LOW CARB, HIGH FAT – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Before I tell you about Low Carb High Fat (LCHF), I’d like to stress the importance of recognising the fact that this way of eating is a lifestyle change. Most people will experience some changes in their body, often quite dramatic ones, once they cut the carbs, unless there are other factors involved: such as lack of sleep or medications with steroids. However, if you lapse and go back to eating a high carb diet, your problems with weight gain and high blood glucose and so on will return.
Someone recently asked me why I would restrict myself so much when “you’re going to die anyway”. My answer is this:
I do not fancy dying of diabetes related illnesses including heart complications, limb amputation, renal failure and the list goes on. I have no desire whatsoever to suffer the consequences of long term elevated blood sugars and put myself, my family and friends through financial and emotional stress of that kind. I could be involved in a car accident or some such disaster tomorrow. I have no control over those kind of situations but as far as this disease called diabetes is concerned – I now know that it is NOT A CHRONIC DISEASE. It can be reversed and I have control over that. I can do something about it and I choose to. It is about quality of life not quantity of life.
Type 2 Diabetics
As a diabetic, when you restrict your carbohydrate intake, your blood glucose will most likely reduce quite dramatically. It is therefore absolutely essential that you consult your doctor and have him/her monitor your progress while following this protocol. Your doctor will need to adjust your medications as your blood glucose levels normalise.
So, what is a low carb, high fat diet ?
A Low Carb, High Fat (LCHF) diet, otherwise known as a ketogenic diet, simply means that anyone following this diet must restrict their carbohydrate intake and increase the amount of healthy fats in their way of eating. A number of recent scientific studies show that a ketogenic diet is the most effective tool to lose weight and control blood sugars.
How do you follow a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet?
If you asked me to summarise LCHF in 3 words, I’d say
EAT REAL FOOD
There are 3 macro-nutrients that we consume:
Both fat and protein are absolutely essential for survival, however, surprisingly carbohydrate is not a requisite component. It has absolutely no known function in your body, yet according to the food pyramid and the updated myplate diet guidelines published by the American and British Diabetes Associations, they form a large part of the diet, almost three quarters of the plate!! How we got here is a story for another blog post.
It stands to reason therefore, that if you reduce one macro-nutrient, you have to increase one of the others and in our modern day western diet, the unjustified and scientifically unsupported fear of saturated fat has led us to reduce the fat intake and consequently increased the carbohydrate intake. Most processed foods and low fat foods (what I term as pseudo-foods – Pretend Food) have added sugar in them. If you take the fat out of a food – well – you have to add sugar to make it taste good otherwise it just tastes like cardboard! This is what the Food Industry has capitalised on and would have us believe that the foods they manufacture are actually good for us.
Ideally, in a well formulated ketogenic diet, the percentage of these should be consumed in the following proportions:
Carbohydrate – 5%
Protein – 15%
Fat – 80%
Martina Slajerova has an excellent tool on her website which will help you to calculate these macro-nutrients depending on your goal and current status. She also has an iPhone app called ketodietapp which allows you to track and monitor your progress and contains amazing recipes. The app for Android is basic and contains recipes and blog posts. However, she is in the process of developing the full app for Android and I will inform you once she does. She also runs a facebook page called Keto Diet Support Group, which is one of the most supportive Groups in regard to this way of eating that I have come across.
What to Eat
- Meat, Fish, Shell Fish & Poultry – Feel free to eat the fatty cuts of meat and the skin on the chicken.
- Vegetables – Choose vegetables and salads that grow above the ground.
- Fats – Choose healthy natural saturated fats (ghee, butter, lard) and mono-unsaturated fats (coconut oil, olive oil)
- Nuts – Stick to macadamia, almonds and walnuts although other nuts can be eaten in moderation
- Dairy: Unless you are lactose intolerant, full fat dairy is delicious and filling
- Fruit: Berries, avocados and olives: If you are on a strict low carb diet , are diabetic or have metabolic syndrome, then limit berries to once a week or so. In Kenya, strawberries are more readily available than other berries but they are very expensive, so your choices are limited. The reason berries are included in the food list is that they have a higher fibre content than most other fruit. Fibre slows the absorption of carbohydrates in the body . Vinegar, turmeric and lemon seem to do the same thing, although the exact mechanism is not yet known.
What Not to Eat
- Sugar – Eliminate sugar completely. This is non-negotiable. This means cakes, cookies, pastries, sodas, fruit juices and so on
- Sugar Substitutes – These are known to activate insulin production and therefore will not help if you are starting out on this way of eating. Once you reach your goal, you can add some healthy sweeteners like Stevia or Erythritol to your diet occassionally.
- Vegetables that grow below ground especially potatoes. I use onions, ginger and garlic in small amounts in my cooking.
- Low Fat Foods : These foods are processed and contain large amounts of sugar and therefore should not be consumed in any amounts
- Pseudo Fats like margarine and refined seed and vegetable oils. These have been put through many industrial processes and pass through various chemical agents before it gets to your table. If you don’t believe me, watch this video on how canola oil is made. Margarine is one hydrogen molecule away from plastic and is classified as a trans-fatty acid, a partially hydrogenated oil. In fact, in November 2013, in the USA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that partially hydrogenated fats were no longer generally recognised as safe in human food. These fats contain a high percentage of Omega 6 oils which have been shown to cause inflammation in the body leading to cholesterol problems. While your body needs Omega 6 as well as Omega 3 oils, it is the proportion that we consume in the modern diet that causes problems. We consume too much of the Omega 6 oils.
