I am not blogging this week but I implore you to read this short summary of recent research on low-carbohydrate diets. Print it off and show it to doctors who tell you to eat a low-calorie diet to lose weight and improve your heart health. Start from today – eat proper nutrient-dense food, like that below!
So many diets are started at New Year and a few people will achieve their goals, but most will have returned to their old ways by February feeling thoroughly disillusioned. I want to address the subject as so often these diets are doomed to failure due to hunger.
This failure is more to do with eating the wrong foods than lack of will power. When you are hungry, it is because your body requires nutrients. When this is done properly, the body stops telling you to feed it. Your most likely reaction to the feeling of hunger is to eat something filling but not too high in calories – bread, rice cakes or potatoes are common choices. This becomes a self-perpetuating scenario – for all these foods are broken down to sugar and this is the problem. Repeatedly eating foods that are broken down to sugar will make you hungry. If you can stick to your calorie controlled diet, you will lose weight but most cannot stay the course and those best intentions will be wasted. Here is an article I wrote a while ago about sugar.
Some recommendations to help you lose weight, maintain good nutrition and stay hunger-free!
- Stop eating the foods that the body turns to sugar. These are the concentrated carbohydrates: bread and all other foods made with grain, potatoes, sweet foods including all fizzy drinks, root and other starchy vegetables, fruit.
- Base meals on eggs, natural meat with all its fat, fish and shell-fish, green leafy vegetables, all cheeses, butter and cream.
- Eat slowly and eat to satisfy not stuff.
- Drink plenty of water/tea/coffee but only enough to keep your urine pale yellow. If you use milk in drinks – only a splash as milk contains a sugar called lactose.
- Don’t over exercise but walking/swimming is sufficient especially in the first couple of weeks. After this you can increase it to a level that you are comfortable with.
- It has been shown recently that eating all your meals within an 8-10 hour period of the day, rather than eating from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. It is called intermittent fasting but don’t let that put you off!
- Concentrate on being healthier overall rather than just “thinner”.
- Allow an occasional snack – see below.
- Do not cut down on animal fats – in fact increase them. If you restrict one form of energy (ie. carbohydrates) then you must provide another – fat. Stop eating all vegetable oils other than olive oil and coconut oil.
- DON’T count calories.
A typical day’s food could look like this:
A 2-3 egg cheese and mushroom omelette cooked in lots of butter.
A big leafy salad with cucumber and a small tomato, (dressed with full fat mayonnaise or olive oil and vinegar) with smoked mackerel /tuna/ham/cheese/egg etc.
Steak – then add some cream to the pan with a blob of mustard/Stilton cheese or a splash of brandy. Pour over the steak. Serve with broccoli/cauliflower/mushrooms etc.
25g macadamia nuts or small packet pork scratchings with a glass of dry wine. (OCCASIONALLY!)
Piece of cheese or stick of celery with cream cheese/taramasalata down the centre.
A dozen raspberries. 4 strawberries or handful of blueberries – once or twice a week only.
A few olives.
Drink as needed but it is a good idea to have a glass of water half an hour before meals. This ensures that the hunger mechanism works properly and doesn’t fool you into thinking that you need more food than you do!
When you have lost weight, you can increase the carbohydrates a bit – but not what you were eating before. Start with a small potato with your dinner or half a slice of bread with breakfast. Try to keep the carbs to one meal per day only.
The body can use several forms of fuel for energy, two of which are fat and sugar. Sugar does not “give you” energy as people tend to think, but it will always be used first if there is a choice. All starches and sweet foods (carbohydrates) are broken down into glucose (the simplest form of sugar) and absorbed into the blood stream. There are no essential carbohydrates as there are essential fats and proteins.
Too much glucose in the blood stream is not good for the lining of blood vessels or the blood cells so it has to be removed and taken to other parts of the body. In order to do this, the body releases insulin from the pancreas into the blood stream. Insulin will do three things: It will direct the sugar to the muscles if energy is being expended; it will direct the sugar to the storage areas for another time and it will signal to the body that fat stores do not need to be used for energy as glucose is available.
The storage areas for glucose are the muscles and liver (where it is then called glycogen) in the first instance. These reservoirs have limited storage space. When the spaces are full, the next place for storage which is potentially unlimited is the fat cells. Insulin is the fat-storing hormone. Excess glucose cannot be excreted by the body (unless in diabetes).
There are essential fats. Fats are needed for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, absorbing minerals, metabolising protein, making hormones and many other functions. When we eat fats, they are used for these purposes as well as an energy source. During their metabolism, substances are created that can be excreted by the body and they are not stored. Insulin levels do not rise.
Insulin is released if there is glucose in the blood not fat or protein when both are eaten. However, on a low calorie and low carbohydrate diet where fat is excluded and protein is increased there is no obvious energy source. The body will then turn some of the protein to glucose because the body must have fuel. There are essential proteins and they need fat for their metabolism. Using them as a source of energy is unnecessary, undesirable and detrimental to health long term. (This was undoubtedly a survival mechanism for humans living as hunter-gatherers when they had to eat whatever they could get.)
