Low Carb for Better Heart Health
Low Carb for Better Heart Health
If you’ve recently decided to get healthy, and your biggest concern is getting the weight off so you can lower your statistics and improve your mobility and energy levels, you may have run across low carb dieting as one option for you to consider.
There are so many ways of losing weight. You can count calories. You can cut fat. You can exercise more. You can give up gluten. You can do mindful eating. And all of these methods will contribute to the shedding of pounds.
Many people think that the way to shed fat is to cut fat out of their diet. It does work to some degree, but as an overweight individual, it’s likely that you suffer from food cravings and possible emotional eating – and cutting fat is the polar opposite of what will help your cravings issue.
Fat (and there are healthy and bad forms) is what gives your body a satisfied feeling. That’s why you see so many obese individuals hooked on diet sodas. They never get that satisfied feeling from diet drinks, so they want more food – more drinks – in order to finally feel full.
In the Annals of Internal Medicine, a clinical trial showed that low carb dieters, who retained fat consumption, lost more weight and lowered their important health stats (such as triglycerides and cholesterol) than low fat participants did.
Not only that, but their HDL (good cholesterol) actually rose! Maybe this is because consumers have a warped view of what fat actually is. They hear the word fat and they automatically think cupcakes and sundaes and things like that.
Those are fatty, sure – but they’re laden with unhealthy carbs. Healthy fats, like avocado, olive oil, and other fat food items, help your body work better and improve your overall health.
“But wait! Don’t I need carbs for energy?”
Not really. Your body acts like a hybrid car. It can use either carbs or your fat stores. Like a car can use gas or electricity. The problem is, high carb eaters continue feeding their body carbs and it never gets to switch over to the fat stores.
Not only that, but anything is doesn’t use in the carb department, turns into more fat in your body, contributing to obesity. With a low carb diet, you get several major benefits:
- You never feel hungry because the fat satisfies you.
- Cravings for sugar disappear in the first two weeks.
- You can adjust your carb intake based on the amount of weight you want to lose, or if you’re maintaining your current weight.
So low carb diets don’t mean no carb diets. It just means you’re using just enough carbs to give your body energy, and then allowing your body to target the fat stores for the rest of your day!
That seems pretty fair.
You’ll drop weight. You’ll gain energy. Your stats will improve. You’ll be more active, and your heart will become stronger because of it.
Let’s look at how you can get started on a low carb diet for better heart health.
Make Sure You’re Ready to Commit
Any diet is a new lifestyle because you’re not implementing old, bad habits. Any diet will be uncomfortable if you have a mindset that you’re missing something. Really, this is an emotional decision.
You have to be ready for – no, craving – change.
If you really want to lose weight and get healthy, it means you have to do something different than what you’re doing now.
Yes. You’re going to feel deprived of something. Depending on which diet you do, you might miss sugar, or grains, or volume of food – but something has to give. One thing you can do is let yourself tally up all the days, months and years you spent doing whatever you wanted in terms of eating.
You had your free ride. It’s time for some self discipline, but only those who truly care about themselves – their health, their future, and being there for their family, will stick to any diet.
With low carb, you won’t feel hungry. You may miss carbs initially, during the first two weeks, but you will need to realize that those times you want to put food in your mouth – it because of habits and emotions, not hunger.
Before you commit to this plan, or any plan, ask yourself what you’ll do when you instantly think, “I want to eat?” Many people find that eating was their life. Any downtime from work or events was spent eating – in front of the TV, in the car, while on the phone…wherever.
It’s time, not only for you to get your eating under control – but for you to also start living life again! Find happiness outside of food. Because it exists. You might pick up a hobby or journal or even do something like home improvement projects – but let it replace food, because food is crippling your longevity and your lifestyle happiness.
Slow or Fast Weight Loss?
Here’s the thing about low carb living…
You can either cut a lot of carbs and shed a lot of weight fast – or, you can cut fewer carbs and shed the weight slowly.
The choice is up to you.
If you have a large amount of weight to lose, such as 50 or more pounds, then you may want to go the faster route initially, and then slow down a bit for your last 15 or so pounds.
To begin burning fat stores quickly, you’ll want to go the low carb net 20 grams route. That means no more than 20 carbs per day.
Net carbs are when you tally the total carbs on the nutrition label, and subtract fibers and sugar alcohols.
So for instance, if a food had 6 total carbs, 1 g of fiber, and 2 sugar alcohols, you would calculate it as 6-1-2, which equals 3 net carbs.
One eye opening experiment you can do is tally up the amount of carbs you currently eat on a typical day, without trying to intentionally eat healthier. Then tally up the total carbs when you try to eat diet foods with less fat.
The carb numbers will shock you. The Institute of Medicine says that men typically eat 200-330 grams of carbs per day. Women consume 180-230 grams of carbs daily. That’s far too much, and is the reason we’re a nation – no, a world – with an obesity problem!
Anything under 130 carbs is technically considered low carb. The lower you go, the faster the weight comes off because your body uses up the carbs during the day and switches over to stored fat burning machine.
Ketosis or Not?
If you go the 20 grams of carbs and under route, then your body will go into ketosis. This can be a pleasant or irritating phase. Here’s what you need to know about choosing whether or not to go into ketosis…
If you want to lose a lot of weight fast, ketosis helps with this process. It speeds up your body’s ability to burn fat stores instead of carb loads. But if you want to go the 50 carbs and under route, you’ll still lose weight, but it’ll go more slowly than the ketosis path.
