Low-carb diets have been around not only longer than I can remember, but longer than I’ve been alive. The first Atkins’ Diet book was released in 1972. Low-carb has changed it’s name since then (Zone, South Beach and now it’s Paleo and Keto) but it still promotes the same type of eating – meat, dairy, eggs and more meat.
This no grain, fruit or starchy veggie diet does usually bring about some initial weight loss. However, just because something causes you to lose weight does NOT mean it’s healthy. Weight loss doesn’t automatically equate to longevity, energy, long-term weight management, decreased pain, disease prevention and enhanced quality of life. Here’s a few key reasons why:
- Animal products come with a heafty dose of fat. Even the leanest cuts of meat still have fat (especially when you’re eating the football-sized chicken breasts available these days). In just a gram of fat there’s 9 calories; a gram of carbs has 4 calories.
- Animal fat is the type of fat that clogs the arteries and builds up in the muscle. Fat in the muscle makes it hard for insulin to work making blood sugar control difficult. This increases the likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- Avoiding carbohydrates means depriving yourself of energy. The body was built to run on carbohydrates. Hello, fatigue, headaches and fogginess.
- Eating lots of animal products causes the liver and kidneys to work overtime leading to long-term damage.
- Animal products create acidity in the body that must be neutralized. The body does this by pulling calcium out of our bones. Did you know that countries eating the most animal products (including dairy) have the most bone fractures?!
- Low-carb-ers often feast on processed meats such sausage, ham, bacon, jerky, canned meat, many deli meats and hotdogs. The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as a carcinogen. This means there’s enough evidence to deem it a cancer-causing agent. Red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat) is classified as a probable carcinogen.
- Animal products are lacking in many vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that keep our systems functioning and prevent disease. Let’s look at just a few of the nutrients in 100 calories of broccoli compared to 100 calories of beef:
Vitamins C 143 milligrams 0 milligrams
Folate 107 micrograms 3 micrograms
Potassium 643 milligrams 88 milligrams
Calcium 182 milligrams 2.4 milligrams
On the flip-side, diets rich in whole, plant-based foods have been shown to prevent and even reverse heart disease, reduce cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar, delay progression of kidney disease and can lead to weight loss. Click the links to check out specific studies on these topics.
Processed Carbs vs Whole Carbs
As important as it is to have carbs in your diet, its just as important to pick the right ones. Anything from cookies to cakes, to potato chips, to bagels, to Skittles fall under the carbohydrate umbrella. However, these are all excessively processed and lack nutrients. Instead, we should focus on filling our plate with whole, unprocessed carbs: brown rice, steel cut oatmeal, quinoa, barley, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes and corn. These are high in fiber (slowing digestion & helping control blood sugar levels), high in vitamins and minerals (making them more nutrient-dense) and they fill you up (helping control appetite).
Though these whole foods are often termed “carbs,” they are much more than that. Did you know that just one cup of lentils has 19 grams of protein? Chickpeas have 15 grams per cup and quinoa has over 8 grams.
Decide for Yourself
It’s been motivating for us to learn about these great benefits of eating plants and we highly recommend doing your own research and deciding for yourself. Rather than outsourcing your health to whatever happens to pop up on your news-feed, the program your neighbor lost 20 pounds on or the diet that a magazine editor thought would sell – check out the research.
Visit the resources tab for some book suggestions. Reading just one or keeping it around as a reference is a great investment in your health. You can also check out our favorite whole food plant-based resources.
You’ll notice that the books listed in our resource tab end by citing all of the authors references. The book isn’t based on the authors beliefs or opinions, but on peer-reviewed research. And there’s a crazy amount that points towards a whole-food, plant-based diet. For example, in Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Die, pages 413-545 are lists of his resources. The China Study has 35 pages of references, with about 21 per page.
So.. after all of that, what’s on these dietitian’s menu? Whole grains, beans, lentils, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds. Visit the recipes tab for our favorites!
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