One thing I love to do is defy stereotypes. In 3rd grade, a boy told me girls could never be as good at math as boys. So I went to college, studied math/electrical engineering/computer science, and I'm now a computer programmer! When I switched to a low carb diet, I defied the portrayal of all-you-can-eat-bacon and-steak by eating way more veggies and fruit than my low fat days.
Back when I weighed 160lbs, I tried numerous diets and failed. Mostly because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I was just trying something - anything - in order to lose weight. Sometimes it worked, most of the time it didn't.
At one point, I thought I'd try 'Atkins'. Except it wasn't Atkins at all. I didn't buy the book. I didn't know the reason for the methodology. I just thought, hey all the meat you can eat! So I ate more meat in the form of double quarter pounders.
Yes, people. I was really that stupid.
"Youth is wasted on the young."
So obviously I didn't lose weight. I gained weight and dismissed that Atkins doesn't work.
Years later when I grew a brain, I actually did research. When I decided to switch to low-carb, I read as many books as possible until I understood what I was supposed to accomplish. I think Atkins is great for bariatric patients who have a lot to lose. However, the level of restriction was unnecessary for me because I was non diabetic, and already lost most of my weight. I ended up choosing the "Protein Power" method, which allowed more flexibility.
One of the things that bugs me on the message boards is people who said they tried low carb and it didn't work. I'm not going to deny that it might not work as well for everyone. What raises my shackles is sometimes if you ask them which book they read, and they didn't read one.
If you didn't read a book, you're just fumbling around like I was with my double quarter pounders.
Low carb is very different than the conventional knowledge most of us were raised on. If you didn't read one of the many books out there, then you don't know the mechanism that makes it work.
Even worse, you don't know what pitfalls you're setting yourself up for. Particularly in mineral balance.
Strangely, when I switched to low carb, I found I was hitting my vitamin/mineral needs more easily. I credit the additional produce consumption, for sure. But there were still supplements I needed.
SODIUM - This is one that throws people for a loop when switching from high carb to low carb. High carb diets causes sodium retention due to increased insulin load. Insulin tells the kidneys to retain water and sodium. Elevated insulin levels tell the kidneys to retain a lot of water. Low carb diets flushes that water and sodium out of the kidneys. It is true that first week on induction (if doing Atkins) is mostly water loss due to this reason. Reduced insulin load signals the kidneys to release the retained water. Sodium goes with it.
An essential part of what makes low carb work is the low processed foods. Please, people, stop buying the Atkins bars. This is another one of the stereotypes that I cringe at. The Atkins bars are a marketing gimmick and a processed food. Ditch it.
When you're eating less processed food, you are also eating less sodium. If you are eating less grains and starches, you have lower insulin load, thus less sodium retention. Thus, you need to add sodium back into the system. The best salt to add is Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt. Both contain other essential minerals like magnesium and potassium (which I'll cover shortly). Do not use ordinary table salt, which has been bleached and stripped clean of all these minerals.
POTASSIUM - Potassium, along with sodium, are essential for regulating electrical signals in our bodies, and heart rhythm. Our bodies like to keep our potassium/sodium ratios at a certain level, and expels excess in normal circumstances. But when we have an imbalance due to excess insulin, then excess sodium is retained and the ratio is skewed.
Back in my high carb days, I used to suffer from arrhythmia and spontaneous tachycardia events. I went to several cardiac specialists, who were never able to determine the reason why, but they said it was benign. When I switched to low carb, these disappeared, or at least to the point where I don't notice. I could never prove it, but I suspect that excess sodium from elevated insulin levels was interfering with heart rhythm by way of blood pressure. My blood pressure dropped significantly after going low-carb.
When switching to a low carb diet, there is a side effect. When the kidneys release retained water, they also flush potassium along with sodium. Sodium and potassium are also lost through perspiration. This lost sodium/potassium MUST be restored.
Muscle weaknesses, cramps, and palpitations are a few symptoms of low potassium.
Everyone knows bananas are rich in potassium, but many chose to forgo them because of the high sugar content. No problem. Choose these other high potassium/low sugar veggies:
Tomatoes/sun dried tomatoes
Zucchinis with skin (my favorite!!)
Green snap beans
Once you are out of induction, have a sweet potato. More potassium per gram than a banana.
