Low Carb FAQ
Take a look at my other pages which may answer many questions. I try to give brief summaries, as I am predominantly a Low Carb Recipe Website, I am not writing an academic thesis here, there are people far more qualified than I am for the deeper questions. As much as I love reading all manner of material, a lot don’t. Many just want quick answers, and I hope I have answered many of them. Please ask further questions in the comments section below, and I will endeavour to answer them.
- About Low Carb Diets
- Why Go Low Carb?
- Why Wheat, Grain and Sugar Free?
- Why High Fat?
- Fructose and Fruit
- Food pyramids
- Carb Counting
- Glycaemic Index
- Low Carb Kids
- How To Start?
- Pantry & Shopping Lists
- Food Labels
- Top Low Carb Books
Isn’t eliminating entire food groups unhealthy?
Vegans and vegetarians eliminate entire food groups, but going low carb we only eliminate wheat, grains and sugar, which are not food groups, but sadly found in thousands of products. We still eat good quality, nutrient dense carbohydrates, but in very limited quantities by eating low carb fruit such as berries, non starchy vegetables, and all other real food. By choosing to go low carb, we reduce the impact carbohydrates have on our body, reduce our insulin levels, improve our appetite control, and improve our cholesterol profile.
Why are whole grains so unhealthy?
Diets full of whole grains, are also high in carbs, cause inflammation, contain gluten that inflames the lining of the gut, which causes leaky gut and malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients. By giving up grains, bread, pasta, etc, you eat far more real food and gain so many more nutrients lost by avoiding a slice or 2 of wholegrain bread or pasta. The use of whole grains in manufacturing, is also a marketing tool to make a product appear to be more healthy and natural than it is.
Surely we need carbs to fuel our body and our brain?
No, our bodies are brilliant adapters and can run far more efficiently on fat! When we switch to low carb and high fat, the body burns fat and produces ketones. We can only store a limited amount of glucose as glycogen, but we have almost an unlimited supply of energy as fat. The body can also produce it’s own supply of glucose from proteins via a process called gluconeogenesis.
How else can ketogenic diets help?
By switching your body to run on fat and produce ketones, has been frequently been used for weight loss, athletes for endurance events, help children control seizures, improve brain clarity, reduce risk of alzheimers, and has been shown to aid cancer recovery as cancer cells have insulin receptors and can only be fuelled by glucose. Read the fabulous book Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore who makes this complicated subject easy to understand.
Isn’t weight loss just calories in vs. calories out?
No. It is the type of food we eat, which has a far greater impact on our hormones, appetite control and fat storage. Eating high carb, stops weight loss and causes weight gain. Eating low carb stops fat storage and increases our fat burning as the fuel of choice. When we cut calories too far, the first thing we experience is HUNGER. No body wants to fell hungry for a few hours, days or weeks, so we eventually cave in and eat high carb treats. So yes we lose weight when we cut calories, but only in the short term as our metabolism adapts to ‘starvation’ mode and eventually we give in which is why so many people gain the weight they lost (and sometimes more). The overwhelming argument for going Low Carb, is because it WORKS. It is not new, it has been around for a very long time, ask your parents and their parents how they lost weight, they will generally tell you they cut back on bread and potatoes. Low Carb regulates your hunger and satiety hormones. It regulates your insulin. It improves your nutrition, cholesterol profile, memory, and reduces risk of so many metabolic diseases. I have struggled with my weight for decades, always gaining the weight I have lost. Since I discovered LCHF, I am in control of my appetite and are now below my Weight Watchers goal weight for over a year without trying and without counting calories or points. I have never eaten so well and felt so good.
Carbs→Glucose→High Insulin→Fat storage and stop fat burning⇒WEIGHT GAIN + INCREASED APPETITE
Won’t I be deficient in some kind of nutrient by not eating carbs?
There are zero nutrients in sugar, there are no nutrients in whole grains that can’t be found in meat and vegetables. Eating more GOOD fats such as butter, avocados, meat, coconut oil and cheese, we obtain all our fat soluble vitamins A, D E and K which have been lacking in those following a low fat diet. Eat real food, with real nutrients rather than processed foods which have to be fortified with artificial vitamins, is the approach we should all be taking. Focus on nutrient intake, not calorie intake. We have never eaten so well since going LCHF, we don’t eat any processed food, our intake of vegetables and meat has increased and best of all, our children are growing up knowing what nutrition is, rather than calories. Having a huge salad for lunch is so much better than the handful of lettuce inside a sandwich. Eating just the stir fry meat and vegetables with no rice, is so much better than rice with a little stir fry on top. I would say we have doubled our nutrient intake since going LCHF.
