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Can I drink Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet?

Can I Drink Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet?

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

The short answer:  yes, but…

First, discuss with your doctor whether the use of alcohol may negatively impact your health.  Potential dangers include interacting with medications you may be taking and/or worsening certain chronic conditions you may have such as fatty liver, gout, and hypertension.

Should you and your doctor feel that occasional alcohol is safe for you, it can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a low carb lifestyle.  For example, there are lower-carb alcohol options that you can choose such as dry wines and spirits.  You can also use sugar-free mixers to enjoy low-carb variations of your favorite drinks like a rum and diet coke or a Moscow Mule made with diet ginger beer.

Remember however, that even if your doctor feels moderate alcohol is safe for you, it still can stall or greatly slow weight loss.   

General rules for alcohol use with low-carb diets:

  1. Choose dry wines (cabernet, pinot noir, chardonnay, Chablis, zinfandel), champagnes, spirits and (very) low carb beer if any beer at all. Remember to only combine with sugar-free mixers.

  2. Limit your consumption. Too many drinks can not only add up in calories from the alcohol but also limit your ability to steer clear of the dessert tray or reaching for snacks when you’re not hungry. Know the size of your pour and be aware of your limit!  We generally advise patients to stay under 1 drink per day.

  3. Try to avoid dessert wines like ports and sherries due to high sugar content. Likewise, avoid fruit-flavored cocktail mixers and dark beers. 

 

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Low Carb Travel Tips

Low Carb Travel Tips

(contributed by Linda Anegawa, MD, FACP)

Travel can be exhausting, even more so when you are committed to a healthier lifestyle. Even with careful planning, the unexpected can throw a wrench into things.  Canceled flights, traffic delays, and schedule changes are just a few of the things that can play havoc with your dietary plans.

Here are the best ways to set yourself up for success:

  1. Be Prepared

No matter how big or small the trip, having on-the-go food options will relieve a lot of stress.  Have a meal before leaving home, bring backup snacks, and seek out low-carb options.  Sticking to the basics can help you stay on plan and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Most restaurants and grocery stores will have healthy protein choices and vegetables available.

Look for a bun-less burger with salads, or a grilled protein with veggies and olive oil – it doesn’t have to be fancy.  Remember, proper trip preparation takes practice, but it will get easier over time.

  1. Do your food recon beforehand

Before leaving for your trip, scope out the food scene where you’re going.  Websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp are great resources for this!  And most restaurants have their menus available online.  You can even call a restaurant ahead of time to inform them of your dietary needs.  Most chefs will appreciate the opportunity to be better prepared to serve you, and don’t be afraid to ask for modifications.    

  1. Assert your needs – don’t be afraid to ask for what you want

Traveling with family or colleagues can be especially challenging.  It can be helpful to explain beforehand why you’re committed to a low-carb lifestyle.  The more people understand why you’re making the choices you are, the more likely they’ll be to support you and they may even give it a try themselves.  Another tip: try grocery shopping together for what you want when you arrive.

  1. Move past slips

Even when we try our best, sometimes we go a bit off plan. If you do, it’s important not to spend time beating yourself up. Show yourself some compassion – acknowledge you did the best you could under the circumstances, and then determine to make the next good choice to help you get back on track.

  1. Most of all – enjoy yourself!

At the end of it all, trips and vacations are meant to be enjoyed. Brainstorm ahead of time all the ways to have a good time there that don’t involve food. Go on a hike or walk to explore your new area. If you’re visiting loved ones, focus on spending time with them.  Try not to be obsessed about every meal…just do your best. 

Happy Travels!

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Should you go low-carb and, if so, how low should you go?

Should you go low-carb and, if so, how low should you go?

Before answering this question, let’s first cover the basics.

What is a carbohydrate? 

A carbohydrate is a type of calorie-providing macronutrient found in many foods and beverages.  Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. They can further be classified as simple refined (table sugar), simple natural (lactose in milk and fructose in fruit), complex refined (white flour) and complex natural (whole grains or beans).  Common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, nuts, seeds and legumes (beans, lentils, peas).

