From time to time extremely dangerous diets catch on which pose danger to people's healths. So to help you protect yourself against these, I'd share a few thoughts about how to construct a healthy and effective low carb diet you can eat safely for years.
1. A low carb diet should not be a high protein diet.
Too much protein raises the amount of circulating insulin in your body and contributes to the dragon's breath that is such a common, and unfortunate side effect of low carb dieting. Once you have eaten enough protein to repair your muscles and provide material from which the liver can synthsize the small amount of extra glucose your neurons may need when you are eating a very low carb diet, there's no need to eat more.
You can find out exactly how much protein you need to eat using our newly redesigned Low Carb Nutritional Calculator. It now let's you calculate your protein need at any carbohydrate intake.
2. A Very Low Carb Diet Should Be a High Fat Diet.
If you are eating a diet that provides less than 80 grams of carbohydrate a day--a ketogenic diet, most of the calories in your low carb diet should be coming from fat. Fat, unlike protein, does NOT raise blood sugar or provoke any insulin response.
Now that Gary Taubes has thoroughly debunked the badly conducted, politically motivated research that was used to argue that fat caused heart disease, we can all relax and enjoy the fat we eat.
The exception to the goodness of fats is trans fat. And despite all the labels that claim "no trans fat", any food that lists "hydrogenated" fats of any type on the label does contain trans fat. There are lots of them and you should avoid eating them.
3. A Low Carb Diet That Provides More than 120 grams of Carb a Day Should NOT Be A High Fat Diet
My recent review of the research about low carb diets, conducted while writing my new book, Diet 101: The Truth About Low Carb Diets brought home to me how important it is to remember that fat is only healthy on low carb diets that are very low in carbs. As your carbohydrate intake rises out of the ketogenic range (which extends from about 70 to 100 grams a day, depending on body size) you must cut back on your fat intake. By the time your carbs have reached 150 grams a day, your fat intake should not be higher than 30% of total calories. My new Low Carb Nutritional Calculator uses this concept to recommend how much fat you should eat at various carbohydrate intake levels..
4 I've Reversed My Recommendations About Supplemental B Vitamins.
It's traditional to recommend that people not eating grains should supplement with B vitamins. But over the past few years new data about B vitamin supplementation has made it clear that, as has been the case with so many other vitamins, B vitamin pills may actually worsen, not improve your health. Supplementation with B vitamins has been linked to increases in the speed at which kidneys deteriorate and to a higher risk of strokes.
If you don't eat grains, get your B vitamins from cheese, yogurt, and green vegetables.
5. Use Morton's Salt Substitute to Replace Potassium
A low carb diet especially in its early phases flushes a lot of fluid out of your body. You can read why this is HERE. The diuretic effect can cause you to lose potassium and if that happens you may get leg cramps.
Sprinkling a bit of Morton's Salt Substitute on your food is all you need to do to correct any potassium imbalance--UNLESS you are taking a potassium sparing blood pressure medicine. In that case, do NOT supplement with potassium.
If you aren't sure if your blood pressure medicine is potassium sparing or not, ask a pharmacist. If you are taking a potassium sparing drug you don't have to worry about losing potassium.
If you are low in potassium, the usual symptom is leg cramping which resolves as soon as you consume a sprinkle of the salt substitute which is pure potassium. You can buy it in most supermarkets in the section where the salt is sold.
6. Eat LOTS of Greens and Berries.
If you only eat meat and cheese on your "low carb" diet you are going to end up missing valuable nutrients. If you eat meat and greens and packaged "low carb" foods full of chemicals and hidden carbs, you are also going to miss out on those nutrients--and you are going to end up gaining weight, as many packaged foods include ingredients that are forms of MSG (like hydrolyzed vegetable protein) that make you hungry.
In the old days, people in the low carb community used to tell each other "When you visit the supermarket, Shop the edges" . That's because, typically, fruit, veggies, meat, nuts, eggs and dairy are arranged around the outside edge of the market and all the prepared foods are in the aisles. The more you eat from the edges, the healthier you will be. Frozen veggies are fine, too.
7. Don't Use Soy Protein
Many low carb recipes tell you to use soy flour. Don't. It tastes nasty to many of us, and soy can have negative effects on your thyroid and can disturb your sex hormone balance. Whey protein powder tastes better than soy and has no hormonal effects. I use it in quite a few of my recipes. Vanilla or plain are best for cooking.
If you find yourself feeling depressive after a few weeks of your low carb diet, cut out any of the soy foods you may have added, including tortillas, "low carb" breads, or cereals. You may be amazed at how much cheerier you feel.
8. Don't Cut Your Calories Below 1000 a Day. Yes, you can lose weight by starving yourself, but do you really want to lose weight in a way that may damage your metabolism and make it impossible to maintain your weight loss?
The point of any weight loss diet is to learn a new way of eating that will be one you can sustain through the many years that follow your weight loss. The ugly secret, made crystal clear by all diet research, is that losing weight is easy, it's maintaining weight loss that's hard. And this is true no matter what diet you eat. In fact, the track record of low carb diets in the years after they achieve weight loss is quite poor. So why worsen what are already poor odds by eating a starvation diet that makes it even more likely you will regain whatever weight you lose?
Starvation diets also raise the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies that harm your body. Worst case, they can unbalance your electrolytes in a way that can kill you.