Crocodiles and Low Carbohydrate Diets
I was watching a show on the National Geographic channel about animal predators and their amazing physiology. Concerning some species of crocodiles, I learned that they are able to lower their heart rate to 2-3 beats per minute and go without food for up to 2 years! Crocodiles have demonstrated behavioral, physiological and structural adaptations that have allowed them to THRIVE for hundreds of millions of years. Though humans do not have the physiology of crocodiles, our bodies do have amazing physiological adaptations that allow us to survive in a wide array of environments. Nevertheless our goal is not to just survive, but rather to thrive. There is no better example of this than how we fuel our bodies. To survive/thrive, we need fuel (energy). The body’s two main fuel sources are carbohydrates (sugar), and fats. Having a predominately carbohydrate based diet will allow us to survive. Having a predominately fat based diet will allow us to thrive.
It is important to understand that there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. That is not to say that carbohydrates such as leafy green vegetables are not healthy. They are! On the other hand, there are essential fats and proteins, without which life is not sustainable. Remember the following:
1. High fat (healthy fats), low carbohydrate diets (LCHF) produce less insulin which means less body fat storage. Insulin itself is inflammatory if too high. Have your fasting insulin level checked; ideally it should be less than 4 uU/ml. Higher levels can indicate an excess consumption of carbohydrate which may lead to insulin resistance and Diabetes, type II. “Eat fat, lose fat.” As the body becomes ‘fat adapted,’ it will preferentially use fat for fuel. This may be ingested fat and/or the body’s fat stores.
2. Healthy fat does not cause clogged arteries. While it is true that cholesterol is the main component of arterial plaque, that doesn’t mean that cholesterol causes the plaque. You don’t blame the hole in the wall on the spackle just because it is plugging the hole. The same goes for cholesterol, which did not cause the “hole” in the artery. This damage is linked to excess carbohydrates (sugar), elevated insulin, and the resulting inflammation.
When people are transitioning from the Standard American Diet, which averages over 300 grams of carbohydrates per day, to a LCHF diet, I advise them to begin by a. eliminating sugars – 80% of items in the grocery store contain sugar (read labels!) b. eliminate all ‘white flour’ products c. eat ‘nutrient dense whole foods – in other words real food. The body’s preferred fuel source is fat. Just as you wouldn’t put sugar in the fuel tank of your car, it is more important to not put excess carbohydrates (sugar) in your body. Think of the crocodile and strive to THRIVE, not just survive.