Give up your low carb diet before it makes your mind go off balance

As the threat and cost of managing diabetes increases every day, there are several methods being attempted to reverse Type 2 diabetes. One of the common methods to address the problem is through modifying the diet.

Several years ago the recommendation was for a low fat diet. Now fats are considered better than carbohydrates because they don’t alter the glucose and insulin levels. In this passionate TED talk, Sarah Hallberg recommends a low carb diet to reverse Type 2 diabetes. Carbohydrates including grains and starchy vegetables have been demonised — accused of causing weight gain, food / sugar cravings, high blood sugar levels, and increasing insulin resistance in persons prone to diabetes.

Sarah does not address the following questions in her talk

  • what are the risks from lowering carbs in diet ?
  • are all carbs the same ?

Not all Carbs are Created Equal

There are basically three types of carbohydrates:

  1. Simple carbohydrates are composed of 1 or 2 sugar units that are broken down and digested quickly. Certain simple carbohydrate foods cause extreme surges in blood sugar levels, which also increases insulin release. This can elevate appetite and the risk of excess fat storage.
  2. Complex carbohydrates (starch) are made up of many sugar units. They are structurally more complex and take longer to be broken down and digested. Complex carbohydrate foods enter the blood stream gradually and trigger only a moderate rise in insulin levels, which stabilises appetite and results in fewer carbohydrates that are stored as fat. Unrefined or ‘whole grain’ carbohydrates found in products like brown rice, whole wheat pasta and bran cereals are digested slowly. They contain vitamins, minerals and fiber which promote health. Fiber and nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and beans which are carbohydrates also have many important functions for the body and are important for good health.
  3. Indigestible carbohydrates are also called fiber. The body is unable to breakdown fiber into small enough units for absorption. It is not an energy source for the body but does promote health in many other ways.

Following a low carb diet for long can be disastrous.

So what is the alternative ?

The Problem with the Paleo Diet is a well articulated piece on the topic. Nadia Marshall explains why a diet based on Ayurveda is more suited for our times rather than one developed for people living in the stone age.

Ayurveda evolved as a direct result of the agricultural revolution. In fact, it evolved in response to humans beginning to settle in groups, villages and towns, eating more cultivated food and living more sedentary lives. The great sages of the time saw this occurring and came together to discuss what impact these changes would have on human beings — their bodies and their minds.
There are two things to focus on when reviewing the Paleo diet from an Ayurvedic perspective — the consumption of too much meat on the body/mind and the elimination of grains, legumes, dairy and salt on the body/mind (emphasis mine).

Meat is heavy to digest. It pacifies Vata and tends to increase both Pitta and Kapha. If eaten in excess, it will cause inflammation and excess heat conditions in the body. Aggravated Pitta will also cause increased intensity, competitiveness, judgement and aversion or aggression in the mind. The elimination of grains, legumes, dairy products and salt will also have an effect on the body/mind. The grains and legumes are predominantly sweet in taste (like meat) but they are also cooling and easy to digest. They pacify Vata, Pitta and Kapha. They are also considered Sattvic, promoting clarity, peace, calmness and tranquillity in the mind. By eliminating them entirely, you are removing a strong foundation of balance for the body/mind.

The good thing about the Paleo diet is that it requires people to give up processed foods, refined sugars and processed dairy. The problem is it recommends extreme elimination of carbs. The solution is following a diet that includes the benefits of complex carbohydrates and fibre. Around the world, ancient cultures have followed a diet of whole grains and vegetables with only a small amount of meat or fish. The high protein/ low carb craze is a fad that will soon be replaced by yet another one.

If you are unable to manage your blood sugar by changing your diet, give Ayurveda a try. This is a system that Manages Diabetes, Not Just Blood Sugar. Talk to our physician, give a missed call to 08882289282

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Author: Hari Narayanan is an entrepreneur bringing solutions from Ayurveda for the management of chronic illness such as Diabetes, Arthritis, Hypertension and Migraine. My startup NRight offers products through physicians in Chennai & Mumbai.