Low carb diets have been popular on and off since the dawn of the Atkins fame (and maybe even earlier?).
But, what exactly defines low carb? Does eating this way actually help with weight loss? Are there any other health benefits (or risks) to eating fewer carbs?
What is a carb?
A carb, or carbohydrate, is one of our three main macronutrients. Carbs, along with protein and fat that are needed for optimal health in quantities larger than vitamins and minerals which are micronutrients.
Carbohydrates come in three main types:
Sugars are the smallest (molecule) carb. There are many different kinds of sugars, beyond the well-known table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose).
Starches are longer chains of many sugars bound together. Starches are broken down by our digestive enzymes into sugars. These sugars are then absorbed and metabolized in much the same way as if we ate sugar itself.
Fibre, on the other hand, is also a long chain of sugars, but these are not broken down by our digestive enzymes. Fibre passes through our system, feeds our friendly gut bacteria, and then takes food waste out the other end.
Because fibre isn’t digested like sugars and starches, it’s often excluded from the carb calculation.
How we metabolize carbs
When we eat carbs, our body absorbs the broken down sugar into our blood, thus raising our blood sugar. Depending on how high and fast our blood sugar rises, our body may release insulin to tell our cells to absorb that sugar out of our blood and use it as energy now or store it for later.
This is part of the theory as to why eating low carb diets may help with weight loss – by preventing the release of insulin, thus preventing the storage of excess calories.
But, our bodies are a bit more complicated than that!
Low carb for weight loss?
A few studies recently put low carb diets head-to-head against low-fat diets for weight loss.
Guess what they found?
1 – There isn’t one universal definition of low carb (see the next section below).
2 – It’s more difficult for people to stick to low carb diets than low-fat diets.
3 – Both diets work for some people, and neither one is overwhelmingly better for weight loss than the other.
4 – The number of calories people eat is still considered a huge factor when it comes to weight loss success – more than whether the calories are from carbs or fat.
How many carbs is low carb?
There isn’t one single definition.
The average American eats about 300 g of carbs per day. Some people consider eating under 250 g of carbs per day to be the first threshold of a low carb diet. That’s really not that low in carbs, it’s lower carb, rather than low carb. Plus, if you’re new to cutting carbs, this level is easy to maintain and a good start (if you want to cut your carbs).
Taking that a step further, eating less than 150 g per day of carbs is considered a typical low carb diet.
On the extreme side, eating less than 50 g of carbs per day is considered to be very low carb – it falls under the ketogenic diet range. Eating so few carbs can actually change your metabolism into a ketogenic state. Eating this way can be difficult for many people to maintain.
Other health benefits of low carb diets
Low carb diets have the benefit of preserving muscle mass during weight loss. They can also improve heart health biomarkers like cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Not to mention that eating fewer carbs can improve how our bodies manage those carbs in terms of insulin and fasting blood sugar levels.
There can definitely be some non-weight-loss health benefits to eating fewer carbs!
Eating a low carb diet can be healthy, as long as it contains enough of all the essential nutrients. Some people may lose weight eating fewer carbs, and others won’t.
Low carb diets can help to improve how the body manages blood lipids and blood sugar, so it can be a healthy choice for some people.
As with most things in nutrition, there isn’t a one size fits all rule. Low carb diets can be a good choice for many people, but it’s not the magic bullet that some people claim.
What about you – have you tried (or do you currently) eat low carb? How many carbs do you eat per day? Have you had any great (or not so great) health effects from it? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Low carb): Baked “Breaded” Chicken
2 pounds chicken drumsticks
½ cup almond flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rosemary or thyme
½ tsp garlic powder
Preheat oven to 450F.
Cover a large baking dish with parchment paper.
In large food storage bag, combine all ingredients except chicken.
Place a couple of pieces of chicken in the bag and shake until coated.
Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
Place chicken on a lined dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Turn over and bake 15 minutes longer.
Ensure internal temperature of chicken reaches 165F.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can roast veggies in another pan at the same time. Just chop, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. They might not need to cook as long as the chicken, so check them periodically.
