I knew the low-carb diet had finally gone mainstream when General Hospital mob boss Julian Jerome stopped eating carbs. It was about time. Low-carb first became part of American diet culture in 1972 when Dr. Robert Atkins’ book, ‘Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution’ made the best-seller lists. Atkins created the diet for himself, based on things he’d read in medical journal articles, but the medical establishment called him a heretic for not promoting a calorie counting or low-fat approach.
Low-carb, also called ketogenic, diets are different from temporary weight loss diets. You have to change your eating patterns for life to reap the benefits.
The problem with low-carb is that everyone has heard of it but precious few people know how to do it. Look at this scene, which takes place at a buffet:
Husband: Look at those bread rolls! Don’t they look great?
Wife: We can’t have them, dear. We are eating low-carb now, remember?
Husband: Then let’s have these buttermilk biscuits, then. Or that corn bread.
Wife: We can’t have those, either. They are bread, too. Sort of.
Husband: Well, what can we eat, then?
Wife: Well, how about this mashed potatoes? It’s a vegetable. Surely no diet can restrict our vegetables? And this fruit salad— I’m sure we can have as much fruit as we like.
Husband: What about this macaroni and cheese?
Wife: Well, it’s got pasta, but pasta isn’t bread. And cheese is a low-carb diet food— go for it!
This, as you may have guessed, is NOT the way to do low-carb. In order to do it right, you have to get a sound low-carb diet book with good instructions on how foods fit in to the low-carb eating plan. In this plan, there are three classes of foods:
- Foods to eat freely: meats (beef, pork, lamb, venison, chicken, turkey), fish and seafood (salmon, tuna, cod, smelt, perch, shrimp— all kinds except clams, scallops and oysters), eggs, mayonnaise, butter, coconut oil, olive oil.
- Foods to ration: salads, non-starchy vegetables, heavy whipping cream, cheese, nut products such as almond flour, coconut flour. (A good low-carb diet plan will tell you how much of each you are allowed.)
- Foods you may not eat: bananas, figs, candy, cake, bread, muffins, pasta, milk, pancakes, corn, cornstarch, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, jam, honey, potatoes, raisins, sweet potatoes, yams, sweetened yogurt.
The low-carb diet is a trade-off. There are some foods you just cannot eat at all— unlike the calorie-counting approach where you can have tiny portions of such food. In exchange, there are foods you can eat without restrictions.
When you are consuming no more than 20 or 25 grams of carbohydrate per day, your metabolism changes. It stops running on glucose— sugar— and starts running on ketones. Ketones result when your body is running on fat instead of sugar. It’s very healthful, not just for weight loss but for many other conditions. A ketogenic (ketone producing) diet has been used to treat epilepsy for decades, and helps in diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, kidney disease, and other conditions. Read ‘Keto Clarity‘ for more information, much of it contributed by doctors.
When choosing your Basic Diet Book for your eating plan, beware of these things: first, some ‘low-carb’ diets are not low carb. They just reduce your carbs a little. So you don’t get the benefits of a low-carb/ketogenic diet.
Also, the Atkins approach has steps. You start at a healthy 20 or so grams of carbs, and then after two weeks you start adding more carbs back. This triggers your food cravings for carb foods and can lead to food binges on carb foods. This is why people go off Atkins and swear it didn’t work for them. Advice: ignore the instructions for the steps, except that if you are healthy you might try the first addition of 5 more carb grams, which you can use on nuts or certain fruits (berries, mostly).
The ‘Carbohydrate Addicts Diet’ is another plan to avoid. On it, you eat two meals a day of low-carb food, and one reward meal in which you can eat any foods you like, so long as you finish the meal within one hour. This plan doesn’t work on some people at all, and with others it works initially but then quits working. It can lead to food binges on carb-foods. Remember, for most people who go on diets, carb foods are like alcohol is to an alcoholic. They must be avoided.
The Paleo diet is NOT a low-carb ketogenic diet. It does not restrict fruit consumption, for example. The book Neanderthin is a more low-carb approach to the Paleo diet, but even there you will have to get another eating plan to provide your carb restriction plan. It adds more restrictions to the diet— you will have to give up cream, butter and cheese— but some people like a low-carb Paleo approach.
Some recommended diet plan books:
How to use the diet plan books: Buy one or more of the books above. Everyone should probably have a copy of the original Atkins book, even if your eating plan is based on The Diabetes Diet or Four Corners. Read them cover to cover. Find the section of the book that is the ‘diet sheet’ — that sums up what foods you can and can’t eat. Make two copies of it. Keep one in your billfold or purse. Put the other up on the refrigerator or somewhere else handy in the kitchen. You can put it on the inside of a cupboard door if you like.
Make a point of reading in your diet plan book for ten minutes every day. This will keep your enthusiasm up, and it will help you remember all the things you need to know about your new diet.
You will also need other books for your low-carb/ketogenic lifestyle. Books like Keto Clarity which show you the benefits of the diet. Recipe books, like those by Dana Carpender. But you don’t need all that to start with. I started out with just the original Atkins book which I bought at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. Later, I added an early Atkins recipe book.
Have you ever tried Atkins or another low-carb diet plan? Did you commit to it as a lifelong eating plan? Did you try it for weight loss or for one of the other health benefits? Are you still on it? Do you think it helps you?