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The current trend of following a carb free diet might seem attractive, but it does not work in the long term. Here is an alternative to that which does.
Everyone I know is following an carb free diet these days. However, if you take carbs completely out of your diet, you’ll only crave more for them.
You cannot follow such a diet life long. I have an alternative, more customized approach to carbohydrate cutting that will progressively have your body rely more on fats, and then, if need be, almost exclusively on them.
I have created a ‘hierarchy of carbohydrates’ to provide a user-friendly guide for consuming and restricting carbs based on your individual needs. This simple hierarchy is based on the fact that since not all carbs are created equal, there is a spectrum of carbohydrates which you can restrict.
Based on their chemical structure, carbohydrates can be either simple (bad) or complex (good) and what your body does with them.
Simple carbohydrates are digested fast, which can leave you feeling sapped, hungry, and even craving more sugar shortly after you’ve eaten. On other hand foods that have complex carbohydrate enter the bloodstream gradually and trigger only a moderate rise in the insulin levels, which balances appetite. This result in fewer carbohydrates that are stored as fat in the body.
Foods at the top of the list are high carb- and highly calorie dense while containing lesser nutrients. Moving down the list, foods become low carb and less calorie dense while containing more nutrients. These are the foods you want most of the time to pile on your plate. In simple words, consume more green leafy vegetables than cold drinks or processed sweetened foods.
Let us look at the implications of going on a carb free diet. Do you get headaches, leg cramps, constipation often? These are most common side effects of going on a carb free diet. Following a carb free diet can lead to other symptoms too.
The first major side effect that you are likely to experience when you begin a carb free diet is mental lethargy – often referred to as a ‘brain fog’. You will find yourself feeling half-drunk, and unproductive at work. Your brain will begin to use ketones as fuel (ketosis), beginning to burn the fats.
When on a carb free diet you may experience heart palpitations or a racing heart. This can happen after having been on it for few days or weeks. It’s been reported that this is more likely if you normally have low blood pressure.
This is the effect of the ketosis caused when eating less carb containing food. In addition, it’s possible that the body becomes extra sensitive to T3 when you are in ketosis, so it doesn’t need more T3 to get the same job done.
I myself have experienced these sugar cravings when I go on a carb free diet. The body is deprived of carbohydrates and craves for more sugary foods – which becomes completely counterproductive.
If you’ve been eating a carb rich diet, your body is used to producing a certain amount of insulin to take care of the sugar which gets produced from the carbohydrate intake. And when you abruptly drop your carb intake on a carb free diet plan, you may have some transient low blood glucose episodes that might feel scary.
While your body is adapting to ketosis, headaches are common to manifest for various reasons. In my experience, it’s important to increase your salt and water intake at the start of the diet. It will get better after 3-4 days. If it doesn’t, increase a little more carb to your daily intake.
The most common side effect of a carb free diet is tiredness and giddiness. You can avoid them by making sure you stay ahead of mineral loss. Having lower levels of minerals like potassium and magnesium along with the low carbs will make you overworked, lightheaded or dizzy, give you muscle cramps, and headaches. It is also really important to eat at least 2 servings of fresh and raw green leafy vegetables every day. These green vegetables will provide you potassium and vitamin K, and will also help you to control hunger.
These low carb diet side effects are not unusual. Diarrhoea can happen because of the sudden change in your diet. Constipation can be an issue if you don’t have enough roughage. Because a carb free diet often cut off whole grains, beans, breads, and sometimes even nuts, which contains fiber.
Your brain may not produce sufficient amounts of feel-good brain chemicals such as serotonin, when you restrict carbohydrates. If your serotonin levels are decreased, your moods are likely to suffer too and you may feel depressed.
If you’re eating more carbohydrates than what you are burning for energy, your body stores excess carbohydrate in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is not fat but a type of compact glucose that is stored either in your muscles or liver. When you have not eaten for a few hours your blood sugar levels drop, and your body’s stores of glycogen provide a boost of energy when needed. A small amount of glycogen is stored by the liver and muscle, so if you continue to consume more carbohydrates than needed, the excess carbohydrate will be converted into fat by your body.
