LCHF – The Low Carb High Fat Diet
There has been a lot of talk in the nutrition world and across the media about LCHF diet over the last few months.
So what is it, what are the benefits and are there any risks?
Let’s take a closer look…
What is LCHF?
Low Carbohydrate High Fat – means reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat and moderate protein (and of course veggies!)
Carbohydrates include foods such as breakfast cereal, pasta, bread, soft drink, grains, biscuits, fruit juice, lollies, potatoes, pizza etc etc. Fat includes foods such as grassfed butter, animal and organ meats, cheese, coconut oil, MCT oil, full fat yoghurt, avocado, fish, eggs and nuts.
If you want to watch the ABC Catalyst segment for their take on LCHF, go here…
Why Eat Fat?
We now know that fat does not make us fat. Its not that simple. In fact, its the one macronutrient that has the least affect on your insulin response compared to carbohydrates and protein, and it fills you up as fat signals satiation and reduces hunger meaning you eat less and gain less weight.
The more fat and less carb you eat, the more fat adapted you become. That is, you learn how to use fat for energy via production of ketones as opposed to using carbs for energy via glucose. And the body LOVES ketones as a fuel source. In fact, mental performance is said to improve when using ketones for energy as opposed to glucose.
Fat also helps you to remove toxins from your body via bile release – bile is the thick mucousy stuff produced in your gallbladder that helps escorts the toxins from your body. Fat also helps us to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K – literally we NEED fat to be able to utilise these vitamins.
Why Low Carb?
Because carbs induce an insulin response which encourages the body to hold on to fat storage which can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, inflammation, diabetes and leptin resistance – which leads to more over eating…and the cycle continues!
High carbohydrate diets are also associated with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as well as increased cardiovascular risks.
Advantage Of LCHF diet?
Controlling insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels to better control your appetite and your hormones meaning you can control a healthy weight range and reduce inflammation in the body. Its also an easier way to focus on getting healthy range of food as opposed to restrictive calorie counting that doesn’t work long term.
By removing the refined carbs such as grains and wheat you are effectively removing most of the gluten in your diet and as we know, gluten increases intestinal permeability known as leaky gut and causes an imbalance of gut microbiota known as gut dysbiosis which increases autoimmunity and inflammation.
Further its a great way for diabetics to keep blood sugar levels stable, for everyone for overall weight reduction, epilepsy, skin acne, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and other neurological diseases.
In addition your mood swings and sugar cravings should abate since fat takes longer to digest and helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable, meaning less cravings to hit the sweet spot.
Disadvantage Of LCHF diet?
When people get so focused with eating low carb they can create an unhealthy food obsession that can lead to poor health and lack of nutrients. Don’t get so caught up in cutting back on food groups, but rather focus on where your nutrients are coming from. Too many people are cutting back on vegetable roots or anything from the ground that is merely absurd in my opinion and starves the gut bacteria of nourishing resistant starch that helps us to thrive.
Also if you suffer adrenal issues and thyroid conditions getting slightly more carb may suit your make up and lead you to better health. Listen to your body and watch your symptoms and ignore the fads and the cult-like followings.
But what about Saturated Fat and heart disease?
Saturated fat does not cause heart disease. Inflammation is the major cause of heart disease and as your diet fills with refined carbs, polyunsaturated oils, sugar and processed foods, not to mention stress and sitting on your backside typing on a computer all day, your inflammation rises.
So remove the processed carbs and increase your fats and help your body to repair and dampen inflammation.
Since the body does not NEED carbohydrates for energy, we can use fat for energy instead, there are no risks. But I personally do not encourage a zero carb lifestyle, but rather a zero refined carb lifestyle. Avoiding all processed foods including breads and pastas, cakes and cookies is a great way to get healthy, whilst still including healthy vegetable carbs in the diet even some starchy carbs (such as minimal cooked and cooled white potato once a week) that are known to benefit healthy gut bacteria.
Some people will tell you that eating LCHF is not sustainable or that its too restrictive. This is not the case. As soon as you have switched your body into fat burning mode, you will have less cavings and less desire to eat the foods that give you superficial quick hits, but rather opt for prolonged, slow digesting fats that keep you stable and full of energy.
If you suffer adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues or you are a sprint athlete who needs carbs for explosive fitness, then including healthy carbs is perfectly acceptable and even recommended.
How To Implement The LCHF Diet?
Firstly get rid of the concept of diet. It isn’t about restrictive eating, its about making lifelong sustainable choices that you practice every day. Once you get used to eating fat, you will NOT crave those carbs any longer.
I once ate pasta and bread every day of my life pretty much (yes, I was addicted!) and can say I haven’t touched pasta or bread in over two years now without any issue or complaint. I do not NEED it. You do not NEED it.
LCHF “diet” is not a restrictive diet once you realise the lack of value in grains and these processed carbs. They are nutritionally empty of nutrients and they cause your body grief and inflammation. The sooner you can adjust your thinking to realise that carbs are not essential, the sooner you will be ready to embrace a healthy LCHF life without relapse.
Secondly, when you build your plate focus on a palm worth of protein for women (2 for men) and then get at least a thumb print of full fat (to start as you transition, working your way up) and then finally good healthy vegetable carbs such as sweet potato.
Vegetables are key here. Eat green and eat it at every meal! Once you are used to the eating full fat again, you can feel free to increase your fat intake across the day. Its difficult to get too much unless you are gorging on full fat yoghurt and full fat milk in abundance.
And finally, make sure you don’t skimp on the quality of fat you are buying. Just any old full fat dairy butter isn’t going to have the same health benefits as grassfed full fat dairy thats nearly straight from the cow, or grassfed meat thats from cows that have been grazing on high omega 3 pastures.
Fats To Focus On:
- Grassfed Meat – Fatty meat
- Grassfed Butter
- Olive Oil/EVOO
- Coconut Oil / MCT Oil
- Full Fat Dairy – If tolerant to dairy
- Coconut Milk/Cream
- Fatty Fish
- Animal Lard
Carbs To Focus On:
- Artichoke hearts
- Brussel sprouts
- Sweet potato
And yes, even the white potato (known as starchy and can raise insulin but offers healthy resistant starch if cooked and then cooled which offers great benefit to the healthy gut bacteria)
What are your thoughts on LCHF? Do you think its a just a fad?