Ketosis has side effects, which differ from person to person. Some people feel incredible energy the first two weeks. They’re eating lots of protein and fat and feeling very good about the satiated feeling and ability to eat foods that taste good (unlike many cardboard-tasting diet foods). Cravings for sweets diminish quickly.
Other people have negative side effects, but it’s important to remember that they’re temporary. They’re just your body’s way of adjusting to the switch from carb burning to fat burning.
These include bad breath (which can be fixed with sugarless gum made with sorbitol, like Trident Perfect Peppermint), leg cramps from the decreased salt and potassium intake, and low energy.
There’s a fantastic fix for the energy and leg cramps issue. Chicken broth, in small increments of half a cup, restores your salt balance. It improves energy, just as it does when you’re sick with the flu.
Another thing you can do is eat potassium-rich foods for your carbs. These include things like:
- Pork Tenderloin (potassium equal to a banana!)
- Sirloin Steak
When you add foods like these, your system will get the low carb foods it need to continue the upkeep of your potassium levels and you won’t suffer the side effects that others do when they don’t plan their menu appropriately.
As for the ketosis route, some people do it as a jumpstart to their weight loss, for 2 weeks only. Then they return to carbs in small increments, adding 2-5 carbs per week until they find a level where they’re continuing to lose weight, but get more food choices.
Others stay in ketosis (under 20 net carbs a day) until they’re at or near goal weight. Each time to get out of ketosis, such as having a splurge day on carbs, you have to start the process all over again.
So if you’re someone who does have negative side effects, you may want to watch it more carefully than someone who can come and go on ketosis without much difference in the way they feel.
Another drawback to getting into carb splurge days is that it wrecks your body’s ability to eliminate carb cravings for sweets. You’ll find that the more carbs you eat, the more you’ll want – and it’s usually in the form of sugar.
If you want to see how frightening the sugar addiction is, log onto Netflix and watch the documentary Fed Up. It’s about the government agreements with lobbyists and their marketing efforts to increase sugar in our diets under the guise of lowering fat (which is why you see so many fat free options now), contributing to the rise in obesity.
Shopping for Low Carb
If you make the decision to go low carb, you’ll need to start shopping and swapping out the foods you normally eat in your cabinets and fridge. Start with meats. On this diet, you don’t have to go lean – you can go for fat-laden meats that are rich in flavor.
By the way, if you want another reason to include plenty of fat in your diet, read up on how low fat diets contribute to Alzheimer’s risk. People who ate more fat kept their neurotransmitters intact, staving off dementia.
You can eat any meat – chicken, pork, beef, fresh, canned, and more. Just make sure if you go the canned route, you check to see how many carbs are in the food. And make sure you stock up on eggs!
Another thing you’ll want is fat. A low carb, high fat diet keeps you feeling satisfied. So choose things like block cheese (Colby Jack or Cheddar, for instance), sour cream, butter, and olive oil.
Look for the best low carb veggies you can get. These include spinach, kale, broccoli, okra, turnips, green beans, and more. Look up a list of low carb veggies and pick out the ones you want. Just avoid the starchy ones like corn and potatoes.
If you get anything like a tortilla wrap, shop for low carb versions. Most products labeled low carb will have the net carbs on the front of the packaging, but there might be some you have to calculate. Luckily, it’s easy math – subtraction!
What’s on a typical menu for low carb? Breakfast might be something like a 6 ounce tenderloin steak with 2 fried eggs. You could add s morning snack of an ounce of cheese.
For lunch, you could make a chicken salad using canned chicken breast, mayonnaise, and red onion and put it on a bed of baby spinach. Try drinking ½ cup of chicken broth for an afternoon snack. Then for dinner, eat a rotisserie chicken breast, turnip, asparagus, and cheese. Or have a Cornish game hen with some veggies on the side.
Once you start learning how many net carbs food items have, you’ll find it’s really easy to plan menus. Now if you’re out and about, you can easily eat at restaurants the low carb way.
Many places have the items if you just ask. Burger King, for instance, as a low carb burger. They serve it up without the bun! If you’re at a restaurant, you can ask for a bunless burger or get chicken that doesn’t have breading on it.
Watch out for sugarless products when you first start out on low carb diets. Just like ketosis, there are some people who will have a negative digestive reaction to them, while others find it enjoyable to have something sweet that doesn’t affect their body.
Atkins makes some really yummy chocolate candies that rival M&Ms, as well as brownie bars and shakes. Some low carb users claim it stalls their weight loss, while others love them.
Find your own personal stride on the low carb way of eating and join a support group on Facebook to help you get meal ideas and support through the process. Also, use the Atkins online tracker or an app on your smart phone to track your net carbs.
One more tip…
If you’re really shooting for heart health, don’t guess at it. Go to your doctor and get a complete blood panel that shows all of your health stats. That way, three months from now, you can go back for an updated blood panel and see just how well the low carb lifestyle is contributing to your heart’s health!
Living a low carb lifestyle is certainly an adjustment. You’ll love being able to eat meats and fats, and no longer feeling hungry while dieting. You will miss sweets initially, but there are low carb desserts you can learn to make like chocolate mousse, for instance.
Love coffee and tea? You can still have them! Invest in stevia sweeteners like Truvia, instead of the aspartame sweeteners that leave an aftertaste, and sweeten your coffee or tea with heavy cream and Truvia.
Some switches will be so simple to make – and you won’t be able to taste the difference. You can find sugarless or low sugar dressings, condiments like ketchup, and more. They still have fat to leave the taste in, but the sugar is gone, and so are your cravings!