Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Low Carb (Ketogenic) Dieting: An Argument for Paleolithic/Low Carbohydrate Lifestyle, Part 3

Low Carb Diet: Part 3

Honestly, I wish people would not refer to my lifestyle as Paleolithic.  There is nothing Paleo about it.  After all, I doubt that all the fine folks in Bedrock made fruit smoothies, drank coffee, or took fish oil capsules.  I prefer to think of my lifestyle as one that is just natural.  Whole foods, real foods, natural movements, and frequent movements.  Not Paleo. However, that is the brush with which I have been painted, so I guess I'm kinda stuck with it.  Anyway, I feel better now that I've cleared up my feelings about that label.

So, I want to spend today discussing  sweeteners before I move on to other issues raised in the first of this series.  I love sweet things, as do most people, but I don't like what sugars do to me.

There is nothing inherently wrong with natural sugars, but rather the frequency with which we consume them.  It seems that in our culture everything has to be sugar-sweetened, sugar-coated, or just sugar added for no apparent reason.  I'm not just talking about your white table sugar--I'm talking about ALL sugars.  The desire for sugar is so strong in our culture, including those of us who are Paleo, that the first thing most of us do when going on a diet is to find some sort of replacement for our favorite sweet treats that are "legal" to our new diets.  Don't believe me?  Just take a look on your grocers' shelves, refrigerators, and freezers.  Take a look at the Paleo blogs and recipe writers, too.  You'll see a million different cookie, cake, pudding, and candy recipes that are Paleo legal.  I think these things are fine, to a point, but should not be consumed on a regular basis--especially if they have a caloric-based, or artificial sweetener-based, sweetening agent.

Don't get me wrong--I love sweet things as much as everyone else, but I'm not going to sacrifice nutrient rich foods for the sake of a sweet treat.  I do, however, work something in almost every day.  It is always high fat (90+% calories from fat), always 100% natural, and always very lightly sweetened with stevia only.  I also only eat this treat if I need to bump up my fat ratio, which is almost every day.  A few tablespoons and I'm all set.

I avoid caloric sugar sources 100% of the time, these days.  Too many carbs. Period.  I am efficiently burning fat and I plan on staying that way, so I've been keeping my carbs extremely low (10-30g/day), and that just doesn't leave any room for sugar.  

I also avoid artificial sweeteners 90% of the time.  There is just too much evidence that these sweeteners can trigger an insulin response in some people and I just choose to steer clear, with the exception of the odd Coke Zero that I'll drink during the summer.  I know it is bad for me, but that's why I only have one every once in a while.  

One thing I don't buy into is the mentality that these artificial sweeteners are bad for you because of the Chinese study on aspartame.  You know, the one in which rats and roaches wouldn't eat it?  While I may agree that these things are probably NOT good for you, I will tell you this:  The day I start to take dietary cues from rats and roaches will be, well, never.  The use of artificial sweeteners should be limited, or even avoided, if the use of them triggers insulin responses or causes you to have cravings, etc, etc...  Some people have no problems, others do--we are individuals, so the decision is entirely up to you.

Sugar alcohols?  Well, no thanks.  One drop too many and you get a wicked case of the scoots.  For me, and many others, these sweeteners really kick the sugar cravings into high gear and can trigger benders.  They also can trigger an insulin response in some people.  I avoid them--you use your own discretion.

This next one is sad.  Fructose.  Yes, the sugar found in fruit.  Guess what?  Fructose serves no useful purpose in the body.  It can't be converted to any sort of energy that your body can immediately use, so guess what?  It hits the liver and the liver lays it down as--------belly fat!!!  I nearly wept when I read that, but it made sense to me when, after giving up all fruit for three weeks, I noticed my belly fat disappearing.  No sit-ups or crunches--heck, no exercise at all--and that pesky layer of fat that still surrounded my mid-section and lower abdominal's began to disappear.  I can actually see the definition of my obliques now.  First time ever.  This is not to say that we should never eat fruit--it is good for us, after all.  We should not eat so much, though.  I also believe that as long as we have an excess of belly fat, we should avoid it like the plague.  

Stevia.  Good stuff all around.  As long as you get 100% stevia, this is acceptable by anyone's definition.  Besides being a great sweetener, it actually helps to improve your health by increasing your insulin sensitivity.  I have never heard or read about anyone having their cravings increase when using this, nor have I ever heard of or read about anyone's insulin response being triggered by it.  My best advice is to use this for most, if not all, of your sweetening needs.  Be careful though and check ingredients because often-times you'll find manufacturers have added sugar alcohols or fructose to the mix.

