Redefining Low Carb

by lydia on March 22, 2012

Maybe we should redefine low carb eating as ‘conscientious eating’, or a ‘blood sugar regulation dietary protocol’, ‘optimal carb eating’ or even ‘responsible carb eating’? The only reason we have to define ‘low carb’ as such, is because we have gotten way out of hand with our diets in this nation, not to mention we are far from what our ancestors ate and what Paleolithic man ate. Low carb has unfortunately been viewed as a ‘bandwagon‘ and a ‘trend‘. I don’t think that’s what it’s all about, if you do, then maybe you haven’t dug deeply enough yet. Or perhaps, you are defending your excessive carb consumption to the bitter end. Maybe? Anyway, who am I to say I know anyone’s motives, what I do know is a lot of facts about ‘low carb’ eating that just make good sense. Read on……

As you can tell I am a bit tired of all the confusion about what a low carb diet is, and how it might be ‘dangerous’. I am also sick and tired of the ‘carbs’ debate period. So let’s talk a bit more about it. What the heck do we even mean when we say ‘carbs’? Cause honestly, I think everyone sees it differently. Personally, when I think of low carbohydrates, it’s referring to lower starchy foods, refined foods and sugars. Foods that will turn into sugar once in your bloodstream. Foods like grains, legumes, sugars, tubers, even fruit and of course any kind of refined processed starch type food.  Carbohydrates can be a very healthy part of one’s diet, so long as they are the right carbs such as low glycemic vegetables, fresh fruits focusing on lower glycemic fruits and in small amounts due to blood sugar managing. As well as some properly prepared legumes, properly prepared soaked/sprouted whole non-gmo grains in a very small percentage of your overall daily consumption.  Preferably around 15-20%, as a gauge. Definitely nowhere near the amount most Americans are consuming. I don’t care if you soak your grains and sprout your wheat, that still is a starch. You can eat it, if you choose, but that would be considered a starchy carb and should be eaten in moderation (again as a gauge 15-20% of your overall intake), and only if you do not have gut damage such as a leaky gut or any kind of gut dysbiosis like Crohn’s or IBS. Some amount of starchy carbs can be okay in the diet, but not typically for most people in this modern day as we are dealing with metabolic syndrome. Something that didn’t exist in Price’s day.  At the very least, a lower carb diet is important for optimal health and managing blood sugar, as well as healing other health maladies such as endocrine issues or even healing the gut from the damage done by eating a typical modern day diet. I am not suggesting to not eat ANY carbs, just be mindful and limit them.

Today we are all most likely starting from a point of some level of blood sugar disregulation. Every single one of us. Unless you have already taken measures to manage your blood sugar by going paleo/primal or doing GAPS, or eating a ‘low carb’ diet (interpret that low starches/sugars). We have all been raised on a processed American diet to some degree or another and all are suffering from some degree or another. We’re degenerating, it’s Pottenger’s cats, we can’t deny it. That said, it’s certainly not any one person’s fault, it just is what it is. In spite of this, we unfortunately have to retrain our thinking and drastically alter our diets far from that of the Standard American diet if we want to recover our health.  Ultimately, we are 99.9% genetically the same as we were way back when – and then, they weren’t suffering from metabolic syndrome. They hunted, they gathered, they did not farm agriculture, there was no need. Now I am not saying we can ever go back to that exactly, however we can learn from it. Our bodies are very amazing and very adaptable, but does that mean that even though we can adapt that we should settle for that or that it is ideal for our overall health. Not so much.

If you are against low carb eating and think it’s dangerous, I challenge you to test your blood sugar with a glucose meter on a high carb diet. Then test it on a low carb one. It should be between 80-100 mg/dl optimally. What is far more dangerous is having blood sugar too far out of that range, namely on the high side. Since blood sugar is one of the most tightly regulated systems in the body, we really can’t argue or mess with the facts on this front. Oh, and did I mention that when it swings too high out of range, your adrenals have to fire up and come in to the rescue? Do that again and again and again each time you eat too many carbs and you get tired adrenals. And aren’t we all rather adrenally fatigued as it is? These are very crucial things to consider when wanting to die on a hill of high carb consumption.

