Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

What does it mean to eat low carb?

on February 15, 2013

I took BART into the city today and got to talking to a few people on the train about weight loss and eating low carb.  I thought it might be a good idea to write up a post about it and what it means to Jene and I. Before I get into this, I need to say, these are my own personal beliefs and thoughts after doing a lot of reading on the internet and having some personal experiences. I don’t have any sources to cite because I’m too lazy to go back and dig it all up. Any one of the Atkins Diet books can explain the science behind why carbs store as fat and protein doesn’t. Google what I think and you’ll find plenty of sites, on both sides of the issues lol.

There are several approaches to eating a low carb diet, Atkins, South Beach and the Paleo diet are a few. The idea behind it is that our bodies, through evolution, are not designed to eat the sheer quantities of grains and sugars found in the modern world. Our ancestors grew up eating primarily meat and the seasonal vegetables that could be gathered. Once agriculture started in the Fertile Cresent of Mesopotamia, grain became a larger part of the diet but still not the staple that it is today. Even 100 years ago, people did not consumer the vast quantities of processed carbohydrates that we eat today. It basically started with the huge growth of agriculture in the central U.S. Wheat became cheap and easy to grow, store and transport. Over time it was altered so that it would produce higher yields and be more disease and pest resistant. The farmers from 150 years ago probably wouldn’t recognize the wheat that’s grown today. The incidence of gluten intolerance in humans has gone through the roof in the last couple of decades. My personal belief is that the wheat grown today has even more less digestible gluten than the ancient grain grown by our ancestors. It irritates the lining of the intestines and creates all sorts of nasty problems.

Now, here’s what else carbohydrates do and why they help make people fat. It has to do with the way the body burns the carbs. When too many carbs are eaten you get a quick burst of energy as your body burns some of the carbohydrates but then the rest of the sugars in the carbs get stored as fat because your body can’t use them right away. If you think about the seasonal cycle, carbohydrate loaded foods were usually only available in the fall when wild grains ripened. Humans were just like animals in that they built up a store of fat to see them through the lean winter months. Protein from meat was the primary source of energy for daily life. It was available year round and could be easily preserved through smoking and/or salting. Protein burns much more cleanly in our systems. It doesn’t get stored as fat because our bodies use it up much more efficiently. If we only ate carbs a couple of times a year, we would be fine. But we live in a world where carbs are eaten at every meal and sometimes from multiple sources at the same meal.

By removing the high levels of carbs from our lives we eat more protein. This helps us feel full longer, we feel energized longer and, after awhile, actually eat less because our bodies are actually using what we eat more effectively.

When Jene and I started the low carb thing a couple of years ago, we got one of Dr. Atkin’s books and read through it. His philosophy is that you should go through an “induction” stage were you eat 20 grams or less of carbs a day. That is VERY low carb but it works. The carbs you do eat come from green vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, cucumbers, bell peppers, mustard greens, kale, etc. You do NOT eat foods with a high level of natural sugar such as corn, carrots, potatoes, any grains, any fruits, no fruit juice, no alcohol…. you get the idea. After a few weeks of this you can start to add back in some things such as berries, the occasional carrots, some nuts…. The point is to get your body burning the stored fat and then running off the protein you eat while you slow add some carbohydrates back into your diet.  Jene lost 60 lbs and I lost 40 lbs. I’ve put a few lbs back on but not much and I don’t gain weight like I used to even though I’ve been eating lots (LOTS) of carbs in the last few months. (I tend to eat sweets when I hurt a lot.)

So what do we eat? Steak! Chicken! Pork! Fish! Eggs! Lots of salad greens made with field greens. Lots of kale and cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus. Many of my recipes on this blog are fairly low carb. Not all of them because I do love to bake lol. As we move further into the year I’ll be posting more low carb recipes as well as discussing my cheese making adventures. 🙂

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