Low Carb Dieting
DIETING! No one likes it. Lots of people do it. Americans love to be trim and healthy, but we hate to diet, and rightly so. Dieting deprives us. All diets suck! And that includes the much-hyped low-carbohydrate diet. But all diets are not created equal. And if you must diet, at least the low-carb diet has been shown to be safe, effective, and even provides health benefits that low-fat diets don’t provide. No diet is a panacea. But the low-carb diet, done properly, can lead to some amazing results. It is especially helpful for diabetics and those with insulin resistance. Check it out on these pages.
So you have questions?
These questions will be covered below. They are questions we all tend to ask when starting on a low carb diet.
What is a Low-Carb Diet?
How Does it Work?
What are the Benefits?
What are the Main Points?
Who Should Follow a Low-Carb Lifestyle?/b>
Are there Additional Resources and Links
How Do I Start?
People diet for two primary reasons, to lose weight, or to improve health–or both. If you are a healthy adult who is not overweight and who has no family members who are obese, the food pyramid recommendations of the USDA will work fine, as long as you remember that the carbohydrates that are recommended are those contained in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, even those who are healthy and who are not overweight can maintain their health and vitality by following a reduced carbohydrate lifestyle. (See Syndrome-X, below).
For those who are overweight, or who have diabetes, the low-calorie and low-fat diets recommended by the government do not work well. In fact, for diabetics, they can actually worsen the condition. The only diet that strikes at the real cause of obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, and type 2 diabetes is a low-carbohydrate diet. Many doctors and nutritionists are now starting to recognize this.
There are many different versions of the low-carb diet , such as Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, Protein Power, Neanderthin, The Carbohydrate Addict’s Lifestyle Plan, Life Without Bread, and others. All of them, however, have one thing in common — a very strict reduction in the consumption of carbohydrates. Most low-carb diets replace carbohydrates with fats and proteins. Although diets vary in their recommendations, as a general rule, a low-carb diet is synonymous with a high-fat and moderate protein diet. Those on a low-carb diet should get at least 60 to 70 percent of their daily calorie intake from fat. Carbohydrates should make up less than 10 percent, and in some cases, less than 5 percent of your daily calorie intake.
After being told for years to eat a low-fat, high-carbohydrate “balanced” diet, Americans are now the fattest people on Earth, and getting fatter every year! And this is despite the introduction of the Atkins diet or Medifast coupons! The occurrences of adult-onset diabetes is also increasing. We now know, because research has shown, that fat is not the enemy — carbohydrates are.
On a low-carb diet, you can eat until you’re full, as long as you eat only allowed foods. Allowed foods are meats, fish, poultry, eggs, and cheese, plus a limited amount of green vegetables. Stay away from foods that are on the “Not Allowed” list.
How does a Low Carb Diet work?
Burning Fat Much research has proven that dietary fat is not necessarily converted into body fat. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are readily converted into fat by the action of insulin. According to many experts, most overweight people became overweight due to a condition called hyperinsulinemia — elevated insulin levels in the blood. When you eat a high-carbohydrate meal, the increased blood sugar stimulates insulin production by the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone that allows blood sugar to be used by the cells. However, a side effect of insulin is that it also causes fat to be deposited, and it stimulates your brain to produce hunger signals. So what do you do? You eat more carbohydrates, and the cycle repeats. In time, your body cells become resistant to insulin, meaning that your pancreas has to work overtime, producing up to four or five times as much insulin just to keep up with the demand. It has been shown that high levels of insulin have a deleterious effect on the body, including premature aging.
Restricting the intake of carbohydrates puts a halt to this vicious cycle. When you restrict your carbohydrate intake, your insulin levels decrease and the levels of glucagon increase. Glucagon is a hormone that causes body fat to be burned and cholesterol to be removed from deposits in the arteries.
If you severely restrict carbs, your body goes into a state of ketosis–burning fat with the subsequent production of ketone bodies in the bloodstream. The condition is called “ketonuria” if ketones are spilled out into the urine. The result of ketosis is that your blood sugar levels stabilize; your insulin level drops; and because your body is burning fat, you lose weight! You can easily test to see if your diet is inducing ketosis with the use of inexpensive ketone test strips.
When your diet causes your body to go into a state of ketosis, you are said to be on a ketogenic diet. For most people, restricting your carbohydrate intake to fewer than 30 grams a day will induce ketonuria. Most people on ketogenic diets lose weight fairly quickly. However, although some diet experts believe that ketosis is a safe condition, it is not necessary to be in ketosis to lose weight. Keep in mind, however, that when you choose a higher level of carbohydrates than what is needed to bring on ketosis, you may have to limit your total food intake (calories) somewhat in order to lose weight.
Also, for diabetics who are not obese, it certainly is not necessary to induce ketosis to reap the benefits of a low-carb diet. It is quite possible to bring your blood glucose levels under control without being in ketosis. However, if you must lose considerable weight, a ketogenic diet is the most efficient method for bringing your weight back down to where it should be.
What are the benefits of a Low Carb Diet?
A Healthy Way to Lose Weight
In general, on a low-carb diet it is not necessary to count calories. Eat all you want, as often as you want, in order to prevent hunger. Don’t stuff yourself, just eat until you’re no longer hungry. Remember, there is a difference between being hungry and having an appetite. Hungar means your body needs more food, so you need to eat. Having an appetite means you have the feeling that you want to eat, whether your body needs more food or not.
In some cases, for those who are metabolically resistant, reducing total food intake may help to stimulate or maintain weight loss. But it’s the carbs, not the total calories that must be kept low. See the Diet Plan for more details.