My final word on sweets is this:  I eat dessert nearly every day.  Most wouldn't call it dessert because it isn't really very sweet--just enough stevia to take the edge off of the bitter cocoa powder--but I find it very satisfying.  I also find that at the end of each day, my ratio of fat:protein:carbs is a little off and I need to bump up my fat, and only my fat.  So, I take a bit of heavy cream, with a touch of stevia, and a teaspoon or two of cocoa powder and blitz it in the food processor for a few seconds and then toss the whole lot into the freezer.  A few tablespoons is really all I want or need.  It is refreshing and massively satisfying.  Plus, it's loaded with a lot of good fat.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Low Carb (Ketogenic) Dieting: An Argument for Paleolithic/Low Carbohydrate Lifestyle, Part 2

Low Carb (Ketogenic) Dieting: Part 2

Today I’m going to get started without all the preamble, and just get right to it.  I’ll discuss the three types of nutritional energy, and address two of the areas from my lastpost:

  • ·       Why you want to keep your fat intake high, and why the type of fat you choose makes a difference.
  • ·       Why you want to keep your protein intake moderate, rather than high—the dangers of too much protein.

Carbohydrates, Fats, and Protein

Carbs, fat, and protein are the only dietary sources of energy that your body has at its disposal, and like grades of gasoline for your car, you have a selection: high test, mid grade, and the cheap stuff.  Also, like your car, your body will run on the cheap and mid grades.  For a while.  We also know about the knocks, pings, and overall reduced performance of the cars getting the lesser qualities.  Now, if that car were a high-performance vehicle, like a Porsche, you wouldn't dream of putting the cheaper fuels into it, right?  Well, why then, would you choose the cheaper sources of fuel for your most precious bit of equipment?  I’m talking about your body.

Sure, your body can, and will, use carbs as a source of fuel—and will even re-tune itself to use them almost to exclusivity—but that’s only because we shovel so many of them in each day. 

I think of carbohydrates as being the lowest quality of the fuels.  It is the only source of dietary energy that is completely optional.  If you think I’m full of it, check out the studies done on the Inuit people.  They gorge on fat, rarely see a vegetable, and their protein intakes are moderate, yet they are among the healthiest, tallest, and strongest people (as a whole) than the carb eaters.  What’s really telling, though, is that those who have moved away, so that they’d be closer to towns, etc., and have adopted a more “heart healthy” diet, are getting just as fat and sick as the rest of us. (Patricia Gadsby, 2004)

In fact, most indigenous cultures that did not utilize agriculture, were notably taller and had better muscle development than their counterparts who raised vegetables and grains.  Their diets consisted almost entirely of fat and protein.  They consumed roots, nuts, and seeds.  They ate berries and wild fruits when they were in season.  Everything they ate was, according to the gold standard of eating--local, fresh, and seasonal.  These nomadic people hunted and gathered.  Their health, including dental, was better than what we see today in the modern world. (Enig, 2000)

The literature, research, and published studies are so numerous—overwhelming, in fact—that support the consumption of fat in favor of carbs, yet we are still being told to eat carbs and cut the fat out.  Why?
Well, carbs are cheap.  Grains are cheap to grow, easy to produce, and fill a lot of bellies for a lot less money and time than it would take to raise enough animals (properly) to feed the whole of the world.  This is a conundrum.  Is it better to have a world with a small population of healthy people, or a large population of sick people?  You really don’t want my answer.  Suffice to say that I can’t save the whole world, and neither can you—but we can save ourselves.
I know, and I’m fond of saying, none of us is getting out of this alive.  That doesn't mean I have to suffer, needlessly, before I check out, though.  The older I get, the more determined I am to not become one of the zillions of seniors taking handfuls of prescription drugs every day—most of which are to combat the effects of their diet—when the prescription for health and vitality just happens to be the foods I choose to eat.

