Beware the Low Fat, High Carbohydrate Diet
How fats, carbohydrates and proteins may
affect your blood sugar and general health
Some people have gone overboard with the
low fat concept, especially women watching their weight. Fat calories slow the flood
of carbohydrates into the blood, which helps to eliminate "sugar highs" as well
as the corresponding crash after the glucose is burned off. Athletes improve their
performance and diabetics become healthier when they switch to a diet higher in certain
kinds of fat and protein and lower in calories. In addition, there are certain fatty
acids which we require for optimal health which can only be found in certain foods.
And some researchers believe that people with type-O blood may be more likely than others
to thrive on a diet rich in protein and fat and low in grains and dairy products because
they trace their genes back to hunter-gatherer societies.
Please note that I am NOT talking about a
high-protein "Atkins" type of diet in this article! Instead, I'm concerned about
people who are nearly eliminating all fat and protein from their diet, so that they are
eating 90% carbohydrates.
|"I have also noticed with great
concern how hyperactivity among both children and adults has escalated into a new
condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder since we have all been cutting
out fat and upping the carbohydrates. The lack of mental focus and inability to sit
still among the ADHD individuals could well be due to a lack of blood sugar..." - Ann
Louis Gittleman, M.S., C.N.S., one of America's leading nutritionists, from "The
I don't believe that high carbohydrate diets
are causing ADD, but I do feel that some ADDers may be especially sensitive to high
insulin levels generated by the modern low fat diet. It is hard to get young children to
eat well, and most prepared food marketed for children is low in fat and high in
carbohydrates, so this may be a factor worth considering.
The Problem With Eating Lots
Conventional wisdom says that we should get most of our calories from complex
carbohydrates and eat just enough protein to get by. Fats have been nearly
eliminated in most processed foods these days, and the fats that are included are
unhealthy types of fats like trans-fats and most vegetable oils. Could this be part
of our problem? Are we striving for a diet which is unnatural and not so healthy as
we think? Fats supply two types of required fatty acids that our bodies cannot
manufacture. These fats are GOOD. See my page "Fatty Acid
Deficiencies are Epidemic" for more info.
What could be wrong with eating lots of grains? Even
though they are complex carbohydrates, most grain products are digested very rapidly and
enter the blood stream as sugars almost immediately after you eat them. This includes
whole wheat bread. The body experiences a sharp spike in blood sugar and releases a
corresponding amount of insulin in response. High insulin is bad. Insulin
decreases the sugar in your blood and in your brain. Low sugar in the brain means
poor concentration, fatigue, and other problems. Insulin also is responsible for
turning blood sugar into body fat so you gain weight even as your energy decreases, and
insulin is also linked to the serotonin system which regulates mood.
The medical term for high insulin levels is "reactive
hypoglycemia" and I was diagnosed with it in my early twenties. At times my
sugar would drop so low that my hands and legs became shaky, I could barely think, I was
incredibly thirsty, flushed, and could think about nothing else but eating sugar.
All I had to do was eat one piece of candy and I'd be fine in five minutes. Of course this
would only cause a repeat of the cycle. At the time, I was told to avoid
sugars. No one ever told me that many complex carbohydrates are just as bad as
sugars, so I only got worse over the years. Later I developed gestational diabetes.
ADDers are known for being caffeine/sugar junkies. I
was. The sudden surge in caffeine and sugar increases brain activity and
focus. The tradeoff, however, is the crash that follows as well as an increased
tendency to become hypoglycemic. To avoid the crash, we junkies keep eating more
carbohydrates and drinking coffee. This results in a perpetually high insulin level
which stresses the system.
A diet high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat can
lead to chronic hypoglycemia, and a person can develop "insulin
resistance" where insulin no longer seems to work as well as it used to, and
finally diabetes, in which the pancreas ceases to release insulin at all. I was shocked to
discover that grains and many fruits and vegetables that I ate a lot of have a very high
"glycemic index," which means their energy enters the blood stream
rapidly. An estimated 25% of the population is believed to be insulin
resistant to some degree, and some researchers believe the number may be as high as 75%.