Because you are consuming fats and oils, your appetite stays under control, because fatty foods are very satisfying. Eating a high level of fat actually causes you to lose weight faster than if you were fasting! That is because, during a fast, your body thinks it is starving, so it kicks into a very high efficiency state of metabolism. This slows down weight loss. But with a high fat diet, combined with very low amounts of carbohydrates, your body knows it is not starving, and metabolism is maintained at a normal level. Although consuming fats is necessary for a healthy diet, try to limit consumption of trans-fats (margarine and shortening). Good fats include olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil, oils found in nuts, and also real butter. Most fats should be the monounsaturated and saturated fats. Avoid the polyunsaturated fats when possible, except for those containing the essential omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish. (Why?)
But isn’t a low-carb diet high in protein and doesn’t eating a lot of protein damage the kidneys? First of all, a low-carb diet is not necessarily a high protein diet. It’s an adequate protein diet. It’s primarily a high fat diet. But the answer to the second part of the question is no, there is no evidence that eating lots of protein will damage healthy kidneys. Read more.
Advantages of Low-Carbing
Sustained weight loss
Stabilized blood sugar (especially important for diabetics)
Lower insulin levels
Better blood lipid profile (low cholesterol)
Lowered blood pressure
Vitamins and Minerals
But isn’t a low-carb diet deficient in vitamins and minerals that are found in fresh fruits and vegetables? A low-carb lifestyle used to control diabetes and not to lose weight can be quite balanced–just stay away from refined carbohydrates. However, most low-carb diets used for weight loss are not “balanced” in terms of providing all the essential micronutrients. That is why it is extremely important to supplement your diet with good-quality vitamin and mineral products. It is also important to take a fiber supplement.
Look at it this way: All your life your body has been constantly subjected to high “doses” of sugar, in the form of refined carbohydrates. Your body recognizes only one carbohydrate — sugar. All carbohydrates you eat, except fiber, are converted into sugar. Eating a diet that is 70% carbohydrates means that most of what you eat is sugar. That type of diet is also unbalanced. The purpose of a low-carb diet is to bring your body chemistry and insulin sensitivity back into balance. To do that, you must eat a diet that is unbalanced in the opposite direction of they way you have been eating for years.
Once the weight is off, and your blood chemistry, blood pressure, and energy levels are back in the normal range, then you may start adding some more complex carbohydrates back into your diet. By eating a moderate amount of foods like vegetables and berries, and a limited amount of grain products, such as whole-grain breads and beans, your diet will then be balanced and you can stop taking the supplements, if you wish. Besides, the low-carb diet is not as unbalanced as you might think. Meats, butter, nuts, cheese, and eggs contain a lot of essential vitamins and minerals.
What are the Main Points?
Guidelines to Follow when Lowcarbing…
Limit carbohydrates to no more than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake
Eat only allowed foods
Eat NO foods that contain sugar or white flour
Be aware of “hidden” sugars and carbohydrates
Cut out caffeine
Take fiber supplements (psyllium husks are good)
Take vitamin and Health Supplements
Drink LOTS of water
See your health care professional before starting any diet
Don’t try to diet without following a plan. The Low-Carb Pavilion provides a concise workable plan for losing weight on a low-carb diet, based on a combination of approaches found in the most popular low-carbohydrate diet books as listed in the Resources section below. If you have decided to begin a low-carb way of eating, click here to get started.
Who Should Follow a Low-Carb Lifestyle?
Your Mileage May Vary
One of the most common short-hand notations found on most diet newsgroups is YMMV (Your mileage may vary)! And this is most certainly true of the low-carbohydrate way of eating. Not everyone will lose weight at the same speed. Some people reach plateaus in their weight loss (as with other diets). And some people experience some minor “withdrawal symptoms” as their bodies adjust to using fat for energy instead of carbs. Most of the negative side effects reported, such as tiredness, constipation, diarrhea, or headaches are only temporary. Most will disappear in a week or so. Some authors advise starting the diet slowly, by gradually reducing the number of carbs in order to minimize side effects. For most people, however, going “cold turkey” is the best approach.
So who should follow the low-carb lifestyle? Well, it wouldn’t hurt for anyone who wants to lose weight to give it a try. But those who have developed hyperinsulinemia are perfect candidates for the low-carb diet. In fact, a low-carb diet is the ONLY treatment for hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia usually leads to insulin resistance and its associated symptoms and disorders. It is often called Syndrome X.
Syndrome X is manifested by some or all of the following symptoms and conditions:
High blood pressure
High LDL cholesterol
Irritable bowel syndrome
Type 2 diabetes
If you have any of these symptoms or conditions, a low-carb diet may be the best treatment. In fact, it is the only way to actually treat the CAUSE of all these symptoms and conditions — hyperinsulinemia. Medications and other diets can only treat the symptoms themselves, not the underlying cause.
Is there anyone who should not try a low-carb diet?
Recent scientific studies have shown that a low-carb diet is safe and effective. Therefore, anyone who desires to lose weight or who needs to bring their blood chemistry back into line, should try a low-carb lifestyle. However, there are those who, for whatever reason, cannot stick with the low-carb diet. It is very difficult (though by no means impossible) for vegetarians to follow a low-carb diet. Also, those who just do not like a lot of meat, eggs, and cheese may find this way of eating difficult to stick with for a long time. But for those who love steaks, shrimp, fish, chicken, omelets, cheese, and pork chops, and who don’t mind giving up the bread, potatoes, and desserts, the low-carb alternative can easily become a life-long way of eating — especially since your cravings for the high-carbohydrate foods will go away after a couple of weeks of low-carb eating.