So, we have our cheap fuel—carbs—what about our mid-grade?  Protein.  This is where a lot of problems and disagreements come—even among us Paleo folks.  Some say high, others say moderate.  I’m in the latter group.  Whether you are trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or simply maintain your weight, your protein needs remain the same.  Yes, you read that right—they stay the same. The following chart shows the minimum recommended amount of protein needed by gender/age group.  
Remember, this table shows the absolute barest amount of protein required each day.  This would be for normal people, of normal weight, and low activity levels.  That's probably you.  However, athletes and really large people need to up their protein.  This, taken from, will help to give you a better idea of where you need to be: 
  • The base level (assuming no activity and no desire to change body composition) is around 0.8g per kilogram body weight (50g for a 137.5lb person) or above. More is not harmful, but this seems to be the bare minimum
  • An athlete or highly active person, or a person who is sedentary and looking to lose body fat would do well with a range between 1-1.5g per kilogram. For a 200lb person, this equates to 91-136g daily
  • An athlete or active person who wishes to beneficially influence their body composition (lose fat and/or gain muscle) or a very highly active endurance athlete should be consuming in the range of 1.5-2.2g per kilogram daily (for our 200lb person, this equates to 136-200g daily)
Each individual, depending on height, age, and lean body mass, requires a certain amount of protein.  The amino acids in protein rebuild muscle, organs, cells—everything.  Without enough protein these constantly occuring repairs cannot take place.  Too much protein?  Well, it’s essentially going to undergo a process called gluconeogenesis, which means it’s going to be converted to sugar, have a mild impact on your insulin, and then get stored as fat.  (Phinney, The Art and Science of Low Carb Living, 2011)

Good sources of protein are shown in the table below:

As you can see, you really don't need to eat a whole lot of meat to get sufficient protein.

One of the primary reasons so many people do so well on a ketogenic diet is because they aren't constantly overwhelming their insulin with all the carbs.  So, why would you want to over consume protein if it’s just going to do the same thing?  Granted, it’s not as severe as with carbs, but it does happen.  This is also why I believe so many people fail on ketogenic diets.  They hit a stall (and everyone will), and they immediately cut the fat and bump up the protein.  Bad choice.  My suggestion to you is this: if the diet was working and you haven’t changed it before you stalled out, leave things alone—plateaus are a natural part of the process.  I've read accounts of people hitting a stall of ten or more weeks before they broke.

I discussed this very issue with my sister last night and told her that was something I’d given a great deal of thought.  If you feel better, were losing weight, and you like what you’re eating, even if you never lost another pound—why on earth would you resume eating foods that you know will make you gain weight and feel horrible?  That’s where I’m at.  If not even one more speck of fat leaves my body, I’ll live with it.  I can’t imagine eating pasta, cakes, and other foods that I know will make me miserable.

Though I don’t need to lose any pounds, I do need to lose some body fat and develop better musculature.  I know I’ll do it, and by the end of the year, I plan on being extremely toned.  I’ve already started the photo journal that I will post at the end of the year so that you can see with your very own eyes how fat can make you less fat.

Ok.  So, we've covered carbs and protein.  What about fat?  How much and what types?  This is the one that freaks most people out, because I believe that your fat intake should be greater than 65% of your daily caloric intake.  This will increase depending on your caloric needs, and that varies from individual to individual.  It also varies during different stages of your life.  When you are less active, you need less energy; and when you are more active you need more energy.  If your protein requirements stay the same, and your carb requirements stay the same, there’s only one other source to bump up your calories when your body needs them, and that is through fat.

The best fats? Saturated and monounsaturated fats. 

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and have been given a bad rap by many in the scientific/medical community.  The truth is, these are very healthy fats provided carbohydrate intake is low.  Without saturated fats our bodies can’t absorb calcium which leads to bone loss and osteoporosis; they actually help to improve your cholesterol levels by increasing your HDL (good) cholesterol; helps your immune system due to their anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties; and it provides energy for your brain and nervous system. (Walling, 2010)

Where do we find saturated fats? Palm and coconut oils.  Butter.  Dark chocolate. Rendered animal fats (tallow and lard).  Fish.  Meat.  Cheese.  These are all excellent—and delicious—natural saturated fat sources.  I realize that for every article I cite stating the benefits of saturated fats (or fats in general), you’ll be able to find 100 more that say NO!  To that, all I can say is this:  Look at those who eat this way and then make your decision.  The proof is there to dispute what the so-called experts are saying.

Monounsaturated fats (MUFA’s) are considered good fats by anyone’s reckoning. They can be found in avocado, seeds, and nuts, to name a few.  A quote from “Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.  They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Monounsaturated fats are also typically high in vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin most Americans need more of.” 

