The Low Carb, High Fat Diet
You are what you eat, and it’s never been more apparent or obvious than in the present day. Far too many people worldwide consume excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates, sugars and starches that inevitably lead them down the path of insulin resistance and then full blown diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes in the world speaks for itself. According to The World Health Organization, as of 2014, 8.5% of the world’s adult population is diabetic, an estimated 422 million people. The US alone has a diabetic prevalence of 9.4%, which is 30.3 million people, of which the large majority, ~95%, are type two diabetics.
It gets worse though, there are an estimated 1.5 million new diabetic cases each year, and the number of individuals classified as “pre-diabetic” is a staggering 84.1 million (info provided by the American Diabetes Association). If my math is correct, then nearly 26% of Americans are prediabetic which brings our grand total of people suffering from some form of sugar induced metabolic disorder to about 35%. That’s 1 in 3 people, not a sweet number by any means.
Okay, so we have a huge problem on our hands, but what can we possibly do to address it, help the people going through it (myself included), and prevent more from getting it? The answer is actually much simpler than you would imagine, but I’m sorry to say that there is no magic pill. In fact, most pills are simply band-aids, and seldomly, if ever, treat the root cause of the problem outside of antibiotics... but more on that on a future post. Food got us into this mess and food will get us out. It’s time to look at grocery stores as if they were pharmacies and food itself like medication. It's time to be mindful of what we put into our bodies, because it matters more than you can imagine and is vital for physical wellness.
I controlled my diabetes after only 2.5 months post diagnosis, lowering my A1c from 6.9 to 5.3 :D - and while no advice from me will ever replace your primary physician (seriously, check in with them and especially if you’re on insulin medications), I can show you the holistic path to wellness and diabetic relief through mindful and conscious eating.
Introducing the Low Carb, High Fat Diet
Eating lots of carbs leads to too much sugar in the bloodstream, which in turn makes you produce insulin. Over time, you desensitize your body’s response to insulin and need more and more insulin to elicit the same response. Like with any prescribed drug or vice (smoking, alcohol), the more you use, the more you need the following time to achieve the same result. You eventually reach a point where you can’t physically produce enough insulin and can’t store all the sugar into fat cells. That’s type two diabetes in a nutshell.
Have less sugar flow through your blood to alleviate, reverse, or prevent that desensitization. You do that by eating less carbs, the source of sugar. It's actually quite simple and ingenious when you think about it. If you’re intolerant to dairy, such that it causes you pain and any number of other digestive issues, you cut out dairy. If gluten or caffeine affects you negatively, you avoid them. If you’re allergic to bees, you run the other way when you see one. So why would a sugar intolerance be any different?
The Low Carb, High Fat Diet is a lifestyle change designed to improve overall health and promote weight loss by consciously reducing, or better yet, eliminating processed carbs and substituting sugar latent foods with fat and protein rich foods. You adopt fats as your primary energy source indefinitely and thus sustain your weight loss and improved wellness through mindful eating. I’m sure you’ve come across one or two of the variations of the low carb diet, Keto, Atkins, Paleo, Whole 30, etc. At the end of the day, the most important commonality is reduced carb consumption.
And while there is no set definition or agreed upon number, you’ll generally want to have carbohydrates make up 5-20% of your total caloric intake, and no more than 150 grams. 150g of carbs at 20% is a total caloric intake of 3000 calories by the way, just a point of reference. Most people will probably want to stay below 100g, as 100g at 20% is a 2000 calorie diet, but this all depends on your goals and your reasons for going on the diet in the first place. Health conscious bodybuilders or athletes for instance will probably reach or exceed 150g, while someone using it to lose weight or improve their insulin resistance will eat much less.
The one agreed upon fact is that the fewer carbs you eat, the faster and more efficient the diet will be for you with regards to improved health, especially blood sugar levels, and weight loss. The downside; however, is that the more restrictive you are with carbohydrates, the harder it will be initially, aka the keto flu.
Your total intake should be about 5-20% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 60-75% wholesome fats.
The Carb Ranges for a Low Carb, High Fat Diet
Strict Low Carb, High Fat otherwise known as The Keto Diet - requires less than 50 grams of total carbs a day to induce ketosis, the fat burning cycle. This is the type of diet I used to reverse and control my diabetes, and most people have seen significant weight loss and health improvements at this range. I got to enjoy a handful of berries and a plate or two of veggies which was much appreciated. Take note, if you are planning on starting a keto diet and take insulin, check in with your doctor as you’ll probably need to cut your dosage down drastically and rapidly.
SUPER Strict Low Carb, High Fat - a subset of the strict diet that limits you to less than 20 grams of carbs a day. This is by far the hardest but most powerful way to induce ketosis and improve overall wellness.
Moderate Low Carb, High Fat - is between 50 and 100 grams of carbohydrates a day. This is also an effective and efficient way to lose weight and to improve blood sugar sensitivity, albeit is slower but less intense initially. This is great for people with borderline metabolic conditions like the pre-diabetics or for people who’ve reached their weight goal and want to maintain. I currently follow this diet range because of how physically active I am and haven’t had a rise in my A1c, thankfully.
“Liberal” Low Carb, High Fat - is any range above 100 but below 150 grams of carbohydrates. This is the low carb diet for the healthy individual who just wants to make more conscious and mindful food choices because they care about their overall wellness. You’ll still benefit at this range and see some weight loss but not at any level comparable to the strict or moderate diet.
Below are some guidelines to help you start your journey into holistic wellness through mindful and conscious eating.
READ THE LABELS. Know what you’re eating. Look for added sugars, and total carbohydrates. Subtract fiber from carbs for Net Carbs.
Cut out processed carbohydrates like flour, breads, pastas, and white rice. If you MUST eat something, whole grains are a better choice but it’s best to avoid them entirely.
Legumes and beans are higher in carbs than you would think, eat them sparingly on a moderate diet and you should probably avoid them on a strict diet.
Limit or completely avoid potatoes, yams, onions, carrots or starchy vegetables. Stick to vegetables that grow above the ground.
Veggies, especially the green leafy ones can generally be eaten in large quantities.
Consume fruit in moderation. It’s best to stick to low glycemic fruits like berries and avoid the sugary ones like bananas and grapes.
Be aware of how much protein you eat, you don’t really need more than 20%. Excess protein that your body doesn’t use is converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis, yay science.
Don’t be scared of fats. Embrace them. Think of fat as your new best friend. Steer clear of trans fats but all other fats are free game. You should be eating between 60 and 75% fat, that’s a lot of olive oils, nuts, butter and avocados!
Add salt to your foods, especially if you’re feeling lightheaded, fatigued, have headaches or even constipation. As insulin levels go down, you retain less sodium, hence why you lose so much water weight initially.
Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. You should never feel like you’re starving on this diet.
Most importantly, stick to it. You’ve been running on carbs for so long that it’ll take a little bit of time to adjust to fats. You may experience the keto flu and feel like giving up but know that the light is at the end of the tunnel and your key to well being is around the corner.
Here are some of the most profound benefits of low carb diets for a little extra encouragement.
Faster weight loss.
The treatment and prevention of numerous diseases.
Improved cognition and brain clarity.
Sustained energy, this one was huge for me.
Piece of mind by knowing that you are actively pursuing wellness through mindful choices and scientifically backed methods.
I’ll expand upon some of the topics I covered today in future blog posts, including mindful eating, fasting, setting calorie targets, when and how much to eat, etc. Thanks for reading and I hope you found it helpful. Remember, you are what you eat so eat with intent, eat with well being in mind, and prosper.