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Why go low carb? (and our 11 top tips to get started!)
By The Low Carb Clinic, 29 April 2019 - 787 words (4 minutes)
Low-carbohydrate eating is not just about weight loss (though it certainly works for that!).
Eating low-carb has a range of health benefits: from improved energy, clearer thinking, balanced hormones, and the prevention or reversal of chronic health conditions.
How? Because low-carbohydrate eating addresses obesity, poor energy levels and chronic disease at the root cause: insulin resistance. Improving our body’s sensitivity to insulin promotes wellbeing in every aspect of health.
Low-carbohydrate eating emphasises the nutrient dense foods that we are designed to eat: high amounts of healthy fats, essential and absorbable proteins. By restricting carbohydrates to those from nutrient dense vegetables, nuts or seeds, low-carbohydrate eating maximises vitamin and mineral intake, optimises gut health and reduces cravings and food addiction. Low-carb is not a fad diet – it is simply choosing foods that nourish your body, rather than harm it!
Why low carb? Because low-carbohydrate eating is a root cause solution to the chronic disease epidemic.
Across the world, both the young and the old are affected by obesity, diabetes, heart disease and strokes, dementia, cancer, and poly cystic ovarian syndrome – not to mention food addiction and low energy levels. These conditions are often referred to as ‘diseases of civilisation’ because such conditions are more prevalent now than ever before.
Our modern diet is very different from the one that we ate for more than 95% of our human history.
As hunter-gatherers, humans ate far less carbohydrate (especially processed carbohydrates and sugars!), and far more fat (especially from animal sources). We also went for longer periods without food (short famines), because food availability depended on the season, our location, and our ability to hunt or gather plants and animals to eat.
Today, we eat a diet consisting primarily of carbohydrates (often from processed sources like bread, pasta, crackers and biscuits) and little fat (especially saturated fat). We also eat very regularly – 3-6 per day, often even more.
Food is not just ‘energy’ or ‘calories’ - food is nourishment – and the wrong foods are poison.
The root cause of these ‘diseases of civilisation’ is insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates our metabolism. It is released in response to food – in particular, in response to foods high in carbohydrates and sugar. When we eat a high carbohydrate diet – especially in combination with frequent meals and snacks – we are almost continuously secreting insulin. Whenever our insulin levels are high, our body prioritises using and storing food energy for later (as fat). Whenever insulin levels are high, we do not access our previously stored body fat for fuel – we simply add to it.
So, by eating a low-carbohydrate diet, and reducing the number of times we eat per day, we reduce the amount of insulin in our blood, and so allow our body to burn our body fat for fuel. By reducing insulin, we prevent or reverse insulin resistance – which lies at the root of the ‘diseases of civilisation’.
Tips to get started:
You don’t need to jump from a high-carbohydrate, 6-meal-per-day lifestyle to a strict ketogenic diet overnight.
Adjust to low-carbohydrate eating step-by-step, ensuring your body doesn’t become over-stressed.
Remember that going low-carb actually changes the way your cells produce energy: so, you need to give them a chance to adapt! Low-carbohydrate eating is not another yo-yo diet: it’s a lifestyle – and by giving your body the chance to adjust, you will ensure sustainable success.
Here is what to focus on to begin with:
Don’t try to restrict calories. Allow yourself to eat healthy fats, moderate protein and low carb to satiety – long term success needs to come from natural appetite regulation (promoted by healthy fat intake), rather than calorie-counting.
Replace ‘low-fat’ or ‘reduced-fat’ with full-fat – choose whole milk, cheese, yogurt and butter (no more margarine!)
Make your own salad dressings using olive and avocado oil, vinegar (like apple cider or balsamic). Avoid vegetable oils (like canola and sunflower).
Focus on whole, unprocessed foods – a very easy way to avoid carbohydrates and sugar is simply to avoid anything that comes in a packet (especially the packets covered in advertising and health claims)!
Replace ‘staple’ carbohydrates (like bread, pasta, rice, cereals) with low carb substitutes such as salads and vegetables cooked in coconut oil, lard, butter, olive oil or ghee – try zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, sautéed broccoli. Fill your plate with big salads using rocket, spinach, kale, lettuce, cucumber, grated cabbage, herbs and spices.
Keep your liquids to water, tea, and coffee (without adding sugar or artificial sweeteners). While artificial sweeteners are tempting, they won’t help you in the long run.
Try to limit snacking – have 2 or 3 satiating meals per day, and try not to graze on snack foods through the day.
Try to reduce your ‘eating window’ (the number of hours you spend eating per day) to less than 12 hours. That is, if you have breakfast at 7 am, then your last meal of the day would be before 7pm. Once you’re able to go for 12 hours without eating, try to reduce your eating window further and practice some intermittent fasting.
Add as much salt to your food as you would like! (You will lose salt as you reduce your carbohydrates)
If you are still hungry, eat more protein-rich foods like meats, fish, poultry and eggs. And try adding extra fat to your cooking – butter in your eggs, bacon drippings in your fried cabbage, macadamias sprinkled on your salad.
Eat slowly, enjoy your meals (they will be delicious!), and keep hydrated.