A question was asked by one of our patients at Brunswick Health.
“Would love to hear the resident Naturopath’s opinion on LCHF or Paleo ‘diets’, in terms of physiology & the mechanism of carb utilisation”.
While I understand the premise of both of the LCHF diet (Low Carb-High Fat) & Paleo there are some great benefits with the diets – but it’s also about how you do things, as there are “good” & “bad” vegetarians & vegans the same can be said for LCHF & Paleo devotees (as there are indeed with all the other people who don’t subscribe to a particular “diet”…)
Lets break them down…….
LCHF (Low Carb-High Fat)
Eat freely – meats (including the fats & chicken skin), fish & shellfish, eggs, natural fats – butter, cream, coconut oil, olive oil etc, dairy – full fat, vegetables that grow above ground, nuts, berries
Avoid – sugar, starch – potatoes, bread, pasta, cereals, grains, legumes (beans & lentils etc), a moderate consumption of root veggies is ok, margarine, beer, fruit
Occasionally consume – beer, dark chocolate
Eat freely – grass fed meats, fish/seafood, eggs, nuts & seeds, good oils – olive, coconut, walnut, flaxseed, avocado, macadamia etc, vegetables (root veggies to be eaten more occasionally), fruit, fermented foods
Don’t eat – cereal grains, legumes (incl peanuts), dairy, potatoes, processed foods, breads, pasta etc, refined sugar, salt, refined vegetable oils
Avoid – caffeine, alcohol
It sounds ok yes?
In fact, it really is – encouraging people to eat a more whole foods diet, eating seasonally grown produce, avoiding refined sugars & “the whites” – white flour products – bread, pasta, cereals, biscuits etc & generally reducing/eliminating processed foods. Fantastic!
Eating good oils & fats that our body can use for fuel, building healthy cell membranes, cardio-protective & generally anti-inflammatory in action. Awesome!
Getting rid of the “low-fat” options that have been sold as “healthy” which contain more sugar & all the extra processing that food doesn’t need. Yes please!
They differ around dairy
LCHF says yes to dairy – in fact having a poke around online I cringed at one website that suggested welcome addition to any meal was a side of hollandaise or béarnaise sauce & that if in fact you were stuck for a breakfast idea a boiled egg w mayo or butter was fine as was simply eating cheese & butter… here we get into the “good” v’s “bad” interpretations of diet!!
Paleo say no to dairy – & while I personally have a well-developed love of cheese I do also understand that we are the only animal on the planet to consume milk post weaning & the only one to consume another animals milk… hmm… food for thought
Fruit – LCHF says no – or rather, berries are ok & the rest of fruit is sugar & should be avoided or eaten occasionally
Paleo says yes to fruit – but potentially reduce high sugar fruits as your health conditions require…
Veggies – eat lots. Eat seasonally. Eat root veggies in moderation avoiding potatoes.
Paleo also loves fermented veggies & other fermented e.g. coconut kefir, kombucha
Protein – eat moderate protein & protein with every meal, eat the fat & skin is ok too
Paleo says – eat good quality grass fed, hormone free meats & seafood
LCHF says – yes to all meats & seafood
Fats – eat good fats – coconut oil, macadamia oil, olive oil, avocado, duck fat, tallow & lard – all good.
LCHF also says yes to butter & full fat dairy
So we have been told for years that if we don’t have enough fibre in our diets our health will suffer, our digestive system will get overloaded with waste & we won’t eliminate efficiently via the bowel – all true, trust me I see it all the time with my colonic clients!
Some people have concerns with the elimination of grains from both the Paleo & LCHF diet – but how are we going to get enough fibre without our grains & cereals?… oh no no no my friends, but aren’t you eating that way already? Eating lots of “grain products” – your cereal or toast for breakfast, sandwiches at lunch etc…
Vegetables & Fruits are naturally fibre rich & also packed with a much better profile of vitamins, minerals & phytonutrients – better to buy organic or from your local growers market to ensure this!!
But what about carbs? We need carbs for energy… true, you do.
Vegetables & Fruits are again great sources of carbohydrates, so get amongst it!
Plus your body can efficiently burn fat as a great fuel source. Have you heard the term ketosis? Its what the body flips in to when we don’t have enough glucose readily available to burn for our energy requirements – as long as we are using oxygen to produce energy the body can burn through our fat stores. We will then use the small glucose stores we have more selectively in areas of the body that depend on glucose for fuel & if following a very low carb protocol the body can perform gluconeogenesis – the conversion of non-carb substrates into glucose as required.
As an aside when breaking down fat stores you are also liberating any toxins, waste & even meds that may be stored in those cells so if you are choosing to make big lifestyle & dietary changes its worthwhile speaking to your health practitioner & doing it in a supported manner – a gentle detox & nutritional/herbal supplementation can assist in making the transition easier & less stressful both physically & emotionally.
I personally don’t think the there is the one “right” diet or lifestyle choice that suits everyone. We are all different & have different needs – both physical & moral that we need to support with the diet choices we make.
Do I think someone with high cholesterol should be eating a diet that is high in animal products – lots of meat & dairy? No, I do not. But they could eat a slightly adjusted version with more fish (less shellfish, prawns etc!) & good plant oils, nuts & seeds & all the veggies.
I’m also not sure that all cereal grains need to be cut out of peoples diets – a bit of rice – basmati, brown & wild is fine, quinoa (though technically it’s a seed) can be a great addition to your meals.
Do I think most people would be better off on a low-gluten or gluten free diet? Yes I do, but not substituting all the bread & pasta etc for GF versions of the same.
I think overall we will be healthier on a more whole foods, seasonal produce diet with a good amount of fermented foods, a lot more water than most people drink, reduced (!!) processed foods & refined sugars…
I would lean slightly more to a larger percentage of plant based with a smaller amount of animal protein/meal but again this is something that needs to be tailored to the individual & their health needs.
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