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In this article you will learn:
- Download your FREE Low-Carb FAQ and Diet Sheet
- Is eliminating entire food groups unhealthy?
- Why avoid whole grains?
- Do we need carbs to fuel the body and brain?
- How do keto diets help?
- Isn't weight loss calories in and out?
- Is alcohol allowed on a low-carb and keto diet?
- Can I eat everything in moderation?
- How many eggs can I eat on a low-carb or keto diet?
- Does cholesterol go up on a low-carb diet?
Low-Carb FAQ & Diet Sheet
In this article you will learn:
- Isn't eliminating entire food groups unhealthy?
- Are wholegrains unhealthy?
- Do we need carbs to fuel our brain and body?
- How else can ketogenic diets help?
- Isn't weight loss just calories in vs calories out?
- Will I be deficient in anything?
- Can I ever eat carbs again?
- Can I drink alcohol on a low-carb diet?
- Why is everything in moderation BAD advice?
Before we begin answering your low-carb FAQ, why not take a look at my other pages which may answer many more low-carb questions.
- Advantages of a low-carb diet
- How carbs affect blood sugars
- Beginners guide to the keto diet
- Low-Carb Kids
- Low-Carb Cookbooks
- FREE 5-day meal plan
Isn't eliminating entire food groups unhealthy?
In short, no. Vegans and vegetarians eliminate entire food groups, but by living low-carb we only eliminate wheat, grains, and sugar, which are not food groups, but sadly found in thousands of products.
We enjoy nutrient-dense, unprocessed carbohydrates, but in very limited quantities. Our carbohydrates now come from sources such as non-starchy vegetables, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and low-sugar fruit such as berries.
By choosing to live low-carb, we reduce the impact carbohydrates have on our body, reduce our insulin requirements, improve our appetite control, and improve our cholesterol profile.
Why are whole grains so unhealthy?
Grains raise your blood sugar as much as table sugar. Just look at the table below.
Read more: How everyday carbs affect our blood sugars
Diets that are full of whole grains are also high in carbs, cause inflammation, and contain gluten that inflames the lining of the gut, which may cause leaky gut and malabsorption of vitamins and nutrients. Grains such as pasta, rice, and bread, cheaply bulk up a meal whilst reducing the nutrient density of that meal.
And don't be fooled by the term "heart-healthy whole grains". This is simply a modern marketing tool to make a product appear to be more healthy and natural than it is.
By omitting grains, bread, and pasta from your diet, for example, you begin to base your meals on whole food and gain stable blood sugars.
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 your body is fuelled by a low-carb or keto diet, you achieve stable lower blood glucose levels and your body will switch from being a sugar burner to a fat burner.
When you keep your carb levels low, you begin to use your glycogen stores and lower your insulin levels (the energy storage hormone). Your body starts burning fat for fuel (instead of sugar), ketones are created.
This is known as nutritional ketosis.
When you are fuelled by ketones, you experience more stable energy levels, improved mood, decreased hunger, reduced inflammation, and incredible mental clarity. No more afternoon energy slumps!
How else can ketogenic diets help?
Appetite regulation: Low-carb diets increase satiety due to the balanced blood sugar levels they promote.
Weight loss: Researchers have shown time and time again that low-carb diets are the most successful for long-term weight loss.
Blood sugar control: Dietary carbohydrates have the biggest impact on our blood sugar and insulin levels. Restricting carbohydrates in our diet has a direct result in lowering our sugar levels and insulin needs. High sugar levels play a part in almost all chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Heart health: Low-carb diets have a beneficial impact on a whole host of heart disease risk factors. Specifically, they reduce triglycerides (a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease) and increase the concentrations of HDL (known as the “good” cholesterol).
Additional benefits: By switching your body to run on fat and produce ketones, you will find several additional benefits. Ketones has been frequently been used for weight loss, and by athletes for endurance events. Ketones also help children control seizures, improve brain clarity, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, and have been shown to aid cancer recovery as cancer cells have insulin receptors and can only be fuelled by glucose.
Read this article on the Advantage Of A Low-Carb Diet. You will soon understand how many health benefits this way of living provides.
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.
100 calories from carbs, fat, and protein will have a remarkably different effect on your blood sugar and insulin response.
