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Why Carb Diets Can Ruin Your Health

posted 8 May 2015, 04:55 by Tim Elliston   [ updated 14 May 2015, 08:21 ]
By Marcus Julian Felicetti

One night I was having dinner with a friend who is also a naturopath, and because we are both obsessed with good nutrition our conversation turned to the dialectic between two very different schools of thought–in the right corner the “Paleo” diet, which is low carb high quality nutrient dense fats and protein. And in the left corner the “80/10/10?, high carb low protein low fats diet. 80/10/10 is basically eighty percent carbs, ten percent protein, ten percent fats. Essentially it is a fruitarian diet.

Both my friend and I agreed we don’t consider it a fair contest between these two diets because huge volumes of research favor the Paleo – high quality nutrient dense fats and protein diet, low carbs approach. So as far as serious discussion goes there isn’t really much evidence for high carb diets except anecdote. And this is what I want to explore…. Why, with all this scientific research and data that shows high quality nutrient dense fats and protein and low carbs are the best diet suited to most people, why do some people still follow 80/10/10?

If you look closely at the language that high carb eaters use, they often promote it as a weight loss diet. This appeals to a lot of less informed people. The fact is they’re right, high fruit diets will help most people lose weight. But there is a reason for that, a dangerous caveat that escapes them, that no one warned them about.

When you eat a high caloric intake, assuming it is unrefined foods, then it will increase leptin levels. Leptin is the hormone that is responsible for weight loss. It increases the metabolism. You heard it correctly eat more unrefined unprocessed sugars and you will get slimmer. Are you surprised? The body is EXTREMELY intelligent and analyzes the food you put into your body, and if it is high calorie organic foods then your body will have excess energy to burn without increasing significantly toxicity. So it turns up the fire of your metabolism. Does this sound appealing? I hope not.

As a naturopath I can prescribe certain herbs and foods that will increase your leptin levels so quickly that the excess weight will tumble off faster than you can image. But I don’t recommend that as a long term strategy. Why not? Because it will lead to accelerated aging. Eventually your skin will become aged, your teeth will degenerate, your muscles will look sinuous and small, flesh around your face will look drawn, gaunt and haggard, you’ll need to sleep a lot. High caloric diets work as high octane fuel. But if you treat your body like a car eventually it will break down.

You have to remember that your metabolic rate is related to the pace at which your body clock is ticking. If I prescribed you certain herbs that raise your metabolism to a level where you can eat a massive amount of food an never put on a inch of body fat, have I done you a favor or disservice? In the long term if you value longevity and beauty, which myself and my other naturopath friends do, then a high leptin fast metabolism is a major disservice.

The huge volume of scientific data show that low leptin levels correlate with a long lifespan. This is why I always take a wholistic approach to my work as a naturopath and a Yoga teacher. 80/10/10 may solve one problem to create another, and therefore it’s a shortsightedness approach that leads to long term problems later down the track.

80/10/10 diet leads to an emaciated wasted body because they treat their body like a car and food as fuel

For longevity and weight loss I can highly recommend the high nutritional density fats and amino acids that come from:

  1. Fresh vegetables, like Kale, broccoli, avocado, cucumber, asparagus, spinach, arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress, cauliflower.
  2. In moderation soaked nuts, like brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, apricot kernels, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts and macadamia.
  3. Seeds, like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, millet, flax seed, hemp seed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, coconuts and coconut oil.
  4. Algae like spirulina, chlorella, AFA.
  5. Probiotic rich fermented foods, like kimchi, sauerkraut.
  6. Herbs like basil, parsley, ginger, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne, cloves, black pepper, neem, turmeric.
  7. Seaweeds, like Kelp, Nori, Kombu, Dulse, Wakame.
  8. Grasses, like wheat grass, barely grass, kamut grass, oat grass.
  9. Spouts, like mung bean, alfalfa, fenugreek, clover, radish seeds.