Foods made of refined carbs, such as white pasta, white breads have a higher glycemic index and are digested quickly, raising blood sugar rapidly. Foods made with complex carbs, such as whole-wheat breads, whole wheat chapati, etc. have a lower glycemic index that has a much smaller affect on blood sugar.
You need to understand the importance of a balanced combination diet which has a good amount of protein, sufficient carbohydrates and moderate fats. A moderate amount of carbohydrates are required by the body for proper functioning.
According to research the perfect manner to lose weight is to make long-term changes to physical activity and your diet which gives an invariable rate of weight loss. Your target should be to lose around 0.5 kg to 1 kg a week (1lb to 2lb), till the time you achieve a healthy BMI.
A sugar detox is the way to go, instead of a carb free diet – decreasing your craving for simple sugars which create trouble. It is not easy, but once you start and persevere, it can have lasting effects.
The internet is loaded with an enormous amount of information on detox diet. Detoxification, in simple words is cleansing the body of toxic substances. This is done by removing impurities from the blood in the liver where the toxins are processed for elimination. You will feel lighter and more energized after detoxification.
You need a clear path to detox from sugar, to break this addictive cycle of carb and sugar cravings that robs you of your health, and takes around 10 days or even less.
There’s more than one way to do a sugar detox. But in general, I recommend partial detoxification – one meal a day, later progressing onto the next meal the following day. Whatever route you take, your number one goal should be to cut extra added sugars from your diet. That includes most sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts and other processed foods or snacks. According to the American Heart Association men should not consume more than 9 tsp, or about 36 grams of sugar per day, while women should not eat more than 6 tsp, or about 25 grams, of added sugars per day. In other words, you should start reading nutrition labels.
You should also be equipped with a plan for when cravings hit you. You can expect to battle the most in the afternoon and after dinner when you’re watching TV. Eat foods having natural sugars, like fresh fruit, instead of processed food, that contains added sugar. Especially avoid ready to eat foods like cookies, etc.
You can follow the given pointers while going on a sugar detox.
You should decide and get ready to hit the target. Avoid sugar in any form.
There is no way to handle a physiological addiction except to stop it immediately and completely. You should avoid any foods that come in a can, box or package or that have a label. Stick to natural, real, whole and fresh food.
Any form of liquid sugar calories are worse than solid food with sugar or flour. You eat more as you don’t feel full, and you crave more sugar. One can of soda a day increases a woman’s chance of type 2 diabetes by 80% and your kid’s chance of being obese by 60%. Stay away!
Protein, protein, protein at every meal. Especially breakfast – it is key to balancing blood glucose and insulin, and cutting down the cravings. Start the day with whole farm eggs or a protein shake. I recommend a glass of oats milk shake. Use seeds, nuts, eggs, chicken, fish, or grass-fed meat for protein at every meal.
Yes, that’s right. Unlimited carbs but the right one. Did you know that vegetables are carbs too? And you can eat as much as you want. That is an unlimited refill! There is one catch, though. I only mean the non-starchy vegetables such as green leafy vegetables and other vegetables like the broccoli family (cauliflower, cabbage, kale, etc.), green beans, asparagus, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, fennel, tomatoes, artichokes, eggplant, peppers, etc. What’s out are colocasia, potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes and winter squash – just for 10 days at first. It boosts the results so you lose weight and feel great.
Fat doesn’t make you fat but sugar does. Fight sugar with fat. Fat makes you full, harmonizes your blood glucose and is necessary for fuelling your body cells. Along with protein, have good fats at every meal and snacks including seeds and nuts (as they also contain protein), extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and omega 3 fats from fish.
So – decide today, and set out on that healthy diet route, not a carb free diet route!
Image source: pixabay
Aastha has over 8 years of experience in the field of Food Nutrition and Health.
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