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.