Low Carbohydrate High Fat diet
Low carbohydrate high fat (LCHF) diets have become very popular over the last few years.
This diet restricts carbohydrate consumption (particularly refined carbohydrates and sugars) and those carbohydrates that are easily digested but that lead to spikes in blood glucose levels including bread, pasta, grains and sugars.
Foods with high fat content and moderate protein are encouraged including various forms of meat, poultry, fish/shellfish, eggs, dairy and nuts.
Carbohydrates are allowed but only those found in vegetables and some fruits. The diet therefore focuses on high fat intake, medium protein intake and low carbohydrate intake.
Where does the LCHF diet originate from?
There are many recorded uses of this diet through history, the earliest and probably most famous being in the 1860’s when William Banting, an extremely obese English undertaker was placed on a diet by his doctor, William Harvey. This diet restricted his consumption of bread, butter (allowed on LCHF now however), potatoes, beer and sugar.
Due to the success of his weight loss, Banting himself published “Letter on Corpulence Addressed to the Public”, which outlined this form of dieting for weight loss. It became so well known that the act of dieting became known as “banting” a term which is making a comeback in the past few years.
Who can the LCHF diet benefit?
This lifestyle is not for everyone; however it is has been found to be beneficial to people suffering from carbohydrate intolerance. This condition occurs when the body does not process carbohydrates properly especially those with gluten or sugar. Consumption of these ingredients leave them craving more carbohydrates but also leads to other side effects including irritability, headaches, bloating and weakness. Carbohydrate intolerance can also lead to major diseases including hypertension, cholesterol, inflammation, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.
The LHCF diet can also be of benefit to people suffering from insulin resistance. When you eat a carbohydrate, particularly a sugar or gluten based one; your body produces insulin to process the glucose in the carbohydrate. The insulin produced by your pancreas fails to transport glucose to your cells where it would be used up. This leads to your body producing more insulin to deal with the problem leading to your pancreas being overworked and a massive spike in your blood glucose levels. Your blood glucose levels rise which can lead to many complications including a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s, heart disease, damage to the nerves, kidneys, eyes and blood circulation.
A LCHF diet can also benefit people suffering from metabolic syndrome. This is a condition that places sufferers at a heightened risk of diabetes and heart disease. Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include obesity of the abdominal region, high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, high triglycerides and low High density Lipoprotein (good) cholesterol levels.
How does the LCHF diet work?
By eating lower carbohydrates, blood glucose levels tend to be lower and much more stable. This leads to less insulin production by your body.
As there are fewer carbohydrates to use as fuel, your body begins to burn fat stores as a fuel source, leading to weigh loss especially in people who are extremely overweight.
By eating a high percentage of fat, your body uses the fat as fuel, not carbohydrates. This is not a starvation diet as the fat provides all the energy your body needs, while keep hunger cravings at bay.
Benefits of the LCHF diet
There are numerous benefits to anyone choosing to use the LCHF diet. Let’s look at them.
- Weigh loss in obese people (especially in the abdominal region).
- Reduction in blood glucose levels.
- Lowering in triglyceride levels.
- Increase in High density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Improvement in allergies for chronic sufferers.
- Improvement in digestive problems.
- Improved moods (as sugar cravings lessen).
- Increased energy.
- Fewer cravings.
- Better sleeping patterns.
Foods allowed on the LCHF diet
These are foods that are allowed on a LCHF diet.
- Meat (beef, pork, chicken, game). Be sure to include the fat.
- Fish/Shellfish (all kinds allowed but give preference to fatty fish species including herring, salmon and mackerel). Grill or bake the fish, never bread and fry.
- Eggs (in any form).
- Vegetables (all vegetables that grow above the ground including peppers, onions, avocado, lettuce, cucumber, mushrooms, spinach, olives, eggplant, courgettes, asparagus, sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli).
- Sauces with fat including butter and cream sauces.
- Coconut and olive oil.
- Full fat dairy products including cheese, butter and double cream yoghurt.
- Nuts in moderation (great for a snack).
- Berries in moderation.
Foods to avoid on the LCHF diet
These are the foods to avoid on the LCHF diet.
- Any form of sugar (including honey).
- Genetically modified foods.
- Seed and vegetable oils.
- Low fat products.
Alternatives to carbohydrates
Giving up carbohydrates is never easy. There are alternative forms of foods that can help you overcome your carbohydrate addiction.
Try these few alternative ideas to replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- Mashed cauliflower. Boil your cauliflower, cut into small pieces and mash with butter and cream.
- Cauliflower rice. Place your cauliflower in a food processor and process till it is similar to rice kernels in size. Microwave them until cooked, do not add water as there is enough moisture in the cauliflower. Use in place of regular rice.
- LCHF “chips”. Place small grated piles of Parmesan cheese on a baking tray and bake in the oven until melted. Let them cool and serve as chips.
The LCHF is not for everyone. It will benefit those people who are extremely overweight, carbohydrate intolerant, insulin resistant and diabetics. If you choose to try it out, consult your doctor first.