Because our bodies are so efficient in maintaining life as healthily and efficiently as possible, they are able to prepare for many things instantly. Consider how quickly adrenalin is released when there is danger and the “fight or flight” syndrome is used. It is immediate. In the same way, when we prepare to eat, our salivary glands produce saliva before we have even had a mouthful! We can see this effect, but much more is happening. The gastric juices are released as will be the digestive enzymes and other digestion processes will be on stand-by. So, when you are thinking about drinking a sugary or artificially sweetened cola (how would your body know the difference?) – it is just sweet which means sugar and your body can release insulin in readiness. Whilst it will not have any work to do in terms of sugar storage, the signal will still be sent to the body not to use the fat stores. Ultimately, too many sugar-free drinks could actually make you very tired and hungry! (Insulin in the blood stream without glucose will give you hunger pangs.)
Most artificial sweeteners will have some side effects. Some are downright harmful used long-term, but there are some natural sweeteners that may not pose too many health problems.
So, to lose weight safely, healthily and effectively the diet should be low in sugar, sugar substitutes and carbohydrates, leaving protein and natural animal fats as the mainstay of the diet. Animal fats should never be reduced as they are so important to the body. Eggs, nuts, some seeds, vegetables (mainly green leafy ones) and a few native fruits occasionally are the foods to include ensuring the full range of nutrients are acquired.
I meet people every week who have digestive problems. These conditions can vary from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), to bloating, flatulence, cramping and diarrhoea. Most sufferers believe that these are discomforts that they have to live with and manage in order to live their lives and many will learn by trial and error the foods that create or worsen these symptoms as this piece of research shows.
What is not generally realised is that these seemingly mild conditions are not only related to, but can be symptoms of more serious gut disorders. In addition, if allowed to continue, the mild conditions can become outright illnesses.
Coeliac disease is a condition whereby an individual cannot tolerate (it’s not a true allergy) gluten – a protein found in many grains including wheat. Symptoms can include all of the above, but these may not be apparent at all. Constipation, weight-loss, anaemia, mouth ulcers, muscle aches and depression can also be symptoms of this disease. Those who suffer gastrointestinal issues will often reduce their intake of bread and cereals voluntarily, as this will decrease the symptoms. However, whist it is very possible that they could be suffering from coeliac disease, there are other factors regarding grains that maybe causing the symptoms.
Modern grains (and therefore the flours produced from them), have been genetically tampered with over the years. Add to this the fact that bread and breakfast cereal manufacture has become a rapid process instead of a slow one, creating products that are hard to digest at best and make us ill at worst.
I would advise reducing grains in the diet for all. Many people have some degree of gluten intolerance, whether or not it is coeliac disease. Reducing grains will have many health advantages and not just to do with gut health. If you do include them occasionally here are a couple of tips; use organic, old varieties of flour for traditionally produced breads (or buy a good quality sourdough bread) and if you use porridge oats, make sure you soak them overnight in milk and/or water with a blob of natural yogurt, to help neutralise the toxins that interfere with digestion.
This interesting story also contains a recipe for home made sourdough bread.
Well this is the evil substance from hell isn’t it? The diet “authorities” tell us that it clogs our arteries, increases our cholesterol and makes us fat as it is very high in calories. But this is simply not relevant or not true, as surfacing research is starting to show.
Quite apart from the valuable nutrients that it contains – fatty acids, vitamins A, D, E and K2 – butter (and other animal fats) contribute to the correct workings of the body – the formation of hormones, strengthening the immune system, the lining of cells, the absorption and proper usage of other nutrients. There is more too – it tastes wonderful! The deeper the colour, the more vitamin rich it will be.
Butter and other animal fats do not “clog” our arteries. Our body temperature ensures that it becomes liquid on ingestion and the digestion process breaks it down to an absorbable and completely harmless form for use in the body. An emulsion is created for ease of absorption. This is achieved by enzyme and bile activity in the gut which acts a bit like adding washing-up liquid to warm water and greasy plates! Incidentally, the gall bladder is kept healthy by frequent ingestion of animal fats. If it is being emptied of the stored bile on a regular basis, there is less likelihood of stone formation – a very painful condition often requiring surgery.
“It increases our cholesterol.” Well, yes it does. It helps to even up the balance of high and low-density lipoproteins (good and bad cholesterol) by increasing the good stuff. The subject of cholesterol is massive but to keep it simple for now, it is your diet and lifestylethat are imperative to healthy life and if you concentrate on this, cholesterol will not be injurious, so just forget about it.
“It is high in calories and makes us fat.” It is indeed high in calories. But as usual, the relevance of this statement is dependent upon a piece of pre-conceived misinformation and that is that the “calories in versus calories out” determines our weight – which is completely misleading. When a high carbohydrate diet is consumed (as advised by nutritionists and dieticians), calories will count but reducing calories – as in a typical slimming diet, valuable nutrients are also reduced. When the diet taken is the one that we are uniquely equipped to benefit from – our evolutionary diet (which involved lots of animal fat), calories cease to have a meaning.
When did you last hear of a wild animal consulting an authority on what, when, and how much to eat?
Further reading about butter is found here.
For advice about our evolutionary diet, come and see me!