There are also  polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s), and this is where disagreements abound.  Some say yes, yes, yes... others say no way, Jose, and others say, some but not certain ones.  Again, I fall into the latter category.  Not all PUFAs are bad for you.  What I find shocking is that anyone would call canola oil a good one.  I’m sorry, but it is so over-processed that whatever benefits it may have had isn't worth it.  Add to the over-processing the fact that they have to deodorize it—well, I want my fat without deodorant.

The worst thing I can say about these types of fats is that they contain too much Omega-6.  Yes, we are supposed to have Omega-6 in our diet, but not to the extent that we get it.  Ideally, we should have a 1:1 ratio of Omega6:Omega3, two essential fatty acids (essential because the only way to get them is to eat them)—but the truth is, we get far more Omega-6 than Omega-3, which is another cause for so much chronic inflammation, pain, and the whole litany of health hazards associated with chronic inflammation, that it would behoove us all to mind ourselves when it comes to the PUFAs.

Ah, I touched on the Omega-6:Omega-3’s in the previous paragraph.  A few more words on that topic.  Again, they are called essential because you can only get them by ingestion.  So, while the ratio should be 1, it is much higher than that—15:1—in the average diet.  Even us Paleo folks tend to get too many because we think these PUFAs are good for us, or we overeat nuts.  Whatever the reason, we all need to drastically reduce the amounts of Omega-6 in our diets. (The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, 2002)

Well, that’s it for our overview of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates as fuel sources.  Next time, I’ll explain how we can convert our bodies—our high performance machines—into fat burners, and keep them that way.
Until then...


Barbour S. Warren, R. A. (n.d.). Phytoestrogens and Breast Cancer. Retrieved from Cornell:
David L J Freed, A. (n.d.). Do dietary lectins cause disease? Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine ,PubMed:
Dr. Dwayne Lundell, M. (2012, March). World Renown Heart Surgeon Speaks Out on What Really Causes Heart Disease. Retrieved from Prevent Disease:
Enig, S. F. (2000, January). Guts and Grease: The Diet of Native Americans. Retrieved from The Weston A. Price Foundation:
Eric Westman, J. V. (2010). A New Atkins For a New You. NYC: Fireside/Simon & Schuster.
Guyenet, S. (n.d.). Gluten Sensitivity: Celiac Disease is the Tip of the Iceberg. Retrieved from Whole Health Source:
Howard BV, M. J. (2006, January 4). Low-fat dietary pattern and weight change over 7 years: the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial. Retrieved from
Lê, L. T.-A. (2010, January). Metabolic Effects of Fructose and the Worldwide Increase in Obesity. Retrieved from American Physiological Society:
Patricia Gadsby, L. S. (2004, October). The Inuit Paradox. Retrieved from Discover Magazine:
Phinney, J. V. (2011). The Art and Science of Low Carb Living. Beyond Obesity LLC.
Phinney, J. V. (2012). The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. Beyond Obesity LLC.
Tell, P. C. (n.d.). US National Library of Medicine . Retrieved from PubMed:
The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health. (2002, October). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Retrieved from Pub Med:
Tommy Jönsson, S. O.-H. (n.d.). Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence – Do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance? Retrieved from BioMedical Central:
Walling, E. (2010, January). Get Saturated: Four Reasons Saturated Fat is Healthy. Retrieved from Natural News:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Low Carb (Ketogenic) Dieting: An Argument for Paleolithic/Low Carbohydrate Lifestyle, Part 1

Low Carb (Ketogenic) Dieting: Part 1

Ketogenic, or low-carb, diets have been around for a long time, and are still terribly misunderstood.  I've decided to take some time exploring this topic in a series of posts.  Between reading copious amounts of literature over the years, and my own personal experience, I feel qualified to discuss, at length, this way of eating.  These will also be some of the very few posts in which I will be citing a number of studies that I have found to be excellent, as well as a lot of anecdotal evidence.

Part of what I've seen over the past year on the paleo and gluten free forums is that a lot of people use these two styles of eating for weight loss, but experience the opposite.  Why is that?  Well, their carbs are often times too high.  When the carbs aren't too high, their protein levels are.  To make matters worse, their fat intake isn't high enough.

Then, you have those who are of normal weight who choose one of these ways of eating just because they've figured out that conventional wisdom has it wrong. They soon find their weight creeping up, bit by bit.