Food manufacturers also add refined carbohydrates to processed foods in the form of sugar or white flour. Examples of foods that contain refined carbohydrates are white breads and pasta, cookies, cake, candy, and sugar-sweetened sodas and drinks.

What is a low-carb diet? 

Very simply, a low-carb diet involves eating fewer carbohydrates and more healthy fats and protein than the current nutritional recommendations in the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  A low-carb diet limits carbohydrate — such as those found in grains, starchy vegetables and fruit — and emphasizes foods high in protein and fat. There are many types of low-carb diets such as Keto, Paleo, and Atkins and each has varying restrictions on the types and amounts of carbohydrates you can eat.

There are three levels of low-carb diets

  • VLCK (very low-carbohydrate ketogenic) diets recommend 30g or less of dietary carbohydrate per day (Hallberg et al., 2018).
  • LCK (low-carbohydrate ketogenic) diets recommend 30-50g of dietary carbohydrate per day (Saslow et al., 2017).
  • RC (reduced-carbohydrate) diets recommend 50-130g of dietary carbohydrate per day, a level that is higher than levels listed above and lower than the S. DRI for carbohydrate.

Is reducing carbohydrate intake safe and healthful? 

Carbohydrates are not actually an essential nutrient for human survival – only proteins and fats are essential nutrients.   Our ancestors lived for thousands of years with very little carbohydrates in the diet, simply because of a lack of availability of produce and grains.

However, the body can use carbohydrates as a fuel source. Here’s how it works:  complex carbohydrates (starches) are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They’re then absorbed into your bloodstream, where they’re known as blood sugar (glucose). In general, natural complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and they have less effect on blood sugar. Natural complex carbohydrates can also provide dietary fiber, and vitamins as well in the form of vegetables. 

Rising levels of blood sugar trigger the body to release insulin. Insulin helps glucose enter your body’s cells. Some glucose is used by your body for energy, whether it’s going for a jog or simply breathing. Extra glucose is usually stored in your liver, muscles and other cells for later use or is converted to fat.  Decreasing carbs lowers insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss.  Low-carb diets may help prevent or improve serious health conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Carbohydrate restriction is generally safe, however, if you suddenly and drastically cut carbs without taking in adequate fluids and vitamins, you may experience a variety of temporary symptoms, including headache, bad breath, weakness, muscle cramps, fatigue, skin rash and constipation or diarrhea.  In addition, severe carbohydrate restriction in the long term can result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies, bone loss and gastrointestinal disturbance.  It’s not clear what kind of possible long-term health risks a low-carb diet may pose because most research studies have lasted less than a year.  But given that data is showing improvement or even resolution of chronic health conditions like diabetes that shorten life, it’s believed that low-carb diets may be the best option for management of abnormal blood sugar, fatty liver, and metabolic syndrome. 

OK, now that you have the background information, should you go low-carb?

We recommend adopting a reduced-carb diet with a daily carbohydrate target of 100 grams as a key component of the LOVIDIA Way lifestyle.  A reduced-carb diet has many of the health benefits of low-carb (VLCK & LCK) eating without the extreme carbohydrate restriction.  A reduced-carb diet is a healthy, smart-eating approach.  It’s sustainable for life…and you don’t necessarily have to give up pizza!

A greater or lesser degree of carbohydrate restriction may be most appropriate for you as an individual since there is no “one size fits all” approach.  Check with your doctor before starting any lifestyle change program, especially if you have any health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.