TONS of veggie potassium sources. You have no reason not to eat these every day. If you say, "But I don't like any of these vegetables", you're making it harder for the rest of us by perpetuating stereotypes, and discouraging people who might be helped by this.
There are over the counter potassium supplements, but proceed with extreme caution. If you are on medication of any kind, check before taking a potassium supplement. Potassium overdose is rare because normally our bodies will remove excess through the kidneys. Certain medications interfere with this process, and cause potassium to be retained. Impaired kidney function will also interfere with this. Unnaturally high levels of potassium is deadly. But you read the books, and you already know this, right?
CALCIUM - One of the arguments made to dissuade people from trying low carb is that it leeches calcium from bones, thus increasing risk of osteoporosis. Well, this is actually true, but you need to know why. You read the books, but let's review anyway. Our bodies like to keep a neutral pH of about 7.4, and will aggressively change body chemistry to keep it there. Eating protein, and ketone production from burning fat does have a slight acidifying effect. How this is countered is usually with calcium. If you aren't eating dietary calcium, then this calcium will be taken from bones. So continue to take your calcium supplements. The ingested calcium will be used to maintain neutral body pH, excess will be flushed through kidneys.
One other point about calcium. Bone density comes from weight training. If you want to lower your risk of osteoporosis, pick up the weights. Eating calcium alone won't make stronger bones.
MAGNESIUM AND ZINC - These two minerals almost all of us will have some deficiency with. I had trouble meeting the minimum requirements even in my low-fat diet days. The reason is because modern conventional produce is mostly devoid of minerals that used to be abundant. The plants are fed with steroid level artificial fertilizers, instead of naturally nutrient rich topsoil.
Magnesium is important for almost 300 different biologic functions, including metabolism. Magnesium deficiencies can also trigger cravings. It was primarily obtained by our paleo ancestors in drinking water. City tap water is a poor source of magnesium these days, and if you use a reverse osmosis filter or similar like I do, all of it is stripped out. (I remineralize my water with a couple rocks of Himalayan salt).
Zinc is essential for the immune system. Zinc deficiencies are more serious for children, but not deadly. Not right away anyway. The suppressed immune system will allow other diseases to proliferate to eventually kill you. Phytates from beans and whole grains from high carb diets suppresses zinc absorption. Increased zinc supplements may be needed in these cases.
No matter what diet paradigm you choose, BUY THE BOOK. If you want to be vegetarian, read "Becoming Vegetarian", which will tell you how to get all the nutrition you need. B12 is essential, it is not optional. I was appalled when I saw a comment from a vegetarian member on a spark blog saying that B12 is overblown, and she gets enough from the vegetables she eats. No, no, no! If you're not eating animal protein, then you must take a B12 supplement or fortified B12 foods. Less of a problem for ovo-lacto vegetarians, but the less animal products, the more supplementation needed. B12 deficiency will lead to permanent brain and nervous system damage. Don't mess around. Don't assume you're getting enough because you feel fine. B12 deficiency will take 10-15 years to manifest as a crippling impairment. If you want to be an informed vegetarian, I'll support you. But the person I mentioned above is making the same mistake as my double quarter pounder diet.
I'm not sparing the rod for low-carb either. If you want to try low carb, read one of the many books first. You, too, won't get the best out of it if you don't know the whys and hows.
My recommendations (for the record, I have read ALL of these):
"NEW ATKINS FOR A NEW YOU" - Dr. Westman, Dr. Phinney, Dr. Volek
It enjoys a wide following as the most popular low carb plan among all fitness levels. Ideal for people who are obese or morbidly obese, or have severe metabolic syndrome, because that was for whom the diet was originally designed.
"PROTEIN POWER" - Dr. Michael Eades, Dr. Mary Eades
For those who think Atkins might be a little too restrictive to stick with. This is the one I favor.
"PALEO DIET" - Dr. Loren Cordain
Great for people who are purists. Kind of like an omnivore "Raw Food" diet.
"PRIMAL BLUEPRINT" - Mark Sisson
Unlike the others, he's not a doctor. Just a former ironman triathelete who reformed his diet and lifestyle based on paleo principles. He has a very large following for its easy to follow and moderate restrictions.
Sometimes we'll read the books and the diet still doesn't work out for whatever reason. At least we have an informed base for discussion.
Which did you chose? If you haven't yet, what's it going to be?