Carbohydrates can provide a quick source of energy for our muscles, and primarily they are used in the body as an energy source. They can also provide fuel for the brain, though I believe we have adapted to run on glucose for our brains when we once did with fat. I believe fat is the preferred source of fuel for the brain (considering it is made up of by a large percentage of fat), and I believe we can indeed retrain our bodies to run on the fuel it prefers. But, I don’t plan to go further into that here. Carbs also can help to regulate our protein and fat metabolism, they are a good natural healthy source of fiber that help to eliminate wastes. They can help fight infections, (think of all the vitamins, antioxidants and minerals in fresh fruits & veggies), they can help to nourish and lubricate the joints and promote growth of body tissues. That said, too many starchy carbs end up as a burden of glucose in the bloodstream which can lead to further inflammation in the body. It’s important to understand which kinds of carbohydrates are most beneficial to us. Even too much fruit can’t be problematic in the diet, as it is yet another form of sugar. The best overall sources of carbohydrates are fresh low glycemic vegetables. They can supply the body with so many nutrients and the small amount of glucose that we do need (which by the way, the body is very capable of making glucose as needed and it can do so even from proteins. Every carbohydrate your body needs can be made from either protein or fat), and fresh low sugar fruits like berries, but all fruit is healthful, just don’t go hog wild every day. It’s not recommended to eat a lot of fruit when you need to learn to get your blood sugar into the right range. Overall decreasing dietary carbohydrates will decrease excessive insulin secretion and insulin resistance and will increase the amount of vitamin B6, folic acid, B12 from fresh whole foods preventing numerous problems including elevation of blood homocysteine levels and vascular disease susceptibility. There is no human dietary essential need for carbohydrates. In other words, we can live without consuming carbohydrates and still be healthful. Protein and fat on the other hand, are essential nutrients that we must consume in the diet.

I could go on and on, and talk about how grains have changed and the history of corn and potatoes and we’d be here all day. At this point I want to turn it over to some folks that have more ‘clout’, if you will, than I do. Jimmy Moore of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb wrote an excellent post on the issues going on in the real food camps out there lately. He interviewed several experts in nutrition and in the paleo or ‘low carb’ community on the issues and confusion surrounding low carb eating. I highly recommend reading it, it is rather long, but very thorough with loads of great resources. Check it out here!

For those who may have jumped wholeheartedly in the low carb thing with all zeal and vigor, but yet experienced ill effects, consider that going too fast can be problematic. If you are used to a higher carbohydrate/starch diet it’s critical to go slowly into a lower carb diet. Read more here by Dr. Shannahan about how going too low carb too fast can upset your hormones.

Primal Body, Primal Mind. – this book taught me the most about how to regulate blood sugar. Also why and what impact consuming too many starches/carbs has on our body overall. I can’t recommend this book enough!

Primal Blueprint– a dietary plan to follow our primal ancestry, since we are after all 99.9% genetically the same, consuming the appropriate diet to our original genetics is ideal for optimal health. This covers the reason to lower starch consumption and how to go about it. Ideally to manage blood sugar and stay in weight loss mode you need to consume between 50-100 grams of carbohydrates per day. Once you get your blood sugar regulated you can add a bit more carbs if you want to, but stay under 150 grams per day.

Dangerous Grains – an understanding into how modern grains and their over-consumption are wreaking havoc on our bodies causing all kinds of health maladies, with an emphasis on gluten.

GAPS – this focuses on the removal of starches for the most part, in order to heal the gut lining to recover from a plethora of health ailments. It does not eliminate all carbohydrate foods, but the more problematic ones on digestion. Dr. Natasha is a highly educated successful doctor that healed her own son of autism. I trust her research immensely.

Life Without Bread – Written by 2 doctors based on lots of scientific evidence, this book is a MUST read. (I only just recently finished it!) Their suggestion is 70 grams of carbs per day for optimal health.

