Low carb diet? Fine, but keep your sugar! (full)

Every day I look at my patients’ dietary journals. On more than one occasion the pages are handed out with extra explanation

I try to eat healthy, but that was an unusual week”, “I usually eat better, but it was my daughter`s birthday.

What is health?

A quick look at the journals and the “healthy” and “unhealthy” parts are evident, at least for me. However, I frequently surprise patients with comments as to what “healthy” and “unhealthy” really is.

Those who read a lot about nutrition and try to incorporate the media wisdom in their kitchen have the biggest trouble. Here are the most common dietary misconceptions . It is a must read if health, not fads is what you are after. So here it is:

To eat less sugar, I stop putting it in my coffee

If you want to use less sugar, the last thing you should be paying attention to is your coffee or tea. It is true that both glucose and fructose, which table sugar is made of, is nothing good for anybody’s heath.

Glucose is known to raise insulin, which in turn makes you put on weight. Fructose in large quantities cause a condition called fatty liver. Those who have fatty liver also may have diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and obesity. So, if you worry about sugar intake you should not just worry just about table sugar, but about glucose and fructose hidden in foods.

Grains, the hidden source of sugar

Most people do not know that flour, which taste nothing like sugar, is made of glucose molecules linked together. When you eat bread, pasta, cereals, or oatmeal you are eating glucose.

A cup of cooked rice is made of 41 grams of starch, an equivalent of 10 cubes of sugar. A slice of Pumpernicker by Dimpfmeier has 17 grams of carbohydrates, an equivalent of 4 cubes of sugar. One serving (one package) of Kashi Heart to heart, instant oatmeal, apple cinnamon has 29 grams of carbohydrates, which counts to over 7 cubes of sugar.

If you are thinking about reducing sugar in your diet you would do more good by leaving breakfast cereals, pasta dishes, and bagels rather than avoiding sugar in your coffee. After all you want a big health effect, not a bad tasting beverage.

I drink protein shakes to build my muscles

Protein shakes are overemphasized and they may actually make muscle building a difficult and unhealthy endeavour. It is true that protein is necessary for muscle repair, but you only need a small amount of protein to satisfy all your needs.

An exercising adult needs no more than 40-50g of good quality protein a day. That is less than 150-200 grams of meat a day. Eating more protein is not healthy and high protein diets may actually lead to ammonia poisoning, liver and kidney problems.

Want to be slim and strong? Look at some fats 

If you are hoping for bigger muscles by eating a higher protein diet you may end up with health problems instead. If you want to bulk up in a healthy way you need to put emphasis on fat, not protein.

Protein shakes are lean. They contain little fat, exactly the opposite if you want to get a nice-looking healthy biceps. Without fat the art of muscle building requires more effort, more exercise, and more wear and tear of your body. It is a long and difficult road for the followers. Good fats in the diet will not make you fat, and will not cause heart disease. It can actually achieve the opposite.

The right fat can make you slimmer and more proportional in a very short time without excessive exercising and associated wear and tear. Among good fats are:

  • butter,
  • egg yolks,
  • coconut oil,
  • coconut meat,
  • cream cheese (not commercial farming),
  • and bacon (not commercial farming.

Foods containing high protein and high amount of good fats :

  • grass-fed beef,
  • whole eggs,
  • fish (herring, anchovies, sardines),
  • avocado,
  • fatty cheeses,
  • sour cream,
  • olives,
  • some nuts such as macadamia.

These are not mistakes. The types of fat that were once considered “unhealthy” are actually healthy for you, and your body.

I eat a salad for lunch to make it greener

Salads are not as green as you may think. Lettuce is predominantly water with very little of any nutrients or fibre. Commercial salad dressings are notorious for providing pro-inflammatory oils hiding behind a false curtain of taste and health. Pro-inflammatory foods cause weight gain and are strong promoters of degenerative diseases. Nothing good there.

Salad greens are very deceiving. It looks like you have a lot on your plate, but in fact you end up being hungry soon after your lunch. 3pm sweets craving is just one indication that you haven’t had enough for lunch.

If you give in to your cravings you know where they will end up: in your hips. If you ignore your cravings you may end up tired, cranky and starved before dinner. No mystery here: eating large meals late at night is the fastest way to gain weight. Maybe now it becomes clear why despite eating “healthy” you feel lethargic, hungry, and have trouble losing weight.

That “healthy” salad may cause more trouble for your weight loss and well-being than you think. But here is an easy way to put your salad to a better use: pack your dinner for lunch and have your salad for a dinner.

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