Low-Carb Dieting for Beginners

Low Carb Dieting for Beginners

Are you a newbie to low-carb diets? Do you want to eat healthier and lose weight with real food, without any cravings and hunger? Then a Low-Carb diet is the way to go. You probably have heard about the Atkins Diet – maybe even read about it on my blog – but Low-Carb is a lot more than Atkins. There are a lot of options and you can even start a general Low-Carb diet without buying books or following specific diet advices. What you need to get started is to learn the basic ins- and outs of Low-Carb dieting.

Introduction

A low carb diet is as the name says, low in carbohydrates, and in most cases also high in fat. There has been much debate over the effectiveness of low-carb dieting over the years, but the winds have changed. Today low-carb diets are often used as the preferred treatment of obesity and type-2 diabetes, and more and more scientific studies shows that a low-carb diet offers the most efficient control of weight and blood sugar.

The number of scientists, doctors and professors that recommends low-carb diets is ever-increasing, and I only see reasons for a continued rise of positive followers during the coming years. More and more new research shows the health effects of this kind of diet, and it will probably be the diet of choice in the near future.

So where to start? What should you eat and what shouldn’t you eat?

Eat:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Above ground vegetables
  • Natural fats (like butter)

Don’t Eat:

  • Sugar and starchy foods (grain based products, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes).

With these easy guidelines, everything else will follow. Eat when you're hungry until you are satiated. It's that simple! You do not need to count calories or weigh food, and you can forget about all special diet products. Natural food is what you need, the less processing the healthier the food.

There are very good scientific explanations for the reasons that make a low-carb diet so effective for weight loss. Simply put. When you avoid sugar and starchy foods, your blood sugar stabilizes and the fat storing hormone insulin drops. This decreases your fat uptake, increases your fat loss and make you feel a whole lot better overall.

Are you Diabetic?

Lower blood sugar levels lower the normal medical need for diabetics, and if you continue to take the same dose of insulin it can give you a too low blood sugar.  When you start a low-carb diet you should monitor your blood sugar levels carefully, and then lower your doses of medication if needed; preferably through contact with your physician.

The Science behind Low-Carb dieting

History

Through most part of the human evolution we have been hunters and gatherers. Only the last 10000 years have we been farmers, growing our own food. And only for the last 100 years or so have we been refining grains and sugars.

jellybeans
Creative Commons License photo credit: sam 😀

In the last 30 years we’ve seen an explosion in the amount of processed food, filled with ingredients our body was not designed for. Incidentally enough, during the same time the obesity levels have shot through the roof and the number of people suffering from modern diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart diseases have skyrocketed.

It’s not just a coincidence that I call them modern diseases. Before the industrial revolution and the modern refinement of sugars and grains, these diseases we’re rarely heard of. If one plus one is still two the connection shouldn’t be hard to find. Our bodies just don’t do well with the large amounts of pure starch carbohydrates that we consume today.

10000 years may seem like a long time to adjust, but in fact, the sodas and the refined carbohydrates are only a century old, which is like a millisecond in the human evolution.

Point
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sarah G…

Some people started pointing fingers at fat as the cause of modern diseases. Through imaginative reports they made the governments believe it too. This lead to the “no fat regime” that have been the leading voice about diets for the last 40 years or so. During the same time that we been exposed to all possible and impossible "no fat products" the obesity levels in the western world have exploded.

Today a lot of people have realized that we've been conned and sold short by the people we put the most trust in. Now we start realizing that the fear of real food with normal fat content was a big mistake. The problem is that "fat is unhealthy" is now so deeply engraved in people, that getting the message through is like talking to a wall. No one can understand how all this talk about unhealthy fats was just a hoax.

Still, it was all in front of us all this time. The evidence was there but no one listened or bothered to look for it. Now people have started to look and listen and hopefully we will bring back some healthiness to the human race again. It might take a while, but the seed has been planted.

What we know now

The problem with starchy carbohydrates, simple as well as complex, is that they break down into simple sugars inside our metabolic system. The sugar is then absorbed into the bloodstream and raises the blood sugar, which then increases the production of the hormone insulin.

Insulin is produced in the pancreas and a high intake of carbohydrates makes it work overtime. In the end this leads to a condition called insulin resistance. Instead of using the carbohydrates as energy, the insulin tells our body to save them for a rainy day, in the form of fat cells.  The result is a deficit of nutrients in the blood which creates the feeling of hunger, and so-called cravings, after which you’re unwillingly is forced to eat more. You’re now inside a vicious cycle of weight gain.

Low intake of carbohydrates in the diet causes lower and more stable blood sugar levels and therefore lower insulin levels. This increases the release of fat from the adipose tissue and increases fat burning. Consequently, we then tend to gradually reduce body fat, especially around the stomach area.

Reset a broken metabolism

A low-carb diet makes it easier for the body to live off stored fat reserves, since the release of fat are not hindered by high insulin levels in the blood.