I have also noticed that many athletes (excluding the endurance athletes) start eating this way--and they seem to thrive.  I've read in the forums how they eat and I see why.  They eat more fat than anything.  The endurance athletes usually drop off the map after about two weeks, saying that they feel sick and weak.  Why?  Because they aren't fat adapted.  If you're an endurance athlete, I'll explain why this happens, and how you can make things right.

I've decided to analyze every aspect of the paleo and gluten-free lifestyles, and how you can prevent weight gain, induce rapid weight loss, and not miss more than 2 or 3 weeks of your precious training time, when it is combined with a low-carb diet.  How you can, and should, stay in a ketogenic state for your entire life.  Why it is desirable to be in this fat-adapted state for life.

Finally, starting sometime next month, I will be posting photos of my own progress to a fitter, leaner me.  I will also post some videos of some of my workouts demonstrating that you don't need a gym to do weight training, or even a lot of space.  Before we dive into this series, those of you who are endurance athletes who think it impossible to cut your carbs so low, remember this:  I ran a full marathon (my first) in extreme desert heat, with nothing more than water, in a ketogenic state.  Without stopping.  It can be done.  Greater distances can, and have been done by others.  

The topics I’ll be covering over the next several posts (not necessarily in this order) will be:

·       What constitutes a low-carb diet, and why we should consider this lifestyle.
·       Kudos and problems with the Atkins Diet, and how to make Atkins work for you.
·       Why you want to keep your fat intake high, and why the type of fat you choose makes a difference.
·       Why you want to keep your protein intake moderate, rather than high—the dangers of too much protein.
·       What effect does a ketogenic diet have on sports performance—this will surprise you!
·       Metabolic syndrome, diabetes, autism, seizures, and heart health.
·       Why low-fat/high carb diets are such failures, even for the mere 1/3 of the population that can actually thrive on them.
·       Leg cramps, weakness, fatigue, and headaches:  Low-carb flu, or something else?
·       Cravings and how to beat them.
·       How long is safe to stay in a ketogenic state.
·       The difference between nutritional ketosis, and ketoacidosis.
·       Do calories count?

Wow! Lots to cover, so let’s jump right in.

What is a low-carb diet, and why we should consider it

Before you attempt a low carbohydrate diet, or decide to discard the notion completely, read everything in this series.

A diet low in carbohydrates is one in which carbs are limited such that you reach a state of nutritional ketosis.  This is when your blood ketones reach a level somewhere between 0.5 millimolar and 3.0 millimolar.  Going above this range is not beneficial, and potentially dangerous.  Most people will go into a state of ketosis when they consume less than 50 grams of carbohydrates/day.

The higher the level of ketones in your blood (within the therapeutic range listed above), the faster you lose pounds and inches.  To reach higher levels of ketones, simply reduce the amount of carbohydrate intake.  Reducing much below 20 grams/day is not necessarily a good idea, though, because that would limit the amount of vegetables you could eat such that you would lose out on the benefits of the fiber, vitamins, and macro-nutrients that your body needs.  Besides, it would simply not be sustainable for very long.  I have found that with 20 grams/day, I can burn fat while enjoying a wide variety of fresh vegetables, and stave off boredom.

One thing most people don’t realize—and why so many fail on low carb—is that Atkins, and others like it, are not high protein diets.  They also don’t realize that after the initial induction period of two weeks, that if weight loss drops off, they need to do a few things, the first of which is to decrease your calories. I know, I know.  You are considering this diet because you don’t want to count calories. Well.  Boo-hoo. Sometimes we have to do what we don’t want to do.  That’s life.

The second thing you have to do is add fat.  As counter-intuitive as this seems, it is exactly what you have to do.  So, how do you add more fat while cutting calories when you've already slashed your carbs down to 20 grams/day? You likely will need to cut your protein.  Later, I’ll explain why this isn't a bad idea.

