Many diets you come across have you eating low carb, low fat, and/or low sugar foods on a regular basis. These types of diets might work for a short period of time, but most of the time you’re left feeling hungry, irritable, and deprived of things that you love (because really, who wants to give up butter and instead slather their morning toast – probably the only carb you get to eat all day long – with tasteless, disgusting, horrible for you margarine?).
Luckily, society is finally beginning to realize that fat is not the issue. Fat is actually our quite good for you friend, provided that you’re fueling your body with the real kind (quality fats from natural, whole foods as opposed to useless trans fats). In fact, studies have shown that instead of causing heart disease as previously thought, good fats can actually lower your risk for heart disease as well as a whole host of other ailments. That’s more than we can say for the low-fat craze, which turns out is causing more obesity and other health issues than it’s solving.
Various diets are beginning to pop up that focus on the consumption of these good fats. The LCHF Diet is one of them. This diet focuses on eating high quality fat from various sources and limiting your consumption of carbs and processed sugars. In this article we’ll talk about what the diet is, how it works, and whether or not I think it’s worth its weight (no pun intended) in the weight loss world.
The LCHF Diet
What It’s Based On
The theory behind this eating and weight loss plan is that the human race was made up of nothing more than hunter-gatherers for thousands of years. If you wanted to eat on any given night, you had to go out and get whatever was available to you at the time. You certainly didn’t head out to the local grocery store and buy whatever, much less something that had been processed to death and had virtually zero nutritional value left to it. Organic was commonplace, because that’s all that was available.
Between five and ten thousand years ago, agriculture became a thing and starchy foods (such as breads, pastas, etc.) were introduced to us. That might seem like quite some time, but it’s not really been long enough for our genes to adapt to it on a whole (obviously some people can eat it with no issues, but not everyone can. And to be fair, I can sit down and eat an entire plate of brownies in one sitting, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they’re good for me, does it?).
A century or two ago the industrial revolution began to boom, and that’s when refined sugar and white flour made their way into the world. These are pure carbohydrates with zero nutritional value that we’re able to digest super quickly, but if we still haven’t completely adapted to whole grains in ten thousand years, what makes you think that 200 years is enough?
Then the low fat craze of the 80s hit. Faulty science convinced everyone that fat was the enemy and if they wanted to be healthy they needed to stick to low fat foods. But here’s the thing – If you eat less fat, you end up needing to eat more carbs in order to feel full.
It wasn’t until people started following this eating philosophy that obesity and diabetes really started to affect people. Digestible carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars in your intestines and then absorbed by your blood. This causes your blood glucose levels to spike, which in turn increases your body’s production of insulin, our fat storing hormone.
So, your insulin production spikes, you end up feeling hungry again shortly after (usually within a couple of hours), and so you eat again. The cycle continues and then you end up inevitably gaining weight.
On the other hand, if you eat less carbs and instead fill your body with protein rich foods and wonderful saturated fats, you end up not only feeling fuller longer, but you also having the energy to do whatever it is you like to do. Between the good foods and the increased fitness, you end up losing weight instead. That’s what the LCHF diet is all about.
How It Works
Because the foods you’re eating are actually good for you, the LCHF is more focused on fueling your body with good things. Health is the main achievement here; the weight loss is just a bonus.
One of the great things about this eating plan is that you won’t need to count calories or weigh your food at all – You simply get to listen to your body and when it’s full, you stop eating. Simple, right? It might sound like it’s a lot more complicated than that (and truthfully if you’re lacking in the willpower department it probably will be), but since fats tend to make you feel fuller and quality foods give your body what it needs, it’s actually quite easy if you know how to get in tune with your body.
When you’re first starting on the LCHF Diet, the less carbs that you eat, the better (it’s recommended that you quit cold turkey). Once you’re happy with your results though, you can slowly reintroduce carbs in your life and see how it goes (although you might find that your body doesn’t want to tolerate them anymore once you do).
What To Eat, Avoid, And Moderately Consume
Here’s a quick rundown of what you can eat while on the LCHF Diet:
– Meat: Any type, including beef, pork, game meat, chicken, etc. Feel free to eat the fat on the meat as well as the skin on the chicken. If possible try to choose organic or grass fed meat.
– Fish and shellfish: All kinds: Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel or herring are great. Avoid breading.
– Eggs: All kinds: Boiled, fried, omelettes, etc. Preferably organic eggs.