These food groups will make you lose excess weight and at the same time keep you young and beautiful. They do this by detoxifying and cleansing the body and giving you a massive amount of minerals, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants.

Fruits do have some of the benefits of the other foods I mentioned above, but the ratios of nutrients to calories is poor. Most fruits are high in fructose. And fructose is one of the last things you want to eat. If you take one thing away from this article it should be that low calorie and high nutrient density is the best ratio. It is all about the ratios. Your body needs more than just fuel. Your body is far more subtle, beautiful and amazing than a car. Your body needs to constantly build and rebuild muscle and bone and connective tissue. Whereas cars are inorganic metal that don’t constantly self-repair. That is why nutrient dense fats and proteins are essential. They are bone building, muscle building, connective tissue building. Regeneration happens through ‘building block’ nutrients known as amino acids that make up proteins, and essential fatty acids. A lack of amino acids and essential fatty acids slows the regeneration process and aging accelerates, eventually leading to degeneration and death.

Essential sugars

There is a broad category of exception amongst fruits, which do have an extreme high ration of nutrients to low calories. I am sure you can guess what they are… You guessed it, berries. Particularly raspberries, blue berries, black berries, cherries, cranberries, goji berries, açaí, maqui berry, bilberries, gubinge berries (kakadu plum), etc. Most of these do contain some small amount of fructose but actually they are sweetened from a much more beneficial sugar called xylose. Xylose is one of eight essential sugars. These are also known as monosaccharides or glyconutrients. They are: mannose, galactose, fucose, xylose, glucose, sialic acid, N-acetylglucosamine and N-acetylgalactosamine. These are extremely complex sugars that are in most cases found in bitter, astringent and pungent foods like olives, aloe vera, medicinal mushrooms like shitake, sumac, echinacea, the stem and branches of astragalus, Undaria pinnatifida seaweed.

The bitter, pungent and astringent sugars in these foods join with certain proteins and fats on the surface of cells and play a critical roll in cell-to-cell communication. When these essential sugars combine with good fats and protein they are called glycoproteins and glycolipids and act as antennae, receiving chemical messages from other cells. They are also markers and identifiers that identify the cell to other cells, increasing cell to cell communication. This strengthens the immune system.

So you can see that the generic fruits are a poor source of essential sugars. This is partly because the fruits have been hybridize by the agribusiness industry for decades to deliver caloric volume, at the cost of nutrient quality and density. They are very far from their original wildcrafted form found in nature. Fruit has been bred to taste sweeter and grow bigger and bigger, satisfying and addicting tastebuds. They mainly contain fructose which is essentially a poison. It reacts badly with protein, creating toxins. The body tries to dispose of it through the liver, which damages the liver. It is not a good source of fuel because it will spike insulin levels and high insulin levels hardens arteries and hastens aging, and it impairs the mind by causing insulin resistance in the brain, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Some people do have a sluggish metabolism and in those rare cases they could benefit from raising their leptin levels slightly. But doing this through high fruit diets has many pitfalls. There are much more effective ways to raise leptin levels. I would do it through temporarily prescribing herbs and low impact exercise like Yoga and weightlifting. That way the blood sugar levels remains balanced and even, the metabolism lifts, excess fat drops away, and the body can build in wholistic health and strength.

It is all relative

If you could take away one more principle about nutrition then it should be the ‘law of diminishing returns’ which is also known as the concept of ‘declining marginal benefits’. Simply put, the more of one thing you eat the less it benefits you, and the more likely it is to become harmful. Basically, the greatest benefit comes from the first bit of any one kind of food. So if you eat thirty bananas a day, the lack of diversity and complexity in your diet eventually leads to zero benefit. The more variety in the foods you eat throughout the day the better. If you limit your diet to just eating sugary generic fruits then you’ll have less to choose from, therefore minimizing nutrients and increasing toxicity. This is why in nutrition always remember, less is more. Think economically–as quantity goes up, benefits decrease.