A higher fat intake satiates our bodies more than a high carbohydrate intake does. The intake of calories is usually naturally decreased when were eating protein and fat-rich food instead of the more starchy foods.

No counting of calories is needed. Forget about the calories and trust your hunger and satiety. Now your body works like it should. The metabolic system regulates itself like it was meant to. You don’t need to count calories just like you don’t need to think about when to breath. It’s something the body was built to do, and changing your diet is how you can repair a broken metabolism. That's how you repair the damages caused by an unhealthy diet.

No animal in nature need the help of nutrition experts or calorie charts to avoid obesity. When they eat food they are designed for they remain slim and avoid tooth decay, diabetes and heart disease. Why would the human race be an exception? We’re not! Multiple studies show that people, in this century, that live a life similar to hunter-gatherers, or close to the original diets of man, don’t have these diseases. The studies also show how the same people get our diseases like a letter in the mail, after being introduced to our modern diets. Is this a coincident? I don’t think so. Especially since the modern diseases disappear again when these same people return to their traditional ways,

What to expect in the first days of a low-carb diet

Most low-carb diets expect you to go "Cold Turkey" on the sugars and starches, that is, give up all at once instead of gradually easing them out of the diet.

One problem with that approach is that you can get conversion symptoms. Since sugar is quite addictive, the abstinence from it can be seen as a form of "sugar detox". For most people the effects are fairly mild and of short duration.

Common withdrawal symptoms during the first few days:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability

When the body adapts and your fat burning increases these symptoms will go away.

Catch A Falling Star...
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

Starchy foods can bind a lot of fluid in the body. When you change to a low-carb diet you lose these excess fluids. This fluid and salt depletion can be the cause of the symptoms, so a good tip is to drink more and use more salt during the transition period.

Some prefer to decrease the carbohydrate intake slowly over a week to minimize withdrawal problems. But for most of us it's better to just go "Cold Turkey".

Low-Carb Nutrition Guidelines

Let’s take a more detailed look into what to eat and what not to eat. Here are some more specific recommendations for eating a full and healthy diet with low carbohydrate levels.

Eat:

  • Meat: Any type. Beef, chicken, pork, game meat. Try to choose meat from organic and grass fed cattle if possible.
  • Eggs: In all forms. Boiled, fried, scrambled, poached, omelet. Preferably organic eggs.
  • Fish and Sea Food: All kinds. Especially fatty fish such as herring, mackerel or salmon.
  • Natural fat: Use butter and cream in cooking, your food will be tastier and you will get satisfied faster. Olive oil, canola oil and coconut fat/oil are also good options.
  • Vegetables: All kinds of cabbage, such as asparagus, avocado, broccoli, brussel sprouts,  cabbage , cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, olives, onions, peppers, spinach, tomatoes and similar.
  • Dairy products: Try to select fat dairies. Real butter, cheese, cream and yogurt. Be careful with regular milk which is high in milk sugar.
  • Nuts: Good as a snack replacement.
  • Berries: Okay in small quantities if you are not following a strict diet.

Always look at the content declaration on the packaging. An easy guideline is to avoid products with more than 5 gram of carbohydrates per 100 gram of food.

Avoid:

  • Sugar: The main culprit in today’s obesity explosion. Skip buns, breakfast cereals, candies, cakes, chocolate soft drinks, ice cream, juice, sports drinks and pastries. If possible, stay away from artificial sweeteners since they have been shown to affect the body’s metabolism in a similar way as sugar.
  • High-fructose corn syrup: A lot of the sweeteners added to sodas, candy and processed food come in this form. It is believed to be very unhealthy for our metabolism.
  • Starch:  Simple carbohydrates from grain are almost as bad as sugar. Skip bread, french fries, pasta, porridge, potatoes, rice and so on. “Whole Grain”-products are not good, just less bad. Moderate amounts of root vegetables can be allowed if you're not on a strict low-carbohydrate diet.
  • Industrial seed oils and butter substitutes: Have no health benefits and is statistically linked to asthma, allergies and other inflammatory diseases.
  • Processed Soy: The verdict is not yet in, but soy, in its processed form is best avoided.
  • Beer: Full of malt sugar. Beer belly is not just a myth. If needed, select a light beer which contains less carbs.
  • Alcohol:  If needed, select a dry wine, whiskey, vodka and drinks without sugar.
  • Fruit: Contains a lot of sugar, so moderate your intake and proceed with caution.

Drink:

  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Tea

The less carbs you eat, the more visible effect on weight and blood sugar. I recommend that you follow the dietary advices as strict as you can, and still feel happy with. When you are satisfied with your weight and health, you can gradually add carbs until you find your personal carb threshold. The intake levels were your weight stays stable.

Recommended Reading

Low-Carb Science:

Low-Carb Diets

Low-Carb Cookbooks

 

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