Wheat Belly – I have not yet finished reading this book, but I did listen to this awesome presentation summarizing the book very thoroughly and I highly recommend doing so. It covers so much that relates to low carb and understanding why we are in the predicament we are in. For a review of the book, ‘Wheat Belly’, check out this post by Joy of Liberated Kitchen.

I really don’t like all these different ‘food denominations’ if you will, though different camps of thinking are bound to exist I suppose. I find it to be unhelpful in that we all wanna know who is right, and end up pointing fingers at who is ‘wrong’. GAH! That’s rather defeating. How about instead we look at the good things each camp has to offer, and most of all value those who want to consume real foods for optimal health. I think we all ultimately want the same thing. And unfortunately, we have to get ourselves majorally educated on what is optimal since we have come so far from it. It’s definitely a learning curve that I am sure Mother Nature never intended.

So how about you? Are you confused about all the low carb dogma? What are your thoughts on this subject? Share in the comments…….

This post contributed to Fight Back Fridays.



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Joy at The Liberated Kitchen March 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Great post and I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for including my review of Wheat Belly!

It’s funny… back when we first went gluten-free and were considering GAPS, my (exvegan) exhusband mentioned maybe doing Paleo. My response at the time was that I didn’t want to get too extreme by cutting out whole food groups!

I was worried about going low carb, worried about how unsustainable I’d seen Atkins be for my friends, and concerned that we’d all drop tons of weight we didn’t have to lose.

A bit more research, though, and our whole family took on the GAPS diet. Contrary to popular perception, we get plenty of carbs. They just come in the form of vegetables and fruit for the most part!

Recently, we took my daughter to her endocrinologists’ mainstream dietitian, and she reviewed our diet. She said “Can I come eat at your house?” and verified that we were getting plenty of nutrition, plenty of protein, good sources of fat, and enough carbs for our daughter to sustain growth.

lydia March 23, 2012 at 6:17 am

That’s awesome Joy! So glad you are experiencing such good things with GAPS!

Starlene March 23, 2012 at 1:22 am

Great recommendation to go slow when moving to a low carb diet. Another good reason to take it slow… what is termed “die off” on GAPS, but in other camps “carb flu”. Also, the problem of constipation if you slow down too quickly on carbohydrates which are often a source of fiber. Early on in my GAPS journey I found and learned about fiber and how our bodies literally become dependent on it, and then we end up needing more and more and more fiber which just tears our digestive system to bits. Even when eating SAD, because of the fiber additives, and people who eat a WAPF whole grain filled diet are really getting lots of fiber so need to slowly cut down. If you find you need a lot of fiber to move your stool, it’s almost a given that you have gut dysbiosis. I never, ever thought I would give up eating lots of carbohydrates but I’ve recently learned that I simply do not tolerate carbohydrates well at all. Great post.

lydia March 23, 2012 at 6:16 am

Excellent thoughts Starlene! I am glad you brought it up. It is rather unfortunate that we have been misinformed in so many ways for so long, that now we have to all climb out of a deep hole of ‘unhealth’. I marvel daily that I don’t walk around in chronic pain or fatigue anymore, some days I almost expect it in the back of my mind as it was so common to me for so long. But now I have no inflammation due to my blood sugar being off from all the excess sugars/starches in my life. Thank God!

Julie March 23, 2012 at 8:13 am

I find it interesting that you find the need to end every blog with a question, as if you need to ask a question to encourage dialog. I think that people will respond to your writing, even without the questioning prompt.

lydia March 23, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Yep, I’m guilty Julie – I appreciate dialogue and comments!

Darlene March 23, 2012 at 9:18 am

Great post! I struggle with all the information out there and what to do! Thanks for your writing as it really helps and the links help,too. I want to eat healthy and find so much conflicting info. You make alot of it so clear for me. And I like the questions at the end,helps me focus my thoughts! Thanks!! Darlene

lydia March 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Thanks Darlene – glad you found this post AND the questions at the end helpful! Dialogue is good stuff!

Real Food Renaissance March 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

I’ve been low-carb/no-carb for a couple months and have been debating myself over the WHYs of cutting out the carbs. This really helped! Thank you!

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