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Frequently Asked Questions

Chicken Chips

It seems like every time Dana mentions "Chicken Chips" in any blog entry or post on Facebook, someone will ask, "What are chicken chips???" (The other common question is about fat-fasting. We'll get to that shortly.) So we decided to give Chicken Chips a page of their own, with an easy link that can be quickly used pretty much anywhere.


Chicken skin

Is a low carb diet for everyone?

I don't know of anything that is for everyone! Heck, back in Junior High School (approximately a million years ago) I babysat for a little boy who was allergic to his mother's milk, for goodness sake. If mother's milk isn't good for everyone, I can't imagine that there's anything on the planet -- with the possible exceptions of water and air -- that is.

A low carb diet is likely to be very, very good for you if:
* You carry your fat disproportionately on your abdomen
* You are hungry within 60 - 90 minutes of eating carbs
* You have serious energy slumps -- especially slumps that happen at a predictable time every day

Isn't a low carb diet terribly expensive?

The answer is: As compared to what? There's no question that steak costs more per pound than generic pasta, and that fresh fish is more pricey than bulk-purchased potatoes. However, I have a number of thoughts about this (which is why we're combining the two sections this week!)

First, I will say that I consider the refined carbs -- white flour, white bread (or even most "wheat" bread, which is mostly white flour laced with corn syrup), white rice, sugar, corn syrup, etc. -- to be so incredibly detrimental to health, even for those who are not carb intolerant, that even if they were given away free they would be too expensive. These are anti-food. Yep, since the micronutrients needed to metabolize them have been removed, (Yeah, I know they "enrich" it. Know what that means? It means that they take out at least 35 nutrients that we've identified so far, plus all the fiber, and they put back -- are you ready? -- five nutrients. Four vitamins and a mineral, recently increased from three vitamins and a mineral. "Enriched" is a lie, nothing less.) they actually go into your body and suck nutrition out. They also rack up those dental bills, and I don't know about your dentist, but mine makes something like $500/hr. Cheap, refined, junk carbs are not, and have never been, cheap.

Please tell me how to do a low carb diet...

...Tell me everything I can eat and can't eat. Tell me how many carbs I should eat in a day. Etcetera.

Not to sound too testy, but folks, that's what I wrote a book for. It took me six months and 240 pages to answer that question, and I'm not going to do it over again in an email to each person who asks!

The answer is just too complex. There's too many versions of a carb-controlled, insulin-controlling diet, and different diets work for different people. Some folks do best on a Basic Low Carb Diet, like Atkins or Protein Power, some do better on a hybridized diet, like the Mini-Binge approach (like the Heller's Carbohydrate Addict's Diet). Others will do fine on a diet that only cuts carbs way back, rather than cuts them out completely, so long as they eat only the carbs with the most modest blood sugar impact -- for instance, my Careful Carb Diet, or the more liberal version of Sugarbusters. Some people do well on a diet with as much as 100-150 grams a day of carb, while others have to cut all the way back to a measly 20 grams a day. When I was 19, I dropped sugar and white flour completely out of my diet, but kept eating other carbs -- whole wheat bread, brown rice, stuff like that -- and I lost weight. However, at age 41 that approach no longer works for me.

What about calcium?

People ask this question fairly often, and it's actually two questions: A) Where do I get calcium if I don't drink milk and B) I've heard that a high protein diet will cause my bones to become weak; is this true? Let's tackle both, shall we?

First of all, where do we get calcium in a low carb diet, since we don't drink milk? Well, first you need to be aware that an 8 oz glass of milk contains only about 1/4 of your calcium requirement for one day ("about" because requirements vary). The same is true of a cup of yogurt. Accordingly, a whole lot of people who have a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt every day, and figure that their calcium needs are taken care of, are sadly mistaken. You need between 800 and 1500 mg. of calcium every single day. So where will we get it?

Won't all the fat in a low carbohydrate diet give me breast cancer?

