processed foods and it’s really no surprise (but very sad) that 1 in 4 adults in the UK is obese, 1 in 10 children are obese at age 5; and 1 in 5 children are obese at age 11.
Sugar is hidden in even the most unexpected foods
Read nutrition labels on packaging to see how much sugar and carbohydrates are in your food. Prepare to be shocked! Sugar is added to virtually all processed foods, even the most unexpected ones.
Ignore the front of packets and the advertising claims that try to convince you that you are looking at a fortified / organic / gluten-free / refined sugar fee super healthy option. The back of the pack lists the facts, but food manufacturers are becoming sneaky and the facts may be misleading, for example there are around 60 different names for sugar alone!
What are the benefits of low carb eating?
Eating low carb foods, combined with healthy fats (also known as LCHF or low carb – high fat) has many health benefits including reducing the risk for Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. Reducing carbs and increasing consumption of healthy fats increases good cholesterol, decreases bad cholesterol and lowers triglycerides.
Low carb foods have minimal impact on blood sugar levels leading to improved control of diabetes and even reversal of type 2 diabetes. Even if you are not diabetic stable blood sugars produce more consistent energy levels with none of the peaks and troughs caused by eating high sugar foods and no mid afternoon slump. You will feel fuller for longer, often making between meal snacking unnecessary.
Eating whole unprocessed food has clear health benefits for all the family, young or old, overweight or thin, healthy or sick. Our food becomes nutrient dense and we are no longer living on the sugar and insulin roller coaster. We feel better and perform better, physically and mentally.
When you eat low carb with healthy fats, the emphasis is on whole, clean, unprocessed, good-quality foods that are varied and balanced. This is a healthy way to eat for the entire family, because these chronic diseases don’t happen overnight, they develop over decades. There are no advantages to health from eating processed foods over real foods.
Everything we have been told about nutrition since the 1970’s has been based on weak links and flawed research methods which when looked at using modern accurate and objective methodology are actually revealing that we have been misled, albeit probably unintentionally. It is likely to be many years before the official guidelines for nutrition change and in that time we could be doing more harm than good if we continue to follow the current recommendation of a low-fat diet with plenty of whole grains.
How low (carb) should I go?
Your age, tolerance, health conditions and activity levels will affect how many carbs you should consume in a day. As we age our body’s ability to cope with carbs declines which can lead to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.
Some people can remain healthy on a relatively high carb diet while diabetics can tolerate virtually none without sky rocketing blood sugars.
If you have never been able to control your appetite or maintain your weight or if you have health issues resulting from high blood sugars, you may find restricting carbs more strictly helps curb your appetite and can resolve or improve many health conditions.
There is no set figure to define a low carb diet although it is often interpreted to contain fewer than 50g carbohydrates per day. You may wish to go higher or lower depending on your health goals, activity and weight.
I don’t count carbs (or calories, or fat for that matter). I have become much more aware of carbs and sugars in the foods we eat. I have virtually eliminated grains and added sugar from my own diet, and am slowly replacing products my family love with lower sugar or homemade recipes. I haven’t forced this way of eating on my family and I don’t cook separate meals, I just prepare several different vegetables,such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots etc which I eat in place of rice or pasta. I don’t miss rice or pasta as a side dish as, on their own they are quite bland, a chicken curry or Bolognese tastes just as good, or even better poured over a pile of freshly cooked veggies! We tend to use serving bowls for everything at the dinner table so that we can each select what we choose to eat. It does make a bit more washing up but there is less waste (and more leftovers for quick lunches!)
Low carb or no carb?
A ketogenic diet (or keto) is one where carbs are virtually eliminated. Generally considered to be under 20g carbs per day. A ketogenic diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body switches from using carbs as a source of energy which the body breaks down into glucose; to burning fat for energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain. By eating this way, your body becomes “fat adapted”. The ketogenic diet has therapeutic benefits for epileptics, Alzheimer’s, weight loss, type 1and 2 diabetes, acne, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and some cancers which have insulin receptors. Restricting carbs this much is especially useful for those who are pre-diabetic, have high blood pressure or those who want rapid weight loss.
Medical advice: If you have any of the above conditions, always check with your doctor before reducing your carb intake. Your blood pressure may drop and blood sugar control will improve and so may require a reduction in your medication so you don’t become hypoglycaemic or hypotensive.