Low Carbohydrate High Fat diets, also known as LCHF or “banting’ in many circles, are all the rage in the moment at South Africa. Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at UCT, Tim Noakes and his controversial book, The Meal Revolution, are the stars of the full-fat show.
Noakes claims that his LCHF diet helps people lose weight by eliminating the hunger sensation that most people feel when following traditional diet methods of cutting down calories along all spectrums of the food groups.
He also claims that it helps lower cholesterol, increase energy levels, improve athlete performance and even prevent the onset of diabetes and heart disease. Critics around the world are outspoken about the dangers of a LCHF diet, with many concerned with its extremeness in nature, the damage it can do to the body if not followed properly, the uncertainty of long-term results and its difficulty to maintain over long periods.
The LCHF diet works on the premise of severely cutting down your carbohydrate intake to 20g to 50g a day – which is the equivalent to half an apple. By removing all carbohydrates from the diet, the body will go into a state of ketosis – which means it will start using fat reserves to burn fuel and keep functioning, allowing for weight loss to occur.
The diet calls for the removal of all carbohydrates – which means, sugar, pasta, bread, beans, most fruit and even some types of vegetables such as peas, potatoes and carrots, are off limits. Alcohol is also be removed from the diet as beer, wine and spirits contain large amounts of sugar.
Probably the best part of a LCHF diet, is that it cuts out the consumption of unhealthy processed foods and sugar. Advocates claim that LCHF eating is a lifestyle, not a diet, and that you can eat as much as you want of the proposed foods – which is largely cheese, full-fat creams and milk, eggs, butter, coconut oil, green leafy vegetables, fatty meat cuts, nuts, seeds and some berries.
Removing processed breads, pastas, rice, biscuits, cereals and sweets from the diet can help prevent the onset of obesity and diabetes and lead to better overall health. This is also something that can be done in most other diets, and is not necessarily just a characteristic of the LCHF diet, however it is more strictly enforced on the LCHF and cheat days or meals are not advised at all.
Due to the above diet limitations, the LCHF diet makes it easy for the dieter to lose weight, and rather quickly at first, which helps to motivate the individual to not “cheat’ and continue with the diet. In doing so, the individual’s overall body composition will improve as they lose weight, their blood sugar levels will become stable and their risk for heart disease may go down in conjunction with the above.
Critics of the LCHF diets are largely concerned with the following factors:
It’s expensive – good quality dairy and meat (organic meat is called for on this diet, as cheaper brands of milk, cheeses and cuts of meats usually contain unhealthy hormones and antibiotics), nuts, seeds, berries, coconut oil and flour are all rather expensive food items. Snacking on a bag of biltong or nuts, rather than a banana or apple every day, can add up quickly. Cheaper, healthy food staples such as fruits, beans, whole-wheat breads and brown rice are not allowed.
Critics fear the limited food choices on the LCHF diet and say that the no-cheating policy is too extreme for modern dieters. They worry that the lack of fruit and some vegetables means less vitamins and minerals are ingested, leading to premature aging. The excess of protein in high consumption of meat, eggs and dairy can place pressure on the kidneys and even lead to kidney failure.
Doctors have seen an increase in the LDL cholesterol levels in some LCHF dieters, despite it being thought to lower cholesterol levels, and it is also known to cause constipation and even diarrhoea in some cases, due to the lack of fibre in the recommended foods.
Another big concern for dieters is that the LCHF diet can increase your intolerance for high-carbohydrate foods, making the people who do stop following the LCHF diet and return to eating even a small amount of carbohydrates, susceptible to abnormal increases in blood sugar level amounts.
Due to its extremity in nature and expense, the LCHF is not a diet for everyone, and should be undertaken with the help and guidance of a medical doctor. We would strongly advise seeing a medical professional before attempting this diet at home and to keep tab of your cholesterol levels if you do decide that this is the diet for you.
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