I would probably venture a guess that you are familiar with the Atkins Diet. Remember that? Eggs, chicken, bacon, cream, mayo – very few carbs. Lots of water and vitamins. The Diet Revolution was first published in 1972 – and it promised improved health and rapid weight loss. It fell by the wayside when Dr. Atkins had a cardiac arrest in 2002. Critics were suggesting that Dr. Atkins was a victim of his own eating plan – yet, even though that claim was proven wrong – damage to the eating strategy was done.
So, we kept eating low fat and high carb. And, the population kept getting fatter and sicker. Something was wrong!
Here’s a quick history of how the low-carb trend restarted…
- 2010 The New Atkins Diet was released. It built on the work that Dr. Atkins did – but, added more information on how diet impacts many aspects of health. Again, it was panned by the ‘experts’ as being a ‘fad diet’ that was dangerous to the public. After all, it went against the very core of the USDA Food Pyramid and MyPlate.
- During this same time, an exercise physiologist (Dr Loren Cordain) became interested in ‘Paleolithic nutrition’ which suggested that the adoption of the western diet by non-western populations lead to a decline in health. The idea of the Paleo Plan was to go back to organic foods, get rid of grains as they were just a recent addition to our diet (they were introduced about 10,000 years ago). Dr, Cordain published his book The Paleo Diet in 2002 – and it has gained traction.
- Since that time – there have been other books that are in the spectrum of lower to low carbohydrate diets (Eat Fat, Get Thin by Dr. Mark Hyman; Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson; Wheat Belly by Dr. Bill Davis; Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter – even Chalene Johnson of BeachBody fame is jumping on the bandwagon).
I think the one thing that you should know – these eating strategies work. However, each book has its own group of adherents (and, sometime, they are quite militant). I personally, take the best of each plan (you learn a lot from each book) – and see what works for me (the ‘n of 1’ experiment).
What I do know is consistent with all of them is that this is a movement to get us back to eating ‘Real Food’ – not the ‘Frankenfoods’ that come in marketing savvy boxes and bottles, full of additives (sugar and acronyms you can’t understand), and bereft of nutrition.
And, more importantly – it is not a ‘diet’ – it is a lifelong commitment to treating yourself well and enjoying the process. So, let’s really delve into this issue!
But, what does following a low carb diet look like?
First, what is off the menu?
1. Processed food. Oh sure, I do wish for the days that I could open a box, bag, carton, and eat to my heart’s content. I have a ‘salt tooth’ and love chips, crackers, popcorn. Some of these items I have found great substitutes – but, some have just had to go away permanently (or, as a rare indulgence).
2. I do not eat grains (corn, wheat, barley, rye, bulgur, buckwheat, millet, white or brown rice). The foods raise my blood sugar and insulin. They are not worth the cost of my health.
3. I don’t eat sugar – whether it is white granules that are sold in 5 pound bags, or foods with added sugar (think sugar, flour coating, High Fructose Corn Syrup, agave – more on this later).
4. Soy. But, isn’t that supposed to be a great vegetarian protein source? It is – but for many women, the estrogenic effect as it relates to breast cancer outweighs the use of the legume or foods that contain it. I just stay away. It is also a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) – and sprayed with poison.
5. Artificial sweeteners. They have actually been shown to have a link to diabetes. I will use sugar alcohols such as xylitol and erythritol from time to time – but, that is even rare.
6. Vegetable Oils. These oils are so processed and inflammatory to your system. These are the oils I use and how I use them.
|Oil Type||Use (based on flash point)||Notes|
|Avocado Oil||Homemade Mayo||It imparts a wonderful flavor to homemade mayo.|
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil||Salad Dressing||Flavor notes are lost on heating.|
|Butter||Only if you can deal with it as it is dairy. It adds a wonderful flavor to vegetables.||Don’t heat it up too much, the milk solids burn and it tastes awful!|
|Olive Oil||Low heat cooking||Olive oil is lousy for high heat frying – you lose the flavor and the flavor becomes ‘off-color’|
|Coconut Oil||General cooking at higher temperatures.||This is my generic cooking fat – it is mild tasting and works well with a number of temperatures and flavors.|
|Ghee (Clarified Butter)||High temperature cooking.||This is heaven! I am amazed at how much the manufacturers charge for it! It is simple to make – check my Recipe page shortly.|
|Bacon Fat||High temperature cooking.||This (like other animal fats) is more of a treat. My Depression Era grandmothers would be proud of me.|
So, what do I limit.