- Beer: This is a liquid carbohydrate and should be eliminated from your diet altogether
- Grains and Beans: Most grains and legumes, even the ones that are purported to be whole grains have been subjected to some level of processing and hence should be avoided.
- Fruit: Fruit contains sugars which is why they are so sweet. Modern agricultural and GMO methods have enabled us to produce even sweeter fruit. The fruit that was available, say 50 years ago is not the same fruit that is available today. Fruit in nature was seasonal and not available all the time, it was also not as sweet as it is today. It should be avoided or consumed in very small quantities occasionally. Consider fruit to be nature’s candy.
Tea. Coffee, Water and Soda Water
When to Eat
Eat Only When you are hungry.
This is infinitely important because in a fed state Insulin, the fat storing hormone is activated. This means that whatever excess glucose is in your body is converted into fat and stored by this hormone When you don’t eat for an extended period of time (Intermittent Fasting) then you allow these insulin levels to go down and this allows the fat stores to be used as energy. Essentially you go from glucose burning to fat burning (ketogenic state) in a matter of weeks.
If you eat only when you are hungry, then you do not need to count calories because your body will tell you when it needs to be fed. You will inadvertently be practising Intermittent Fasting.
Within the two weeks of starting this diet, I didn’t need to eat more that once a day simply because I was not hungry. I started with eliminating breakfast and had either tea or coffee with very little milk, about 2 tablespoons and then would have lunch and dinner, if I was hungry. I didn’t need to snack in between meals either as the healthy fats I was consuming would keep me full for long periods of time. Now, I eat once every two days or so and occasionally do longer fasts for 3-4 days.
Fasting activates hormones in your body which help with repairs and cell regeneration. When you fast, you allow your body to divert its energies towards healing.
Alcohol – Dry wines, whisky, brandy, vodka
Dark Chocolate – 70% and above cacao content.
Avoid these and low carb baked goods for the first 8-12 weeks of starting this diet as it might affect weight loss. Otherwise you decide when the time is right for you to enjoy these treats.
You can choose to do a strict, moderate or liberal low carb diet.
Strict LCHF – Less than 25 grams nett of carbs
Moderate LCHF – 25-50 grams nett of carbs
Liberal LCHF – 50-100 grams nett of carbs.
The reason I use “nett” grams is because as a general rule fibre is not digestible carbohydrate and therefore not absorbed by your body. Fibre is also important to include in your diet as it enhances the good gut bacteria in your body hence aiding digestion. Some people include the fibre in their calculation of carbohydrates. The choice is entirely yours.
My advise is to experiment with your body as everyone is different and your genetics will determine how sensitive or resistant your insulin is. If you find that on a higher intake of carbohydrate your weight loss is stalling or your blood sugars are increasing then reduce the carbohydate intake.
Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt gives excellent advise on how to follow a low carb, high fat diet or as it better known, a ketogenic diet. I would encourage you to become a member of this site as there is a lot of information that will help you. It costs only US$ 9.00 per month which is less than KES 1,000/- per month. How much do you spend at Nakumatt every week buying processed food that harms your body? Divert some of these funds to gain reliable diet advise and to understand how your body works. You won’t regret it.
How I began the diet
Once I had gone through the available literature, I was determined to give this a go. After all, I seemed to have tried everything else under sun.
The first thing I did was to get rid of all the stuff in my house that was not allowed in the diet. There could be no temptation otherwise I would crumble. I kept small amounts around for other members of the household.
After that, I went shopping and bought all kinds of yummy stuff that I earlier denied myself like cream and full fat cheese. Delicious!
I also planned our meals so that I knew exactly what we would be eating for each meal. This turned out to be quite important as I didn’t then have to think off the seat of my pants about what to cook and give in to temptation.
I cooked all of my food myself, that includes sauces and condiments. I make everything myself, including my own ketchup mustard and baking powder. This way I know exactly what I am putting in everything. I use real fresh food. I enjoy cooking so this is a joy for me. A lot of us do not enjoy cooking so much and to them my advise is to cook for 2 to 3 days in advance. To follow this way of life, cooking is an essential skill.
I found small differences of opinion on the finer points of this diet but all the experts agree that LCHF is the best way forward for reversal of diabetes and weight loss. I just experimented with different things along the way and did what worked best for me. I am still learning and will continue to do so to give myself the best chance of success.
And finally, I had a buddy, my husband. We are in this together and that support has been our saving grace. I would recommend that, if you can, you should find a partner to do this with. If you are unable to, join a support group on facebook. The Keto Diet Support Group is one of the best that I have found.
READ & RESEARCH as much as you can. The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to sustain this way of life. Use the links that I have provided in my posts. I have found this information to be invaluable. Do your own research as well.
In conclusion to this post, I’d like to leave you with this thought by Dr. Ron Rosedale MD :
“Your health and likely your lifespan will be determined by the proportion of fat versus sugar you burn over a lifetime and that will be determined by the communication of hormones, which will be determined by what you eat. You should eat today to control the hormones that will tell you what you will need to eat tomorrow”