No, it won't. One of the real disgraces of the whole low fat mania of the past twenty years has been the propaganda telling women that they must eat a low fat diet to prevent breast cancer.

It isn't true. I mean, it really isn't true. Just about a year ago, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article in which the results of 7 different studies of the effects of fat restriction on breast cancer were reviewed. The result? Absolutely no protective effect was found whatsoever from a low fat diet. In fact, the researchers were startled to find that a very low fat diet was associated with a higher rate of breast cancer. They tried to explain it away, of course. They said it was probably just an artifact in the research. Low fat diets couldn't possibly be unhealthy, could they?

I think I'm carbohydrate intolerant/carbohydrate addicted, but I'm a vegetarian. Can I still go on a low carbohydrate diet?

Yes, you can! I've known a few low carb vegetarians, and they've done fine. I've also known some vegetarians who simply incorporated some of the principles of a low carbohydrate diet -- most notably, a higher protein consumption -- into their diets, and were rewarded by improved health and energy.

If you wish to be a low carbohydrate vegetarian, the first thing required is to get over the idea, very wide spread, especially among moral vegetarians, that the body requires very little protein. In my experience, improved health and energy level when protein intake is increased is virtually universal. You also need to ignore the widely touted idea that grains and beans are the "natural" diet of humankind, because they have been the principle diet of the majority of humankind since the Agricultural Revolution. Remember that agriculture was invented approximately 10,000 years ago -- and that by the best estimates of science, humankind has a 2 million year history. That's a very long time during which human beings lived and thrived on a diet that contained very little in the way of grains and beans, but did indeed include meat and other animal-derived foods.

What the heck do you mean by usable carb?

If you've read either my book, How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds!, or Protein Power, by Michael and Mary Dan Eades, you'll understand the term, but if you've read one of the many other low carb books out there, it may well be a mystery -- and you may well be limiting your diet more than you need to! The Eades introduced this concept under the name "the Effective Carbohydrate Count" or ECC, and it is a real breakthrough for low carbohydrate dieters. Here's the lowdown:

What (else) can I eat in the morning that doesn't take any time? (I'm sooooo tired of eggs!)

I must be a freak of nature. I never get tired of eggs! I love them just about any way you can cook them. As I write this, I'm still digesting a very late Saturday brunch (I'm still readjusting to Eastern Standard Time) of steak and two fried eggs. I may also be just about the only wife left in the USA who gets up every morning and cooks her husband breakfast -- two fried eggs -- every day before he heads off to work. I work, of course -- what do you think this ezine is? -- but at home, on my own schedule, which is, I realize, a huge luxury.

If you like eggs okay, but find them a little monotonous, you could try omelets, a really great way to vary eggs. I think I'll do a section of Cooking Low Carb! on omelets soon. But maybe you're just plain sick of the things.

I'm convinced I'm carbohydrate intolerant/addicted, but I'm having a hard time with the idea of giving up sweets. What can I do?

A few things. First, I think it helps to realize that this really is as much a physiological problem as an emotional one -- if you can just find the strategies to get you through withdrawal -- yes, you may go through withdrawal -- and get past the physical cravings, it will get easier.

Here are some strategies:

* Keep your blood sugar stable! When your blood sugar drops, you will crave sugar or other fast acting carbs that will just keep you on the roller coaster. Eat a minimum of 14 grams of protein for breakfast every day, and no high impact carbs -- no toast, no muffins, no bagels, nuthin'. If you like, you might have a serving of low sugar fruit -- a few strawberries, some raspberries, a wedge of cantaloupe or honeydew, perhaps even a half a grapefruit. Not juice!! Breakfast is essential to your strategy, since it is a major determining factor in your blood sugar level for the rest of the day. Since you'll likely find your appetite far less than you're used to, you might eat a bit before you get hungry for the first few weeks, as your body adjusts to your new way of eating. Otherwise you may find your blood sugar has dropped and you're craving again. Have a handful of nuts, a piece of cheese -- something quick, easy, and portable -- with you at work. Pretty soon your body will adjust, and become more efficient at creating what little glucose you really need from protein and, to a much lesser degree, from fats, and you won't have to worry about it.

