Low-carb-high-fat, or Prehistoric? You Decide
Author: Lisa Bischoff
Do you ever wonder about the new “it” diets? I mean, do you ever think to yourself, “What if I tried one of them? How seamlessly could I make the change from my current diet? And how would it affect my weekly shopping list and my budget?” These are all valid questions and you are not alone in asking them.
In order to demystify two of today’s trendiest diets, The LCHF (Low-carbohydrate, high-fat) and the Paleo (Paleolithic) diets, I went to a few health sources to break them down. In short, while they may be a bit drastic, depending on your present daily food and drink
intake, and also your fitness regimen, it is quite possible to make the change, and the results have the potential to be life-changing. Or, at the very least, you may feel better and lose some weight.
First up is the LCHF diet, one variety of which is the ketogenic diet. What needs to be noted here, though, is that the ketogenic diet lies at the extreme end on the spectrum of LCHF diets, representing the “ideal” biochemical state for fat burning. In a nutshell, when your body doesn’t have enough glucose available in the bloodstream, it breaks down the fats in your liver, which are subsequently converted into “ketone bodies”, or ketones for short.
A bit of layperson’s science comes in handy here. According to Natural Stacks website, “ketogenic” denotes that your body is deriving 70% of its calories from fats, and the remaining 30% from protein and trace amounts of vegetable-sourced carbohydrates. This scenario sets up your metabolic system to switch to using fats as its main source of
energy, rather than carbohydrates (which, generally speaking, is the status quo for all of us who presently enjoy a “normal” Canadian diet). Once your system gets used to this change, which can take around a week for most people, then it can trigger the beginning of better overall health and weight loss. This last benefit, and a big one for so many women, results from your body making the adjustment to burn all fats in your body — the fats you normally consume, as well as your stored body fat, including the reviled “muffin top.”
But do we all want to make that kind of change in our diets? Likely not. So most of us willing to try adding more fats and taking away carbohydrates from our diets will be finding ourselves in the LCHF camp — not quite the 70:30 ratio, but still in the general vicinity of it. And the results can be impressive. The Natural Stacks site lists some benefits of LCHF, including: decreased potential for visceral (abdominal) fat storage; potential for accelerated weight loss and muscle gain; decreased appetite; a lowering of inflammation, mostly due to ingesting more anti-inflammatory fats and reducing consumption of inflammation-causing carbohydrates and sugars; and decreased digestive stress, resulting from less processed foods and more dietary fibre.
So how, you are asking, can I make this diet a reality? And, perhaps more importantly, will it stick? The MBG Health site makes note of an important consideration when modifying your regular diet: everyone has unique biochemistry. What’s good for your colleague at work, your mother or your best friend may not be helpful to your system. You will need to find out what works best for you to achieve health, weight loss, and overall energy. It’s important to keep in mind that diets are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Glucose is what the body produces from the carbohydrates you consume, and some people can tolerate more than others. Add to that your age, daily activity level, pre-existing health conditions, and gender each play roles in how you will react to a new diet plan. Which means, what works for you may very well not work for your 40-something husband with a Dad bod who is a weekend warrior, but only on some weekends, or your 30-something brother who suffers from IBS and runs marathons in his free time.
Briefly, here are the main staples of the LCHF diet: berries, nuts and seeds, some non-green vegetables, green vegetables, oils, eggs, dairy products (except milk), meat. The forbidden items list is a little harder to swallow: bread, pasta, sugar, milk, corn, beans, rice. But because this diet does include foods like bacon, fatty cuts of meat, real butter and fatty cheeses, it looks quite appealing, even guilt-inducing. So you need to weigh the pros and cons for yourself. Can you live on predominantly berries and avoid other fruits? Will you be able to live without pizza, French fries, and ice cream? Can you
severely limit your alcohol consumption? And what about that nagging sweet tooth?
Now let’s switch our focus to the Paleo diet, otherwise known as the caveman diet. According to the website Everyday Health, this diet entails exercising regularly, and eating only those foods that humans consumed when they first roamed the earth, many millions of years ago. While not intended to be a weight-loss diet, the result of cutting all
processed foods from your diet and moving your body more will potentially make you slimmer.
On the Ultimate Paleo Guide site, adherents to this diet should eat grass-fed/free-range, lean meats, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, and natural oils (including olive, avocado, coconut, walnut, macadamia and flaxseed). The list of forbidden items includes grains, soy, dairy, legumes, refined sugars and oils, and all processed foods. Not too easy to adhere to in our day-to-day lives, especially when you factor in the fact that a lot of alcohol is grain-derived, but it’s still feasible.
If you are going to go all prehistoric, eating foods that only our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, then you should note that, according to the Everyday Health site, some research suggests that this diet, when compared with other control diets, can lead to short-term improvements in some risk factors for chronic health issues (which includes
obesity, heart disease and diabetes). Regardless, many scientists are still not convinced that there is enough evidence supporting the long-term health benefits of this diet.
While the LCHF and Paleo diets do have a lot in common, and can be your first step towards a new lifestyle, a new physique, and a new relationship with food, which one you ultimately choose is a personal matter. Maybe one or both could serve as inspiration for you to modify you present diet. What’s important to keep in mind, though, is that any drastic dietary change should be carefully weighed against your current lifestyle, health conditions, comfort level with change, budgetary restrictions, and your propensity for overcoming the initial discomfort stage presented by any new diet plan. It is the 21st century, after all, with a plethora of choices about how best to nourish ourselves. Will it be a fatty steak followed by blueberries and whipped cream, or a trimmed steak followed by fresh figs? In the end, it’s best to remind yourself that food choices should never be a source of stress, but rather a source of pleasure in your life.
- Everydayhealth.com – “The Paleo Diet: How it Works, What to Eat, and the Risks – Beth W Orenstein
- Mbghealth.com – “Do Women Need more Carbs than Men? Here’s What the Science Says” – William Cole
- Naturalstacks.com – “The Beginner’s Guide to Low Carb High Fat Diets – Roy Krebs
- Ultimatepaleoguide.com – Paleo Diet Food List
- cbc.ca – Recipe, Cowboy Steaks – CBC Life, Jan. 2018
- cookinglight.com – Cooking Light – Brandied Preserved Figs Recipe, Oct. 2016
Author Bio: Lisa is a certified media writer with several years of writing experience in advertising, public relations and marketing/communications. She has also spent over 15 years teaching the English language, here in Canada, as well as in Europe and Asia. An avid photographer and nature lover, she currently live in Toronto and spends her free time writing and taking photos in and around the city.