If you were to ask me in ernest, ‘Tell me, isn’t a fruit diet better than what some people eat – a junk habit of processed refined sugars, breads, dairy, meats filled with hormone laden pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics, preservatives, additives, artificial sweeteners, chemical coloring, and other things that could be created by the Joker?’ And without qualification I would agree and say ‘Yes’. When you compare anything to the lowest common denominator then it will seem a better option. The junk that some people choose to pollute their body with resembles nothing like food, and anything is better than that.

To eat meat, or not to eat meat

The idea of the Paleo diet is an excellent one – eat like our ancient ancestors. This is a wholistic approach. Done correctly it truly makes the body and mind strong, by:

  1. Detoxifying heavy metals and reducing toxicity
  2. Decreasing the bad bacteria, viral, fungal, and parasite load
  3. Nourishing at a deep cellular level

Most people who follow the Paleo diet eat meat. Having studied the literature it is clear to me that our ancient ancestors evolved in such a vast variety of environments and parts of the world with different food habits, and still each culture attained a degree of vitality that is extraordinary. I have been a vegetarian for many years, and when I am asked whether I recommend either including some meat eating or a pure vegetarian diet, I simply reply ‘It is totally your choice. See for yourself how your body feels. You cannot really know what works for your body until you’ve tried both. But definitely eat clean, whatever you do go organic!’

Know thy self

Experimentation is the final principle I want you to remember about nutrition. One of the greatest things you can do for your health is develop a curiosity and a deep intimacy and sensitivity with your body. Pay attention to what foods make you feel bloated, tired, increase mucus, slow elimination of wastes, cloud your thinking, make your body odor, etc. Then try cutting those foods out and see what happens.

I cannot tell you whether your body will work better including a small amount of high quality meat or as a complete vegetarian, only you can know that. Although many people will claim they know what works best for others, in reality they can only give you useful principles as guidelines. I personally see some disadvantages with meat eating and a few benefits. For me it is open to the individual to make a conscious and informed choice.

The life long journey of learning

When professional experts in the field of nutrition talk about food we are drawing from a depth of knowledge that most people cannot begin to conceive. It is a lifetime of learning and experimenting that we have dedicated ourselves to. I remember the first book my father ever read to me was a book on anatomy and physiology. As I sat up in bed listening to him and looking at the pages my eyes widened in awe and wonder at the genius and brilliance of God’s creation. I would interrupt to ask questions and even dream about what I learnt in the night, intuitive visions of the organs and their functioning appeared to me as an innocent child’s free imagination can do. I fell in love with health at a very young age. And this passion to constantly learn more about health only grew. As a teenager my best friend and I would study books on nutrition and have competitions who could know more, and in the process we enriched each others knowledge and exchanged a lot of wisdom.

As an adult I have made health my career and have been successful at using Yoga and nutrition and lifestyle changes to heal people of all kinds of terminal illnesses. When doctors sent people home to die and instead they came to me after everything else had failed, sometimes barely able to walk, then within months of working together I had them completely overcome their disease, journeying further and further into new levels of health by using my approaches. It demonstrated to me that God puts this fire and love for what we do in our hearts so that we can use it to serve.

The work of a naturopath is a deep one. It is our job to discover what the causes are at the source of the problem. If the cure to obesity was simply losing weight then the cure to depression would be popping a pill. The cure to anything is addressing the underlying issues. In the case of obesity it may be – digestion, metabolism, toxicity, emotional, lifestyle, etc. And through addressing the individuals unique picture the body naturally finds its own balance.

If there are any general recommendations for weight loss it is that people will lose weight by becoming healthy. Strengthening the vital force of the organs and detoxifying through Yoga and a wholistic approach to nutrition is a major piece of this puzzle. This is an intelligent long term approach. This will lead to true health, deep strength, radiant beauty, a long life, and inner peace.

Marcus Julian Felicetti