Of course everybody can figure out what a low carb diet is all about, but we will illustrate how and when it will make you lose weight with little effort.
What is a healthy diet, do I buy diet products or do I look for slimming pills? Is every diet healthy or am I starving myself when I want to loose 10 pounds in 3 days? Which diet to follow when you have diabetes 2 or when your cholesterol was too high like mine?
We all know that there are so many different diet plans, but which one is the best? Having seen Oprah Winfrey recommending one ‘miracle diet’ after the other, and still looking at here size… we need to look at the bigger picture here. It’s not all about what we eat, is also about what we do and more importantly, why we are eating the way we are eating?
How much of a marketing gimmick does the word "refined" imply? Do you feel refined when you are eating refined white bread in stead of the wholemeal bread you see others wasting their saliva and ‘mouthmuscles’ on?
And how much is scientifically proven and how much is again a marketing gimmick, because let’s face it: can you explain why we need carbs in the first place and which carbs are better: those from white bread or those from wholemeal bread? And when you say better, what are they better for?
How many of us has a subject in college, high school or university that talked about food, what to eat, what is healthy and what is not? Isn’t it weird that something you do at least 3 times a day, the mainstream education systems doesn’t kind of open its mouth about? So the general knowledge we have about food and carbs is exactly that: general knowledge, acquired by hearsay and marketing strategies. Because let’s face it: food and agriculture is a multibillion dollar business, although eggs look dirt cheap in the supermarket.
Health is different than chemistry
Have you ever been on a tight budget, wanting to impress your partner with pearls and have your jeweler tell you that you can afford those fakes ones, because nobody will notice the difference. Both look like pearls and only experts know the difference. Similar story when it comes to white and wholemeal bread: both looks like bread, but the white bread with the refined carbs is actually the fake bread.
Experts… since almost none of us carries a doctoral degree in food, we are not "the" experts. Chemists are… well…, they are experts in chemistry. But for one reason or another, we make believe that they are experts in food and health as well. We let them breakdown our food in nutrition tables, compare the calculation with the recommended daily intake and voilà: we believe we know what is best for us.
The problem is that counting the carbs in white bread and whole grain bread could give you the same chemical figure, yet both breads will have a total different impact on your body. The refined carbs in the white bread will reach your bloodstream very fast, but equally fast – unless you are diabetic – your blood will ge rid of the over-saturation of easy to digest carbs and for starters, you get hungry again, not to say you start feeling tired.
The unrefined or complex carbohydrates in wholemeal bread will reach your bloodstream more slowly but will steadily provide your blood and your body with the energy it needs. Resulting in less feeling tired nor hungry.
And that’s only half of the story: when too much carbs reach the bloodstream in the form of glucose and you are doing exercise, your muscles will be overly happy to have the energy supply ready at hand. But when you are just sitting around doing nothing, the body reacts by storing the excess energy in fat.
So when it comes to a carbohydrates diet, you not only need to count the carbs, you also need to eat the carbs that fit your needs in terms of exercise and amount of time you don’t want to feel hungry between 2 meals. If you only eat refined carbs, sure you will find yourself hungry again 1 or 2 hours after breakfast, compared to the ones who consumed the same amount of carbs in a wholemeal breakfast, assuming all other things equal.
"All other things equal" is another scientific simplification: every person is different, every person has other dietary needs, but what’s equal is that refined carbs provide less energy result in more fat than complex carbohydrates.
Slow and steady
Not only do you need the carbs to get into the bloodstream slow and steadily. Let me add the "fastfood" lifestyle into the equation. Nope, let’s not get into the hamburger or salad discussion. But let’s take the orange juice: you only need 5 seconds to gulp down 150 calories of ready made orange juice. Now do it the slow and steady way: get yourself 2 oranges, peal them and munch them away. Did you notice how much more time you needed for the same amount of carbohydrates?
Again the same healthy logic goes: the slower you can get the carbs inside your body, the less chance they will have to be added to your fat reserves.
Now lets compare wholemeal bread with vegetables and fruit, lets say carrots and banana, using the same weight of each:
- A bit more than 2 medium carrots (126 gram/4.44 oz) provides you: 12.3 grams of carbs, out of which 3.1g dietary fiber and 6.2g sugar.
- 1 medium sized banana (126 gram/4.44 oz) provides you: 27 grams of carbs, out of which 3.1g dietary fiber and 14g sugar.
- 3.5 slices Tesco wholemeal bread (126 gram/4.44 oz) provides you: 51,8 grams of carbs, out of which 6.3g dietary fiber and 0g sugar. (data calculated using caloriecount.com)
Did you notice that you eat 4 times the amount of carbs when you eat wholemeal bread compared with carrots and double the amount of carbs when you compare with bananas? And "for some reason" most of us can eat much more bread than vegetables… which means we easily overindulge in carbs from to much bread.
This example to illustrate how carb rich bread can be. Actually bread became "the energy bar from the new stone age", which is the era after the ‘old stone age’ – obviously! – the latter also known as the paleo era… .
Ok, you get where I am heading…? Replace bread with the same weight of fruit and vegetables, and you will automatically reduce the amount of carbs in your diet. When you then make sure that you also shy away from potatoes, rice, pasta and cereals, you easily made the transition to a low carb paleo diet: eating only fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, meat and seafood.
Does that mean that the paleo diet is a low carb diet? Not necessarily: when in the list of allowed paleo foods, you chose for carbohydrate rich foods, you can still end up with a high carb paleo diet like the 69% carb diet from the Kitava hunter gatherers, eating lots of tubers like yam, sweet potato and taro (study done by Staffen Lindeberg – http://www.staffanlindeberg.com/ – .
Conclusion: so what is a low carb diet then all about?
Obviously it is what it says: a diet low in carbs.
To make it worth your while healthwise, do not only count the carbs, but make sure you eat quality carbs. According to the paleo diet, quality means carbs from fresh fruits and fresh vegetables.
Although there is a lot of conflicting information out there, most diets do agree that carbs shouldn’t be coming from added sugars or added sugar substitutes (corn syrup, maltodextrine…). That means: shy away from processed food, low fat food (mostly sugar added to compensate for the loss in taste due to low fat) and simply stop adding sugar in your food yourself.
What we notice in the paleo diet and e.g. in the original Atkins diet (without the commercialized merchandise): westerners following a low carb diet do lose weight.