REFERENCES:

Hallberg, S. J., McKenzie, A. L., Williams, P. T., Bhanpuri, N. H., Peters, A. L., Campbell, W. W., Volek, J. S. (2018). Effectiveness and Safety of a Novel Care Model for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes at 1 Year: An Open- Label, Non-Randomized, Controlled Study. Diabetes Therapy: Research, Treatment and Education of Diabetes and Related Disorders, 9(2), 583–612. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13300-018-0373-9

Saslow, L. R., Daubenmier, J. J., Moskowitz, J. T., Kim, S., Murphy, E. J., Phinney, S. D., … Hecht, F. M. (2017). Twelve- month outcomes of a randomized trial of a moderate-carbohydrate versus very low-carbohydrate diet in overweight adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes. Nutrition & Diabetes, 7(12), 304. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41387-017-0006-9

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Here’s Why Reduced-Carb Diets are So Effective (and Popular)

Here’s Why Reduced-Carb Diets are So Effective (and Popular)

It seems like there’s a new fad diet every few years that people are eager to hop on the bandwagon for. But just as quickly as they come, they disappear—most of them anyway. There are a few that stick around, and they all have something very important in common. Atkins, the South Beach Diet, Paleo, Whole30 and Keto are all reduced-carb diets.

There’s a reason reduced-carb diets tend to become popular and stay popular: Because they work! The merits of reduced-carb dieting are widely proven. And, they’re extremely easy to follow. Instead of counting calories and starving yourself, the name of the game is avoiding carbohydrates.

Let’s take a look at how reduced-carb diets work, why they work, why they’re so popular and what the benefits of being on one are.

How reduced-carb eating works

Every reduced-carb diet has the same principle: Stay away from carbohydrates. Instead, the major makeup of these diets are proteins and healthy fats. This sets the stage for metabolic change.

Generally, our bodies burn carbohydrates for energy. But, when we eat fewer carbs, our bodies need to adapt. We enter a metabolic state called ketosis, where the body begins to burn fats for energy. This usually happens when we consume less than 50g of carbohydrates in a 24-hour period. It can be a bit of a shock to the system at first, but the body is resilient and quick to adapt.

Why reduced-carb dieting works

The longer you stay on a reduced-carb diet, the more adept your body becomes at sustaining ketosis. Eventually, your body will not only burn the fats in your diet, it’ll also begin burning fat stores, leading to weight loss. At the same time, your body is also going to burn off excess glycogen, which is primarily responsible for holding water weight. It’s a weight loss double-whammy!

Despite burning fat for energy, protein is actually the secret weapon in the reduced-carb diet. Protein plays an important role in satiation. Eating protein leads to a feeling of fullness with fewer total calories, which helps tip the “fewer calories in, more calories out” equation in your favor. Plus, protein keeps you feeling satisfied for longer.

Protein also has a higher thermogenesis than fats or carbs—meaning the body works harder to digest protein, thus burning more energy and expediting weight loss. 

The metabolic switch to ketosis your body makes will have immediate effects (loss of water weight) and continuous long-term benefits (weight loss, energy). Whether you’re on Atkins, Paleo, Keto or one of the other low-carb diets, chances are you’re seeing results. And, people stick to diets when they see results!

Benefits beyond weight loss

People love reduced-carb diets because they show proven weight loss. But there’s so much more to love about the effects they have on your body:

  • Reduced-carb diets are actually great for heart health. Intaking fewer carbs will push your triglyceride levels way down and raise your High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.
  • Entering ketosis helps the body control its glycemic index, which is great for people living with Type 2 diabetes. Avoiding high-carb foods also means avoiding complex sugars that can drive up insulin levels.
  • Reduced-carb diets have been widely studied for their relation to lower blood pressure. Not only does cutting carbs help lower blood pressure, it can lower a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attack.
  • People report generally feeling better when eating reduced-carb. More energy, improved mental focus and clarity, and better mood are all associated with a reduced-carb diet. This is consistent with findings that reduced-carb eating can lower the risk of metabolic syndrome.

All of these benefits add up to one big idea that resonates with reduced-carb dieters: They’re healthier. The scale shows them a number that’s getting lower every day. They’re focused and have more energy. Their annual checkups go better. All around, they look, feel and are healthier!

While some fad diets come and go, diets rooted in the reduced-carb philosophy have stayed because they’re proven. More importantly, they’re easy to follow and deliver measurable results. They’re effective and popular, and that makes them a viable option for anyone who not only wants to lose weight, but live a generally healthier life.