I have hit a plateau! What do I do?

Oh boy. The plateau. Also known as frustration squared. Is there a dieter on the planet who has been spared the dreaded plateau? I doubt it. I know that on my way down I had a few plateaus, including one that lasted over 2 months.

I'm afraid I don't have any one-size-fits-all solutions to the plateau problem. Rather, I know a bunch of things that have helped various folks I've talked to, or have worked for me. It's worth trying one or more of them -- although I'd try one at a time, so that if something works for you, you'll know what it was!

But first, make sure it's really a plateau. First of all, how long have you been stalled? If it's just a week, don't sweat it. Your body is probably just playing catch-up. If you're female, where are you in your cycle? I don't know a whole lot of women who don't plateau in the last week before their period, or even go up a few pounds. It's just hormones; no big deal.

I am a kid/teenager. Can I go on a low carb diet?

Yes and no.

First of all, you can go on any dopey diet you want, including the Nothing-But-Twizzlers-And-Coke-Diet. Not much of a way anyone can stop you. One hopes that what you're really asking is, "Is it reasonable and healthy for a person who is still growing to go on a low carb diet?"

Kids do need more carbs than adults do, and can tolerate more, as witness the fact that breast milk has more carbohydrate -- in the form of lactose -- than it does protein or fat. Accordingly, most kids should be able to lose weight and attain good health on a diet richer in carbohydrate than their elders may need.

Aren't artificial sweeteners more dangerous than sugar? After all, sugar is natural!

Ah, yes. The "it's natural" argument for sugar. I hear this a lot. Here's the short form answer: So are cocaine and heroin.

Outrageous comparison? I don't see why. All three are crystalline powders of naturally occurring plant compounds that have been extracted, refined, and concentrated. And in all three cases, it seems to be that extracting, refining, and concentrating that make them really dangerous. After all, the Bolivian natives have chewed coca leaves for centuries without much of evidence of the sort of wholesale physical and mental destruction that comes with the use of crystalline or crack cocaine. You can get enough opiates from eating a poppy seed roll to test positive for heroin on a drug test, but it's the white flour in the roll, not the poppy seeds, that will make you nod off after lunch.

Doesn't the fact that Asian people live longer than Americans, and have less heart disease, prove a low fat, high carb diet...

...is healthier than a low carb diet?

Well, that certainly seems to be the rather simplistic conclusion that a lot of people have jumped to, doesn't it? But there are a number of factors that don't seem to have been examined.

One of these is that while Japanese and Chinese people have lower rates of heart disease than we do, they have higher rates of some other diseases. For example, the Japanese have strokes at a very high rate, while the Chinese have more pancreatic and thyroid cancers than we do. Not sure I'd pick any of those afflictions over heart attack. On the other hand, I'd prefer to avoid them all!

Isn't it important to eat a balanced diet?

Well, maybe. The big question is, "What the heck is a 'balanced diet', really?" The phrase doesn't seem to have any concrete meaning.

For instance, is the government food pyramid a "balanced diet"? It certainly suggests far more of some kinds of foods -- in particular, grains -- than of others. Is it "balanced" to eat 6-11 servings of grains a day, but only 2-3 servings of protein foods? (We'll overlook here that the food pyramid classes beans with the protein foods when they contain at least as much carbohydrate as protein.)

Is it "balanced" to reduce fats to 10% of calories, as Dean Ornish insists we should do? Ornish also cuts protein way back. Why don't the critics go after Ornish for his "unbalanced" diet, especially in light of emerging evidence that a very low fat/high carbohydrate diet increases one's risk of breast cancer, and may worsen HDL and triglycerides?

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