We now know the low fat approach introduced back in the 1970s doesn’t work for most people. Since we took much the fat out of our food, our disease rates have skyrocketed. This has prompted many in the medical and scientific fields to go back and question the original science and do more research into why low fat didn’t help us get healthier.
It’s fairly common knowledge now that it wasn’t the fat we should be worried about, but it is more likely the carbs. We are starting to see a shift away from low fat, high carb diets.
Today I’ll share the basics of low carb — what it means, who it’s good for and the health benefits. In my next post, I’ll provide some tips and suggestions for implementing a low carb way of eating.
One of the top researchers in the field of low carbohydrate nutrition is Jeff Volek, Ph.D., registered dietitian and professor in the Human Science Department at Ohio State University. He’s spent more than 15 years conducting research in this area and has found the outcomes to be very encouraging.
Volek has published many scientific articles as well as several books, including “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living,” which he co-wrote with Dr. Stephen Phinney, an MD and Ph.D. who has been called a true pioneer in the field of low-carb diets. I have found this book to be a great resource.
What does low carbohydrate mean?
First let’s establish, when we speak of reducing carbs we are talking about reducing refined processed carbs found in bread, pasta, baked goods, candy, sweets, soda and grains. You should be getting the majority of the carbohydrates you need from vegetables and some fruit.
There is no definitive prescription for “low carb” as it depends on your individual circumstances. Volek and Phinney suggest:
If you have Type 2 diabetes and are on medications to keep your blood sugars even moderately balanced, you may benefit from eating between 20 to 30 net grams of carbs a day. (Net grams of carbohydrates are when you subtract the amount of fibre from your total carbs.)
For those with a little extra weight on, early signs of metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetic you may start to improve by eating in the range of 100 to 125 net grams of carbs a day.
Measuring your blood sugars daily is a great way to understand how certain foods affect you. This can be a good way to find your right carb amount. Otherwise, experimenting with different amounts of carbs, gauging weight loss and lab results can offer some insightful data.
Bottom line: There is room for flexibility, depending on your individual situation.
Who can benefit from a low carb diet?
When you look at the numbers, it’s clear that many Canadians are challenged by some degree of carbohydrate intolerance.
• 60 per cent of Canadians are either overweight or obese
• 21 per cent of Canadian adults has metabolic syndrome
• One in four Canadians lives with Type 2 diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, or pre-diabetes
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Volley and Phinney say, “This condition, in which a collection of diseases characterized by insulin resistance are driven by consumption of a single nutrient class, deserves to be identified as “carbohydrate intolerance.”
Bottom Line: Anyone falling into these categories likely has carbohydrate intolerance and could benefit from lowering the amount of carbs they eat.
Many health benefits from moving to a lower carb nutrition plan have been documented. In his post, Why Low-Carb Diets May Be Ideal for Most People, Including Athletes, Dr Mercols states:
“Mounting evidence suggests low- non-fiber carb, high-fat diets may be the key that many people have been looking for, as it solves more than one problem. Not only does it help you shed excess body fat, it does so while simultaneously improving metabolism, boosting overall energy levels, and promoting optimal health and maximizing longevity in a number of different ways.”
Bottom line: For folks dealing with insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes, Mercola believes a low carb diet is “one of the most efficient ways to reverse the condition.”
If low carb nutrition is of interest, please check out my online group program, www.TheBloodSugarShift.com, where I guide you step-by-step through a four-week low-carb nutrition plan. Registration is open.
The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable, May 19, 2011 by Stephen D. Phinney), Jeff S. Volek.
Metabolic syndrome stats http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/14123-eng.htm
Definition of metabolic syndrome http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/basics/definition/con-20027243
This column first appeared here in The Halifax Citizen on Feb 9, 2016.