– Natural fat, high-fat sauces: Using butter and cream for cooking can make your food taste better and make you feel more satiated. Try a Béarnaise or Hollandaise sauce, check the ingredients or make it yourself. Coconut oil and olive oil are also good options.
– Vegetables that grow above the ground: Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, olives, spinach, mushrooms, cucumber, lettuce, avocado, onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc.
– Various dairy products: Think full-fat options like real butter, cream (40% fat), sour cream, Greek/Turkish yogurt and high-fat cheeses. Try to avoid things like regular and skim milk as they contain a lot of milk sugar. Avoid anything that’s flavored, sugary or low-fat like the plague.
– Nuts: Almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pecans are all great options.
– Berries: Okay in moderation, but if you’re being super strict about the diet you should avoid them for the first little bit. That said, mix some up with some full fat whipped cream and you’ve got yourself something to satisfy that sweet tooth of yours.
As for drinks, coffee, tea, and water are great choices.
Since you’re able to eat as much as you’d like of the above foods, you can clearly see that you’ll be a far cry from starving when you’re following this eating plan. Just remember to listen to your body closely – Just because something tastes great, doesn’t mean you’re not full. When it comes to shopping, you’re going to want to read the labels on packaged foods carefully – A good rule of thumb is that if it contains less than 5% carbohydrates, you’re good to go!
Here’s what you should avoid at all costs, at least during the initial phase:
– Sugar: Soft drinks, candy, juice, sports drinks, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, ice cream, breakfast cereals. Preferably avoid sweeteners as well (it doesn’t mention whether or not stevia is okay, but if you absolutely need sweetness, I’d say that it’s probably your best bet).
– Starches: Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fries, potato chips, porridge, muesli and so on. Wholegrain products are less bad, but not great by any means. Legumes (think beans and lentils) are high in carbs as well. Reintroduction of root vegetables later on are okay, but if you’re starting out super strict you should avoid them in the beginning stages.
– Margarine: Industrially imitated butter with unnaturally high content of omega-6 fat. Has no health benefits, tastes bad. Statistically linked to asthma, allergies and other inflammatory diseases.
– Beer: Essentially liquid bread.
– Fruits: Very sweet and full of lots of sugar. Think of fruit as a natural form of candy.
Alcohol (dry wine, brandy, vodka, whisky, etc.) and dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) are okay to consume once in a while, but you shouldn’t make a daily habit out of it.
Is It Safe?
I’d actually wager that the LCHF Diet is safer than a lot of the other diets out there. Not only does it focus on natural, clean eating, but it also advises you to eat grass fed, organic, and wild foods whenever you can. Anyone that’s been following us knows that this will get you big points with me – I think that an all-around healthy lifestyle will trump any fad diet anytime.
That said, if you’re someone that’s been consuming a ton of carbs your entire life, this diet won’t come without side effects. Here are some things you might have to deal with until your body becomes used to the huge diet change:
– Heart palpitations
– Stomach upset
But in my opinion, a little bit of pain in the beginning is worth the huge payoff. After all, you’re essentially rebooting your system.
If you’ve got diabetes and you rely on insulin to keep your blood sugar stable, you’re definitely going to want to keep a close eye on it – You likely won’t need to rely on it as much (if at all) to keep your blood sugar levels stable, and the last thing you want is to deal with hypoglycemia.
Does It Work?
Again, I see no reason that it wouldn’t (barring a severe lack of willpower because real food tastes so good of course). You’ll be eating high quality fats and nutrients – The stuff that we’re designed to eat! Just remember that eating is really only half the battle; a healthy lifestyle also requires you to be physically active. Even a walk is better than nothing.
The Usual Statement
Please remember that although I can give you the ins and outs of various diets, I can’t actually determine whether or not any one of them is right for you or your situation. Before you begin any major lifestyle change, you should always consult with your medical and/or holistic professional to make sure that everything is in good working order. This is especially true if you’re a diabetic and planning to get rid of carbs – Your insulin helps keep your levels stable according to the diet you currently eat. Omitting (or even limiting) carbs means that your insulin dosage will very likely have to be adjusted, if not gotten rid of altogether. That same train of thought goes for those that are on medication for their cholesterol levels – Once you get rid of trans fats and you’re filling your body with good saturated fats, you might need your medication lowered (or best case scenario, you won’t have to take it at all anymore!).
What do you think of the LCHF diet? Have you ever tried it out (or one that’s similar to it)? We’d love to hear about your personal experience on a high fat, low carb diet, so let us know all about it in the comments section below!
PS: Here’s a link to a book that can get you started on your low carb, high fat journey:
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