Carbs→Glucose→High Insulin→Fat storage and stop fat burning⇒WEIGHT GAIN + INCREASED APPETITE + INSULIN RESISTANCE
Lowering your dietary carbohydrates will:
- improve your nutrition
- help regulate your hunger and satiety hormones
- regulate your insulin
- improve your cholesterol profile
- improve mental clarity and memory
- reduce the risk of numerous metabolic diseases
Eating a high-carb diet causes chronic high blood sugars, stops weight loss, and causes weight gain.
Eating a low-carb diet gives us stable blood sugars, reduces fat storage, and increases our fat burning as the fuel of choice.
The fundamental aspect that is never addressed in low-fat or calorie counting diets is appetite control.
If we cut calories too far, and reduce fat from our diet, the first thing we experience is HUNGER. Nobody wants to feel hungry for a few hours, days or weeks, our willpower can only last for so long then our hunger is insatiable, and we eventually cave to high-carb sugary foods.
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 living low-carb are the numerous metabolic health benefits it provides, and the simple fact that it WORKS.
Low-carb is not new, it's not a fad, it has been popular for decades. Just ask your grandparents how they lost weight, they will generally tell you they cut back on bread and potatoes.
Won't I be deficient in some kind of nutrient by not eating carbs?
There are no essential carbohydrates. There are no essential sugars. There are zero nutrients in sugar, there are no nutrients in whole grains that can't be found in meat and vegetables.
Eating more HEALTHY fats such as butter, avocados, meat, coconut oil, and cheese, we can obtain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D E, and K which may have been lacking in a low-fat diet. Eat real food, with real nutrients rather than processed foods that have to be fortified with artificial vitamins.
Begin to focus on nutrient intake, not calorie intake.
Can I eat carbs again once I lose the weight?
You may be able to increase your unprocessed carbs slightly, but it really depends on your health goals and your carb tolerance.
Low-carb, high fat is actually a metabolically healthier way to eat, it reduces insulin resistance, helps appetite control, helps to lower inflammation, improved cholesterol profile, supports healthy hormones, and reduces your risk of all metabolic disease such as T2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, stroke, cancer .....
What about alcohol?
Don't worry, you don't have to give up alcohol, but choose wisely and don't overdo it. Avoid any alcoholic drinks which are high in sugar such as cocktails, sweet wines, dessert wines, schnapps, or spirits with sweet mixers such as sodas, juice, or syrups.
Go instead for red wines, spirits mixed with diet soda, water, or on the rocks.
It's also important to remember that alcohol will always be metabolised before fat, so weight loss may stall. Alcohol may also give you the snack attack and reduce your willpower to resist those high carb snacks late at night.
So go ahead and enjoy a glass but be brutally honest about how much and how often you drink alcohol. It may be stalling your progress.
So if you need to kick start the scales again, you may wish to stop the alcohol for a while. It's not no forever, it's just no for now.
Why can't I just eat everything in moderation?
Sure have a treat occasionally, but personally, why would you want your health in moderation?
Why would you want to eat foods that we know are harmful, cause inflammation, and increase our risk of so many avoidable diseases?
The M-word (moderation) is actually meaningless. It is a marketing ploy so you don't feel guilty about having sweet food and junk food on a regular basis. As long as it is varied junk food (ludicrous right?).
Did you know that you are actually healthier by eating a small range of healthy foods, than everything in moderation?
“Americans with the healthiest diets actually eat a relatively small range of healthy foods,” he said. “These results suggest that in modern diets, eating ‘everything in moderation’ is actually worse than eating a smaller number of healthy foods." -Forbes
Eating a variety of whole unprocessed foods is perfect. Eating a variety of processed food, unhealthy oils, processed carbs and nutrient-void food, is simply unhealthy.
Whereas our grandparent may have enjoyed a treat on birthdays and holidays, children of the 21st century eat as much sugar by the time they are 8-years old as an adult did in their entire life a century ago.
Is this a high-protein diet?
Eating moderate amounts of protein is recommended. Excessive protein may potentially raise your glucose levels through gluconeogenesis, but to what extent varies with context.
The glucose level and insulin demand from a high-protein meal are considerably less for those who are living on a low-carb or ketogenic diet, compared to the same high-protein meal when eaten by someone who is living on a SAD diet (high carb, high fat Standard American diet).
Can I drink diet drinks? Can I enjoy plenty of low-carb desserts?
To help reduce sugar cravings we need to reduce our general intake of sweet things. I believe there is a place for diet drinks initially to help you overcome the addiction of sugary drinks BUT eventually, you need to give them up because they are ultra-processed and there is debate on whether they affect our insulin.