Can I eat carbs again once I lose the weight?
You may be able to increase your unprocessed carbs slightly, but why would you want to? Low carb, high fat is actually a healthier way to eat, it controls your appetite, lowers inflammation, better regulates your cholesterol profile, supports healthy hormones, and reduces your risk of all metabolic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, alzheimers, stroke, cancer …..
What about alcohol?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up alcohol, but chose wisely and don’t overdo it. Avoid beer, especially the craft beers and those that are dark, red or malt. Also avoid any alcoholic drinks which are high in sugar such as white wines, dessert wines, sweet wines, schnapps or spirits with sweet mixers such as sodas, juice or syrups. Go for red wines, spirits mixed with diet soda, water or on the rocks. The other point to remember with alcohol is that it is the first fuel to be used over anything else so weight loss may stall, it also gives you the ‘munchies’ and you lose your willpower to resist those high carb snacks late at night. So go ahead and enjoy a glass or two, but really savour them and enjoy them, and don’t overindulge.
Why can’t I just eat everything in moderation?
Sure have a treat occasionally, but personally, why would you want your health in moderation? The M word (moderation) is used so much to justify having a little bit of everything is OK. It is also the excuse many give for having a defeatist attitude like “well, there’s no hope for me then”, “there’s no way I can give up bread, pasta, rice….”. Why would you want to eat foods that we know are harmful, cause inflammation and increase our risk of so many avoidable diseases. And how is moderation going for the general public? Hmmm, not that well if you look at the health of most countries and the size of people on the street. If moderation is an occasional treat, great, but for most, treats are almost a daily if not 2-3 times daily occurrence. Children now, by the time they are 8 years old, have eaten as much sugar as an adult did in their entire lifetime a century ago. Modern foods are so far removed from what our grandparents ate, and in no way are they only eaten in moderation. Moderation used to be a treat once a week or on birthdays, having treats that rarely, is seen as restrictive when really it should be the norm.
So do I have to eat a tonne of meat and protein?
No. Eat moderate amounts of protein, usually between 1-1.5g/kg is recommended. Excessive protein will raise your glucose levels through gluconeogenesis.
Can I drink diet drinks? Can I eat lots of low carb desserts?
What we are trying to do is get rid of our sugar cravings and any cravings for sweet things. I believe there is a place for diet drinks initially to help you overcome the sugar cravings, but eventually, you want to give them up because they are so processed and there is debate on whether they affect our insulin because they still have an effect on our sweet tastebuds. As for low carb baking, I do include low carb dessert recipes on Ditch The Carbs for times that we want to indulge, but really I see it as part of the low carb ethos that we actually want to get away from sweet treats. Why would we want to find a substitute for what we are trying to give up in the first place. So sure have low carb desserts, cakes and biscuits, but not often. Don’t make them part of your everyday life.
But I’m skinny, why do I need to eat low carb?
People can be skinny or overweight, but still undernourished. Processed carbs are unnecessary and offer no nutrition. By going low carb, increasing meat, vegetables and good fats, our nutrition improves, inflammation decreases, insulin is stabilised and reduce our risk of heart disease, alzheimers, and all other metabolic diseases. Remember it is our HEALTH that is important, not our SIZE. Skinny people can have high visceral fat (the dangerous fat which surrounds your organs) but not tummy fat, and obese can have little visceral fat but lots of tummy fat.
How many eggs can I eat?
Go for it!!! Eggs have been off the menu for so long because of the fear of cholesterol, but after it has been found that there is no link between saturated fats and heart disease, the restriction has been lifted. Eggs are the most perfect food and little powerhouses of nutrition. They are often referred to as natures multivitamin. They improve you cholesterol profile, contain choline which is necessary for brain health, contain all the amino acids we require and are a versatile ingredient for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or baking. Just keep an eye on how much protein you are having. I eat 2-3 eggs every morning for breakfast.
How low carb should my children go?