1. Dairy. I can eat dairy (I grew up in Minnesota and Wisconsin) – and I love a good cheese. But, I have cheese as a treat – not a normal part of my diet (and it better be good – not the ‘Singles’ wrapped in cellophane!). When I do have dairy – it is full-fat as it is a great source of fatty acids needed for improved health.
2. Alcohol. I am not a tea-totaller – but, as usual, being aware of what you are imbibing and the amount is smart (even if you aren’t Paleo/Primal).
3. Legumes. Legumes are not really Primal / Paleo because they contain antinutrients that can cause ‘leaky gut’. But, I admit – I love hummus and Baba Ghanoush! And the Paleo versions come up short. So, every once in a while, I enjoy dipping my crudites in a wonder organic version of each of these dips. Other times, other sauces work well.
OK – so, what does that leave? What do I enjoy?
1. Protein – I am not a vegetarian and I make no excuses for loving meat. My sources of protein include fish, poultry, beef, pork and eggs. But, I am smart as to what I eat. It is best to source it locally (if possible), or look for USDA-certified organic meat and poultry (American Farmer’s Network or Butcher Box are great on-line sources). I want to ensure that my protein sources are not tainted with antibiotics, pesticides or toxins.
Also, be cautious as to the fish you purchase. Many have substantial toxins (such as mercury). There are numerous seafood watchdog sites (Monterey Bay Aquarium has one of the best). I try to purchase wild caught fish and stay away from most farm-raised fish (especially those from Asia).
2. Nuts and Seeds – my favorites include macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, and pecans. They are low in carbohydrates and high in phytonutrients, Vitamin E and other essential nutrients. I generally source these as raw nuts and roast them myself. That way, I know how they were made. Nuts also make incredible flours and nut butters as well. I also use nut milks (Brazil nut, Cashews, Almonds) if I need to have a milk substitute in my diet.
3. Vegetables – and a lot of them! When you look at my plate and portion sizes of foods – vegetables take up most of the ‘real estate’. I think we all know that vegetables are good for us (and don’t forget – corn is not a vegetable). Explore the overall rainbow of different tastes, colors, and textures. Again, try to source it locally and in season (if possible). But, if you can’t, look for organic. I know the cost of some organic produce is prohibitive, so – don’t let perfection be the enemy of good enough. If you can wash them well, then by all means, do that. It beats the alternatives!
4. Fruits – use caution. While fruits are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients, they can also be high in sugar (namely fructose). We will explore fructose at a later date, but – even if it is naturally occurring sugar – it elevates blood glucose and blood triglycerides. I try to limit these to seasonal berries (locally grown), lemons and limes. However, every so often, I will have other fruits – nothing beat a Texas peach when it is ripened to perfection!
5. Fats – I provided the list of oils that I use earlier in this post. I stay away from vegetable oils which are high in Omega-6 fatty acids (pro-inflammatory in high doses).
So, rather than concentrate on what I can’t eat – if you concentrate on what you can enjoy – and, I really mean enjoy – you get the gist of these eating plans.
But, here is a side by side comparison of each eating plan,
Paleo / Primal
Has 4 phases.
– Phase 1: Induction (less than 20 g of carb/day) for 2 weeks.
– Phase 2 – 3: Balancing (you slowly add back carbs while you continue to lose weight). The idea is to find out how many carbs your body can take.
– Phase 4: Maintenance. This is your long term eating strategy.
|You eat to keep your body in metabolic ketosis.
– Generally, you eat less than 20 – 50 g carbs/ day. But, this can depend on your personal physiology.
– There are no phases.
– Usually about 70% of calories come from fat.
You eat the way our ancient ancestors ate.
– No refined or processed foods.
– No grains.
– Avoid or limit dairy, alcohol, legumes, processed oils.
– No artificial sweeteners.
– Limited fruit.
|Other Notes||Refined nutritionals are being marketed which are convenient is you are on the run.||You often check your ketone levels with a blood ketone meter; your breath (ketone analyzer) or urine (although this is not a good indicator of ketosis).||This is also a lifestyle change incorporating movement, body weight exercises; getting sun; getting sufficient sleep and play.|
|Other Related Plans||Atkins; Stella Style; Michael and Mary Eades||Peter Attia; Eat Fat – Get Thin; Grain Brain||Wheat Belly; The Eat Clean Diet; Primal Blueprint|
Here’s to eating well and living well.