Grapefruit is good for you!
It’s a vitamin C-rich citrus fruit that’s low in sugar and contains vitamin A, potassium, and fibre. It has a low glycemic index and does not spike your blood sugar when you eat it. The pink and red varieties also contain lycopene.
It’s definitely a nutritious health-promoting food.
It even had a whole weight-loss diet created around it – the “grapefruit diet!” Research has proven that grapefruit doesn’t have any magical weight loss properties, so don’t eat it just to lose weight.
There is something you need to know about grapefruit if you take medications.
Grapefruit enhances the effects of many medications – over 85 at last count; this is sometimes called the “grapefruit effect.” Taking grapefruit (or its juice) along with certain medications – even a day apart – can increase the risk of side effects.
For example, when taken with certain blood pressure lowering medications it lowers blood pressure too much. This causes lightheadedness and other symptoms.
Another example is when taken with certain birth control pills, women have a higher risk of blood clots.
Grapefruit affects the metabolism of some of the following categories of medications:
● Blood pressure
● Birth control
● Immunosuppressive and anti-rejection
● Urinary tract agents
● over-the-counter cough medication
When the medication is taken within 24-72 hours of consuming grapefruit or its juice (yes, up to three days later!), there can be an interaction and potential side effect. In fact, for half of the medications affected, the grapefruit effect can be serious. Serious effects include heart and muscle issues and kidney toxicity, just to name a few.
How does this even happen, and why is grapefruit special?
How does grapefruit interact with medications?
Grapefruit (as well as Seville oranges, limes, and pomelos) contain a compound called “furanocoumarin.” It’s this compound that inhibits (stops) an enzyme in our gut (enzyme CYP 3A4) from working properly.
When working properly, this enzyme breaks down and metabolizes many compounds we ingest, including dozens of medications.
When the enzyme is inhibited, like when we’ve consumed grapefruit, this slows down the enzyme. This leads to slowing down of the rate these medications are metabolized and eliminated from the body.
If you slow down metabolism and elimination, this leads to higher than normal levels of medications in the blood – up to 137% higher! This “enhances” their effect and can cause those side effects.
When medications are prescribed at certain doses to be taken in certain time frames, this is based on the medication being metabolized normally – not way-too-slowly.
If you need to replace grapefruit or its juice in your diet, try another fruit or vegetable. Or, talk with your doctor about swapping for another medication that’s not affected by grapefruit.
Since one glass of grapefruit juice can affect the enzyme’s function for over 24-hours, it’s advisable to stop eating the grapefruit or drinking its juice altogether while you’re taking certain medications.
If you love eating grapefruit or drinking its juice and are taking medications, definitely speak with your doctor or pharmacist to see if this affects you. Many medications are not metabolized by this enzyme, and even if they are, this grapefruit effect may not pose a serious risk for all of those medications.
So, now that you know grapefruit’s little secret go find out if you’re affected.
Do you know someone who loves grapefruit or its juice, and is taking medications that have the grapefruit effect? Share this post to let them know that they should double-check with their doctor or pharmacist before enjoying this awesome fruit.
Recipe (Tangy Citrusy): Non-Grapefruit Juice
2 cups pineapple, peeled & chopped
1 cup cucumber, washed & chopped
1 lemon, peeled
Juice pineapple, cucumber and lemon.
Serve over ice & enjoy!
Tip: Top with fresh mint leaves.
Everything You Think You Know About Healthy Eating is Wrong and it’s Making You Fat and Tired. Oh my gosh – nutrition and diet info is everywhere! And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right? Well, maybe…
Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health. Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.
What you eat and drink
The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important. Don’t get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.
When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kind of knew that already, didn’t we? You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat. Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods). This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.
Every day this is what you should aim for
- A colorful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
- Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
- Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads. Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible. You don’t need to overdo it here. Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.
How you eat and drink
Also pay attention to how you eat and drink. Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought. Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food? When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.read more
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days. If yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean? Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do. Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
● Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
● Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
● Allow storage of excess energy for later.
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right. Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.read more