What is Low carb Healthy fat anyway?

Low carb Healthy fat simply involves eating more natural & good fats and few carbohydrates. Why would we do eat fewer carbs and more fat? To become healthier, to lose weight, to reduce inflammation, to reverse diabetes and to decrease or eliminate the risk of a host of other lifestyle diseases like hypertension, blood pressure, cholesterol problems, heart disease etc. But to prevent all these diseases, we must eat less fat, right? May be not. We are so used to the ‘low calorie, low fat’ and ‘eat less, exercise more’ theory for many decades. Has it worked? Does it work? Is it the right approach? Answer is a big NO.

Let’s understand the nutrition science in a little more depth.

There are three sources of energy for the human body:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Carbohydrate

Mainstream Food Pyramid recommends that we eat mostly by carbs, a little protein and very less fat – as energy for our body.

But with LCHF Way of Eating, the main source of energy is fat, not carbohydrate.The body is fuelled in the following distribution

~30 % fat (The more , the better – effective)

~ 45% protein (more or less to be in this range)

~ 25% carbs (The less, the better – effective)

Why should we fuel our body in this “unconventional” way?

(People refer to the last 70-100 years as ‘conventional’)

When we eat carbohydrates, it gets digested and coverts into glucose (sugar) which the bloodstream transports throughout the body. Three things can happen with glucose:

  • It can be burnt immediately for energy
  • Or, it is stored as glycogen in limited amounts
  • Or else, it is converted to fat

There should be a very small amount of sugar circulating in the blood (less than a teaspoon , approx. 5 gm.). If there is excessive glucose in the blood, it is dangerous. So the body has a mechanism to move the sugar out of the blood stream.

How does the body move sugar out of our bloodstream? The hormone called ‘insulin’ makes it happen. Insulin is a

  • blood glucose regulatory hormone
  • fat creating & storage hormone

Insulin does 3 things:

  • Moves blood sugar out of the blood stream
  • Converts the excess of blood sugar into fat
  • Prevents the use of existing/stored body fat as a source of energy

The carbs we are eating is making us fat. The constant high level of insulin secreted because you’re constantly eating carbohydrates makes you fat. If insulin is low, body will use your own stored body fat as fuel.If insulin is high, body will use some carbs for energy and store the remaining carbs as fat. If you eat carbs, insulin will be high. Therefore, stored body fat is not used for energy.

Eating a lot of carbohydrate acts as a metabolic bully, it blocks your body from burning its own fat, just like a playground bully who doesn’t let other kids use the swing.

How to make the body secrete less insulin?

Eat fewer carbohydrates, preferably from non-sugary, non-starchy, unrefined sources. Most carbohydrates (except from some plant sources) create a high insulin response. To reduce insulin response, it is best that the preferable sources of carbs are dark green  vegetables.

  • More & unhealthy carbs –> more insulin —> more fat storage
  • Few & healthy carbs –> less insulin —> less fat storage

Fat storage vs Glycogen storage

  • Body has limited storage sites for carbohydrate
  • There is unlimited storage sites for fat in the body
  • Even a thin person carries about a 2-month reserve of fat supply

So, when you eat a high-carb meal, the body fills up the limited glycogen storage sites, and converts the excess carbs to fat and fills up the fat storage sites. That’s why when you eat a high-carb meal, most of it get converted to fat. So, you’ll feel hungry again in around 3 hours. And you’ll eat another high-carb meal or snack. This happens around 5-6 times a day. So, more and more fat stores in the body.

Conversion of glucose to fat is a one-way street. You cannot convert fat back to glucose.

What happens when we eat fewer carbohydrates on the LCHF WOE?

LCHF diet

You burn more body fat and store less. Instead of manufacturing new body fat, you’ll burn existing body fat.

  • 1 gram fat = 9 calories
  • 1 gram protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gram carbs = 4 calories
  • 1 gram alcohol = 7 calories

All calories are not equal. Try eating 200 calories from butter, 200 calories from meat and 200 calories from rice. And see which makes you more full.

You can’t eat more than 30 gms of butter at a go. That’s 270 calories. On the other hand you can easily eat a cup (about 190gms) of cooked brown rice. That’s around 760 calories.

See the difference?  Fat is a satiating form of energy that creates minimal insulin response and helps reduce your food intake.

Bottom line :

  • On the LCHF, it is better to count carbs instead of calories.
  • You don’t have to eat less, you just have to eat right.

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