As for low-carb baking, I do include low-carb dessert recipes on Ditch The Carbs for times that we want to indulge, but part of the low-carb ethos is that we actually want to get away from sweet treats.
So sure, enjoy occasionally some 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 and have insulin resistance. Processed carbs are unnecessary and offer no nutrition.
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.
This is often referred to as TOFI (thin outside fat inside). Size is only one indicator of health, but it is the most visual indicator. For too many decades being skinny at all costs has been touted as the ultimate goal.
By enjoying low-carb meals, increasing quality meat, non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats, our nutrition improves, inflammation decreases, insulin is stabilised and our risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, and all other metabolic diseases is reduced.
Health is the ultimate goal.
How many eggs can I eat?
Go for it!!!
Eggs have been off the menu for so long because of the fear of cholesterol and heart disease, but after it has been found that there is no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease, the restriction has been quietly lifted.
Eggs are little powerhouses of nutrition. They are often referred to as nature's multivitamin. Eggs are a high protein, affordable, and versatile family-friendly ingredient for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a portable high-protein snack.
How low-carb should my children go?
Great question. I do not count carbs for my children.
My children eat exactly the same meals as I do.
My children are lower carb, not no-carb, and that is where some confusion or myths originate.
My emphasis is on providing whole food that is naturally lower in carbs.
When you switch to an unprocessed way of eating, you almost become low-carb by default. My children enjoy more low-sugar whole fruit than I do. They snack more often than I do, and they enjoy some starchy vegetables where I would not.
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 public 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 low-carb, but with occasional low-carb treats. I just make sure that the treats are in the form of unprocessed, good quality carbs.
My children have developed the taste for 95% cacao chocolate that not many adults like. I want to set them up knowing nutrition is the number one priority because, without our health, we can't do the things we want to do.
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 can be a problem.
By eating a high processed high-carb diet, our body carries cholesterol as oxidised LDL which can begin the process of inflammation and damage 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, HbA1C, 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. Watch my interviews "What is cholesterol - is it all bad?" and calcium scanning for determining true heart disease, not the risk of heart disease. Read The Great Cholesterol Myth and Cholesterol Clarity, to really understand this complex subject.
Can I eat low-fat foods and lose weight faster?
Most low-fat foods are often higher in carbs. When the fat is removed, it is generally replaced with some form of starch to ensure the product is still palatable and the texture is acceptable.
Cutting down on carbs and fat is unsustainable. You need healthy fat to help you feel fuller for longer. You need healthy fat for your fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Check nutrition labels to check the fat and carb content, for example, low-fat cream cheese can have up to 15% carbs, whereas the regular full-fat cream cheese has only 4%.
Why can't I eat cereals? Granola? Even the organic, wholegrain ones?
Read my post on cereals. If you understand what is wrong with cereals and granola, 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.
Cereals and granola are more like desserts, high in carbs, colours, and sugars.
And don't be fooled by marketing that says organic is best (pssst ... there is no such thing as a healthy sugar), or that 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 (nature's candy), or add fruit yoghurt (packed with sugars), or add tinned/canned fruit to your cereal (again, full of sugars even if they are in natural juice or syrups).
Is there a healthy sugar? Can't I use honey, agave, maple syrup, or dried fruit?
No. Spoiler alert ... 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. And no, buying these sugars from a farmers market isn't any better.
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 + INSULIN RESISTANCE
Source and credit: Huffington Post
Read more: Ultimate Guide To Low-Carb Sweeteners.
Can 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 high-starch flours such as rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and cornflour. Gluten-free products are often fortified to give them the illusion of a healthy option.
Gluten-free products are ultra-processed and expensive.
A multi-billion dollar industry has evolved around being gluten-free.
By living grain-free, you become gluten-free. Grain-free is a more nutritious way to eat, eating whole foods, real foods and it's cheaper.
Don't be fooled by GF marketing. They are encouraging the GF message by encouraging you to buy their expensive products. Read this post why gluten-free junk is still junk.
Further reading -
- Ultimate Guide To Carbs In Vegetables
- Ultimate Guide To Carbs In Fruit
- Ultimate Guide To Carbs In Nuts & Seeds
- Ultimate Guide To Healthy Fats
- Ultimate Guide To Low-Carb Sweeteners
- Ultimate Guide To Low-Carb Flours
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