Honestly, I’d advise using, from the start, a food tracker such as that found at  You can customize it for a low-carb diet, or just use it, as is.  Enter everything you eat, and at the end of the day, you can see the graphs that give you the percentages of fat/protein/carb consumed each day.  Most of your calories (68-80%) should come from fat.  Yes, you read that right.  If you don’t reach and maintain these levels you will not stay in a continuous state of nutritional ketosis, and you will not burn fat efficiently. Another 15-20% from protein, and only about 4-5% from carbs
If slashing your carbs to such a low level frightens you, let me assure you of this one, simple fact: Carbohydrates are optional.  Again, not a typo.  The only reason one would need to eat any carbs is to stave off boredom, and not have to take a daily truckload of vitamins and supplements.  There is no need to eat carbs unless you don’t get enough fat. (Phinney)

So, why would we want to enter a state of ketosis?  That’s simple: to enable our bodies to use our fat stores as a source of energy, rather than sugar.  This is extremely advantageous for a number of reasons.  The first being that even the fittest athletes (<10% body fat) have tens of thousands of calories at their disposal to use to fuel their activities.  This equates to days and days of readily available energy, provided their bodies are fat adapted, rather than sugar adapted.
In a ketogenic state, the body uses stored and dietary fat as its primary fuel source.  This is good, too, because our blood only carries the equivalent of 2 teaspoons of sugar, in the form of glucose, at any given time.  If we aren't efficient fat burners, we have to continuously refuel with carbohydrates because our bodies and our brains will be competing for the same blood sugars.  Since the brain can only utilize glucose or ketones for energy, the battle for the available glucose in our bodies will rage on—unless we find an alternate, readily available source of energy for muscle, organ, and cellular function.  This means ketones.  When a person is in a keto-adapted state, there is always plenty of fuel for everything.

Add to that the fact that when you are keto-adapted your insulin isn't spiking like mad, creating all sorts of inflammation which, in turn, creates insulin resistance—and eventually type II diabetes, high levels of blood lipids—increased risk of coronary artery disease and strokes, fatty liver disease, and metabolic syndrome, just to name a few.
According to world renown heart surgeon, Dr. Dwight Lundell, it’s inflammation, and not fat, that is causing the epidemic of death due to heart disease and other chronic illnesses.  Fully 25% of all Americans are on these expensive statins and low fat diets, yet the incidence of fatal heart attacks and strokes are not being reduced.  In fact, the opposite is true.

“These recommendations are no longer scientifically or morally defensible. The discovery a few years ago that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated.

The long-established dietary recommendations have created epidemics of obesity and diabetes, the consequences of which dwarf any historical plague in terms of mortality, human suffering and dire economic consequences.”  (Dr. Dwayne Lundell, 2012)

His entire article (cited below) is very worthy of a thorough reading. 
For this reason alone—regardless of your body’s composition or state of overweight/leanness—a ketogenic diet makes sense.

Kudos and problems of the Atkins diet, and how to make Atkins work for you

After reading the book, A New Atkins For a New You, I was left shaking my head.  After so much research has been done with regard to dietary phytates, phytoestrogens, lectins, and gluten, the authors are still calling grains—especially whole grains—healthy.  They also advocate the eventual addition of legumes.
What am I talking about?  These next few paragraphs will be a primer on phytates and phytoestrogens, and the negatives associated with them.  As for the gluten, well, most of you know enough about that, so I’ll only go over the absolute main reason for avoiding wheat, and gluten, in particular.

First, phytates.  Phytates, or phytic acids, are substances found in whole grains.  They bind to minerals such as magnesium, iron, manganese, and calcium,  thus, blocking their absorption.  Phytates exist in nature primarily  to ward off pests, including humans.  There is no scientifically sound reason to eat them, and since most of us don’t get enough quality nutrition—especially minerals—we have even more reason to steer clear.  While many foods contain them, even nuts and seeds, we can remove most of them by simply not eating the skins which is where the phytates are concentrated. Removal of the skins from nuts and seeds is done easily enough and without processing--the same can't be said for grains because the outer hull (bran) that contains the worst of these phytates. So, if you really have to break down and eat a grain, processed grains and not whole grains, are the lesser of two evils.  
Second, phytoestrogens. These are, as the name implies,  compounds that behave like estrogen in the body, and are found in whole grains, legumes, and to a lesser extent, nuts and seeds. Soy is the worst, with 3 times the amount of phytoestrogens than the other legumes and grains.  This is still an area that requires a great deal of study since, in my opinion, the human studies have been inadequate (usually 10 or less subjects).  Most other scientists agree with this opinion.  Most other scientists will also tell you that long-term exposure to estrogen (beyond your child bearing years) will increase your risk for breast cancer. (Barbour S. Warren)  So, I’ve decided to err on the side of caution, as should you, and not take the risk that those who are in favor of these compounds really don’t know if they’re right or not.  Also, since I don’t know who paid for all of them, I can’t attest to the veracity of them.  The one I have cited clearly states that more research in this arena needs to be done before anyone can call them good.

