We encourage you to follow your body’s cues to work out what dietary details affect you most. Sensitivity varies from individual to individual. Sugar, refined carbohydrates and gluten affect different people with varying degrees of toxicity. Other foods may have some positive attributes and some negative. It’s up to you to work out the specifics, with the three categories below deserving special mention.
Dairy has always been a bit of a troublemaker. Some diets reject it outright, but Low Carb generally embraces dairy because of its many potential positives. One cup of milk contains about a quarter of your daily needs of calcium, phosphorous and vitamins D and B2 (riboflavin). It also contains significant quantities of vitamin B12 and potassium.
The dairy endorsement does come with a qualification: certain people must steer clear. Dairy products have long been a complicated and controversial subject for dietitians. Cow’s milk is for calves, not for humans, and lactose intolerance is a common condition. Some populations in Europe developed an ability to break down lactose and enjoy the nutrients in milk. For those adapted to drinking milk, go for it. If you suffer from rashes, hives, bloating, constipation, asthma and other typical allergic responses to milk, then it’s best avoided. But there’s more to dairy than milk.
Fermentation of dairy breaks down lactose and various other complex proteins that are so bothersome to some. The food nutrients become accessible to most and are beneficial to your gut health, as well as providing excellent nutrition. The resulting foods can enrich your diet and enjoyment of food. Avoid processed dairy products. For example, the heat of pasteurisation kills both good and bad bacteria. Matured dairy products are generally more Low Carb-appropriate. So a commercial yoghurt is still high in carbs and should be eaten sparingly. Safer dairy products include milk and cottage, cream and soft cheeses. Harder cheeses, such as Parmigiano and pecorino, are preferred.
In summary, different people will react to dairy and should, watch how dairy affects them. If you’re unsure, drop dairy. Struggling to lose weight or break through a plateau, or if you suspect you may be lactose intolerant, forgo dairy and monitor the effects.
Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant
Nightshade plants belong to the Solanaceae family. These include tomatoes, tomatillos, white potatoes, chilli, paprika, cayenne pepper, sweet bell peppers and eggplant. Anecdotal evidence shows symptoms of nightshade sensitivity to include, among other things, muscle pain and tightness, morning stiffness, poor healing, arthritis, insomnia, gall-bladder problems, heartburn, constipation, headaches, nausea, bloating, flatulence, IBS, poor food absorption and osteoporosis.
You might imagine some of those symptoms after a night of serious chilli consumption but from a potato? A tomato? All living things on the planet have some sort of defence mechanism to protect them from predators and infection. Plants don’t have traditional fight-or-flight options. They have anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients either prevent the nutrients in the plant from being absorbed in the gut or act as toxins against predators. The anti-nutrients, or alkaloids, in the nightshade family are mainly concentrated in the leaves, flowers and unripe fruits. They’re there to make potential predators feel unwell. Encouraging them to avoid eating the plant in the future.
For most healthy people nightshades don’t pose a problem because a healthy digestive tract prevents absorption of most of the alkaloids. But if you’re eating them every day – can cause a build-up of alkaloids that can take some time to be cleared. This build-up may have a detrimental effect on the body, especially during times of stress. Eating nightshades may create discomfort for those with already-compromised guts and immune systems. Existing autoimmune disease conditions are also at risk.
A diet high in sugar and refined carbs, especially gluten, seems to exacerbate the problem. This is thought to alter the gut to the point that it is unable to protect itself from these toxins. When included in a diet high in gluten, sugar and omega 6, potatoes may also have a significant inflammatory effect.
If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms above or find you aren’t making progress, try cutting out the nightshades. Tips for eating nightshades (if you suspect you are sensitive):
- Don’t eat green tomatoes or green or sprouting potatoes;
- Peel your potatoes;
- Only eat very ripe eggplants, and soak the slices in saltwater or layer them with salt for a couple of hours before cooking;
- Avoid all processed nightshades, especially those that are deep-fried in seed oils.
Alcohol is something of a problem topic. We’re trying to promote health and well-being. Remember: alcohol is a toxin and it’s best avoided. Booze is also an important social component in many people’s lives and ignoring the matter may not be practical or helpful. So what responsible advice can we offer?
Pros and/or cons?
Moderate alcohol consumption – one drink a day for the average woman, two for the average man – may have some health benefits. So if you get it right you can take the edge off and potentially benefit health-wise. The science isn’t conclusive.
The benefits may be associated with the type of person who’s got their act together to such a degree they can have one drink and then say no more. In contrast, heavy drinking brings with it a range of potential health problems. From sleep disruption and hangovers to liver disease and certain cancers. It impairs decision-making, encourages risky behaviour and packs on the weight.
The guilt of a booze-broken diet is often enough to bring things crashing down to nothing. We discourage heavy drinking for all these reasons.
What to do?
First up, realise that drinking alcohol without compromising your health requires discipline. Alcohol is a toxin and alcoholic drinks are usually high in carbohydrates. Plus alcohol gets you drunk – and drunk people make bad decisions. When undertaking a major lifestyle overhaul, it’s best to make smart decisions with a clear head. So if you must drink, what should it be? Avoid normal beer, alcopops, cocktails and spirit mixers – which will stop any weight loss dead in its tracks. Beer is a minefield: you can drink a day’s allowance of carbs in one pint and it’s often far too tempting to have “just one more”. How many slim beer drinkers do you know?
From a carb-intake perspective, we recommend you stick to dry wines (lower sugar content), and clearer spirits such as gin and vodka. The problem with lite beers is they don’t taste great so what’s the point? And the problem with spirits is they’re often only palatable with a sugar-riddled mixer. Depending on your preferences, we recommend a glass of wine with dinner or a whisky or pot still brandy with water, soda, ice or neat. For many, they are the best practical options. Remember that you’re still consuming alcohol which is worse than any amount of nitrates in a sausage.
Note that when cooking with wine, the alcohol boils away but the carbs remain. From a socialising perspective, be mentally prepared when you go to dinners and parties where the drink is likely to flow. When you wing it, you tend to have that glass or three extra that you hoped not to. If you have a plan and a ready excuse – “I’m driving” is a good one – it’s much easier to make it through in good nick. The moral of the story: If you can, bin the booze when you want to achieve the best results
If you want to keep alcohol in your life, make a conscious decision to minimise the toxins and minimise the carb intake. Never allow it to be an excuse to make bad diet and lifestyle decisions. In short, drink in moderation. And if you’re struggling to lose weight or break through a plateau, forgo alcohol and track the effects.