Great question. My children eat exactly the same meals as I have, which is quite low carb, but they do eat more fruit than I do. They snack more than I do, and I rather they snack on good fats such as cheese, avocado, olives, eggs and cold meat or low carb fruit. Children are more carb sensitive, and so have less of an insulin response to carbs. I allow them to have cake and treats when out with friends, or at parties as I think it is so important for them not to feel different. They also don’t want to be seen as the fussy child who never gets invited anywhere. And as the publics perception of sugars and grains is changing, I hope these high carb parties will become less. But it is not a big part of our diet, so I don’t worry. Our diet at home is quite low carb, but with odd treats. I just make sure that the treats are in the form of unprocessed, good quality carbs. My children have developed the taste for 90% cacao chocolate that not many adults like. I want to set them up knowing nutrition is number one priority, because without our health, we can’t do the things we want to do. They have a healthy respect for food, they love making up recipes in the kitchen, and love finding the hidden ingredient in my meals. They have the taste buds many adults would be proud of, but at the same time they are healthy young children who are not overweight and who enjoy a treat. Do not keep processed rubbish “food” in the house, and they will not be tempted.
What about my cholesterol?
I have written an entire page regarding cholesterol, but the main take home message is that cholesterol is required by almost every cell of the body, if we don’t have enough, our body will manufacture cholesterol, it is that vital. Cholesterol itself is not the problem, it is how it is transported within the body that is the problem. By eating a high carb diet, our body carries cholesterol in angry little LDL particles which are the dangerous ones that begin the process of inflammation and damage to our blood vessels. Cholesterol is a poor predictor of heart disease. Half of those who have heart disease have normal cholesterol, and half of those with high cholesterol have healthy hearts. Inflammation, triglycerides, insulin resistance and LDL particle size are more reliable markers of heart health. Low cholesterol is actually associated with many other symptoms such as memory loss, Alzheimer’s, low Vit D, and depression. Read The Great Cholesterol Myth and Cholesterol Clarity, to really understand this complex subject.
Can I eat low fat foods and lose weight faster?
No. Firstly, most ‘low fat foods’ are actually high in carbs. When the fat is removed, it is generally replaced with some form of carbohydrate, and is usually highly processed. Secondly, cutting down on carbs and fat is unsustainable. You need fat to make you feel fuller for longer. You need fat for your fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. If you remove carbs and fat from your diet, you are left with protein. Going too high in protein will raise your glucose levels through gluconeogenesis. Check the labels to check the fat and carb content, for example low fat cream cheese can have 15% carbs, whereas the regular cream cheese has 4%.
Why can’t I eat cereals? Even the organic, wholegrain ones?
Read my post on cereals. If you understand what is wrong with cereals, you will understand what is wrong with modern food production. To put it bluntly, cereals are cheap grains which are highly processed, stripped of nutrients, then fortified with vitamins. They are incredibly high in carbs, colours and sugars. And don’t be fooled by marketing that organic is best (there is no such thing as a healthy sugar), we need whole grains (they only increase your appetite, spike insulin and cause a leaky gut and malabsorption of nutrients) or the if they have the Heart Foundation Tick they must be good for us (manufacturers reformulate their products to get the ‘tick’ as they know this improves sales). And definitely don’t go for cereals with dried fruit (natures candy), or add fruit yogurt (packed with sugars), or add tinned fruit to your cereal (again, full or sugars even if they are in natural juice or syrups). There are so many better alternatives which are full of nutrition. Go for eggs, bacon, mushrooms, vegetables, Grain Free Granola, smoothies with spinach, last nights leftovers.
Is there a healthy sugar? Can’t I use honey, agave, maple syrup or dried fruit?
No. There is no such thing as a healthy sugar. Yes these may be ‘natural’ but the body sees them all in exactly the same way – sugar. It is marketing that has made us feel better about sweetening foods with natural ingredients such as honey, maple syrup or dried fruits. Somehow feeling OK to eat that cake or dessert because it has honey instead of sugar, or maple syrup instead of sugar syrups. And no, getting these sugars from a farmers market isn’t any better. Trade Aid sugars aren’t any less sugar too. And as for Agave, it is 80-95% fructose, which is just a natural form of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). Fructose is not metabolised in the same way glucose is, causing visceral fat (dangerous fat surrounding our organs).
Carbs from ANY source→Glucose→High Insulin→Fat storage and stop fat burning⇒WEIGHT GAIN + INCREASED APPETITE
Can’t I just go gluten free?
There is a subtle but very important point here to remember. Gluten free (GF) is not grain free and is not low carb. GF products contain rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, cornflour and other high carb substitutes. Gluten free products are so highly processed and so expensive. A multi billion dollar industry has evolved around going gluten free. GF products are so expensive, high in carbs, fortified, and unnecessary. By going grain free, you avoid all possible sources of gluten. It is a more nutritious way to eat, eating whole foods, real foods and cheaper. Don’t be fooled by GF marketing. They are encouraging the GF message, by encouraging you to buy their expensive products.
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