Here are how some foods rank in terms of how they affect
insulin levels. Low inducers are best, however, high inducers can be eaten if a fat is
also eaten at the same time since the fat binds to the carbohydrates and slows
absorption. For example, you could eat carrots (bad glycemic index) in a salad with
Rapid inducers of insulin (bad): glucose, puffed rice, corn
flakes, bran flakes, white and whole wheat bread, carrots, apricots, honey, brown rice,
potato, banana, kidney beans, wheat.
Moderate inducers of insulin: raisins, spaghetti, pinto
beans, macaroni, rye (pumpernickel), applesauce, potato chips, lactose (milk sugar), peas,
yam, sucrose, grapes, oranges, orange juice.
Low inducers of insulin (good): apples, pears, tomato soup,
ice cream, chickpeas, milk, yogurt, fish sticks, lentils, fructose, plums, peaches,
grapefruit, cherries, soybeans, peanuts.
I bet you're surprised.
I now try (emphasis on try) to follow alternative
dietary guidelines called the "40-30-30" or "Zone" diet, which
consists of 40% carbohydrate calories and 30% each of protein and fat calories. Each meal
must have the proper balance. My previous diet since childhood was about 85%
carbohydrates, so this was a monumental shift in the way I ate. Within a few days I
noted one very dramatic result: My intense food cravings had ceased. I immediately
started losing weight because I could finally resist the urge to snack. In six
weeks I lost 20 lbs, which I'd been trying to do for years.
How can you tell if high insulin levels and low blood sugar
are a problem for you? Here are some symptoms:
1. Failing to lose weight while sticking to a low-fat, high
2. Mid-morning or mid-afternoon drops in energy, a few hours after eating.
3. Sugar cravings.
4. Bloating or water retention
5. Fatigue after exersizing
6. The more carbs you eat, the more you want.
7. High cholesteral, high triglylcerides, high blood pressure or diabetes.
The 40-30-30 or "Zone" diet was
invented and popularized by Barry Sears, Ph.D., in the 1995 book "The Zone."
There are numerous reader reviews at amazon.com in which people say they lost weight,
increased their athletic performance, lower their blood sugar and/or reduced their
cholesteral after following the diet. Foods are now sold at my local supermarket which are
marketed for the 40-30-30 diet, including a drink called "Balance" which I have
for breakfast every morning.
How our ancestors ate: Are you a
If you've followed the "Hunter in a Farmer's
World" concept popularized by Thom Hartmann, you know that humans evolved for
millions of years as hunter/gatherers and only about 20,000 years as farmers. Just
as our "attentional" needs may reflect our hunter ancestry, so too may our
nutritional needs. Up until 20,000 years ago people ate lots of meat and whatever
roots and berries they could find. It makes sense that people may thrive on a diet
which most closely resembles the diet we evolved with.
However, it appears that all people are not the same.
According to one theory, the four blood types can be correlated to the agricultural
revolution and the changing metabolic requirements that eating grains entailed. Type
O blood was the original hunter-gatherer blood-type and is the most common blood type in
America today. People with Type O blood may not do well with dairy products,
grains, and legumes. I am a Type O, and this describes me perfectly.
People with Type A blood thrive on a vegetarian diet but
have trouble with dairy products. It is believed that this blood type emerged
between 25,000 and 15,000 B.C. in response to the agricultural revolution.
People with Type B blood digest most foods quite
well. This blood type is thought to have emerged between 15,000 and 10,000 B.C. in
the Himalayas and later expanded across the Eurasian plains via nomadic peoples.
Those with Type AB blood are like Type A except they have
no problems eating diary products. This is the newest blood type, which appear to
have evolve about 1000 years ago.
by Barry Sears, Ph.D.
Brain-Toxic Lifestyles, Natural Antidotes & New Generation Antidepressants by
Michael J. Norden, M.D
The 40-30-30 Phenomenon by Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S.,
C.N.S, author of Beyond Pritikin.
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