Thirdly, we have lectins, which are also found in whole grains, and are carbohydrate binding proteins.  What’s so bad about them, then, if they bind to carbohydrates? Well, because they also bind to insulin receptors, the human intestinal lining, and are linked with worsening leptin resistance. (Tell) (David L J Freed) (Tommy Jönsson)

Then we have our beloved “wheat.”  Since this particular grain no longer resembles the wheat our parents and grandparents consumed (genetically), let alone the original wheat from thousands of years ago (einkorn wheat), most people simply cannot tolerate wheat, let alone the gluten that is found in it.  What really blew my mind when reading the Atkins book was the fact that they push vital wheat gluten, the absolute worst part of the wheat.

Gluten, which is found mostly in wheat, barley, and rye, is a compound of gliaden and glutenin.  Those who have the worst response to these two compounds have a condition called celiac disease, and even the smallest amount—yes, even a crumb of cookie—causes them horrific health problems.  It is believed that 1% of the population suffers from this, though it can’t really be verified because not everyone gets tested.  Ok, so you likely aren’t a celiac.  Guess what? It is estimated that about 30% of the population tests positive for Antigliadin, or IgA. (Guyenet)  This is an antibody sent from the gut to ward off IgA.  So, because you have this immune response to fight something off, you’ve just increased your level of inflammation.  Eat enough of the stuff and you get chronic inflammation.  Bad news.
So, for a bunch of people who like to call themselves “trailblazers” in the nutritional arena they, like those they supposedly go against (pushers of the conventional wisdom), have fallen into the same damned trap when it comes to grains.  Grains, especially whole grains are NOT good for you.  They serve no useful purpose.  Period.  I just wish the good folks at Atkins would wake up with respect to this.

Now, don’t take my previous rant as an attack on the much beloved, Dr. Atkins, as I DO consider him to have been a trailblazer.  The thing is, he didn't have all of this information about grains and the hazards of gluten at his disposal.  He got the rest right though, and I am positive that if he were alive today he would be telling us all about the perils of whole grains in our diets.

One really excellent take-away that I did get from the book (and I got many) was that there is no such thing as the so-called “golden opportunity” with respect to low carb diets.  If you are not familiar with this phrase, it implies that you have one shot, and one shot only, at making Atkins work for you.  Well, that’s a lie.  Oh, so you've experienced it for yourself?  So have I.  But guess what?  It’s because we were doing it wrong, that’s why.  I have read a number of success stories on the Atkins web site ( of people who were on and off the Atkins diet numerous times and still lost massive (>100 lbs) of weight, because they finally got it.

What were the rest of us doing that caused us to stop losing after the initial induction?  Cutting fat, increasing protein, not paying attention to total caloric intake, eating processed foods, consuming sugar alcohols by the truckload, etc., etc...

Next time, we’ll discuss these very pitfalls.
Until then...

Works Cited

Barbour S. Warren, R. A. (n.d.). Phytoestrogens and Breast Cancer. Retrieved from Cornell:
David L J Freed, A. (n.d.). Do dietary lectins cause disease? Retrieved from US National Library of Medicine ,PubMed:
Dr. Dwayne Lundell, M. (2012, March). World Renown Heart Surgeon Speaks Out on What Really Causes Heart Disease. Retrieved from Prevent Disease:
Eric Westman, J. V. (2010). A New Atkins For a New You. NYC: Fireside/Simon & Schuster.
Guyenet, S. (n.d.). Gluten Sensitivity: Celiac Disease is the Tip of the Iceberg. Retrieved from Whole Health Source:
Howard BV, M. J. (2006, January 4). Low-fat dietary pattern and weight change over 7 years: the Women's Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial. Retrieved from
Phinney, J. V. (2011). The Art and Science of Low Carb Living. Beyond Obesity LLC.
Phinney, J. V. (2012). The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance. Beyond Obesity LLC.
Tell, P. C. (n.d.). US National Library of Medicine . Retrieved from PubMed:
Tommy Jönsson, S. O.-H. (n.d.). Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence – Do evolutionary novel dietary lectins cause leptin resistance? Retrieved from BioMedical Central: