Chapter 25 Myth #7: Count Calories

Where things get complicated is carbohydrates.  Remember, all your carbs are coming from the produce section of your supermarket and a little from the dairy section. 

In the preceding chapter, I placed our focus on proteins and healthy fats. I mentioned eating a lot of vegetables, and that we need to watch our breads, grains, and fruit. Well, if we get a little more technical for a bit, you’ll be armed with more information and will be better able to make healthy decisions.  Notice that I said nothing about calories. Remember, it’s not about the calorie. No, it’s about the type of calorie. A protein calorie doesn’t get insulin spiking. A fat calorie does little to cause us to gain weight. On the other hand, a processed food may have no calories and it will cause our body to start making insulin to get ready for sugar. So, in this case, no calories make us fat. This fact was recently documented with the no calorie artificial sweetener sucralose (Splenda).  This “no calorie” substance caused a significant increase in blood sugar and insulin levels. 

 I know that you have been told all your life that you have to count calories but as you can see the calorie measurement by itself gives us a limited picture about metabolism. Counting calories is another myth. You have already learned much about this in previous chapters.

 Instead of calories, we’re going to focus on net carbs. It turns out all carbs were not created equal. Some carbohydrates cause immediate insulin spikes; others, have very little impact on our insulin production thanks to their fiber content and other aspects of the food including acidity.

 So what is a net carb? Instead of simply counting carbs, we count the carbs that are left over after we’ve subtracted the fiber (and any sugar alcohol) grams from the total carbohydrate count. Remember, humans themselves cannot digest fiber calories even though some of our gut bugs can.  (see the Microbiome chapter)

 For instance, a half cup of steamed green beans has 4.9 total carbohydrates. Two grams of those carbs are fiber. When you subtract the 2.0 from the 4.9, you have 2.9 grams of net carbs. I’ve included lists of net carbs for different foods in the back so you can make good decisions of which foods to eat and how much of those foods you should have with your meal.

  Your goal is to eat foods with low net carbs.  And you’ll want to keep track of your total net carbs each day so you get an idea of where you are in your carbohydrate intake. This means that you will begin to enjoy salads, because you’ll be eating a lot of them. The best foods for us when it comes to a balance of net carbs and nutrition are leafy greens. Of course, you can get pretty tired of just eating greens, so I’ve included a list in the back of this book of the net carbs of other foods. This way, you’ll know what to eat in moderation, and what would add variety to your diet.

 The lower your net carbs in a day, the more weight you’ll lose. Many diets begin by greatly restricting your net carbs for a couple weeks. When you do this, you will lose weight.

 After an “induction phase,” you can begin to add in more net carbs until you notice that your weight loss stops.

Myth #7: Count Calories

You’ll also be able to experiment with what foods cause you to gain weight. After all, our bodies are unique. Some people can do well eating fruits and starchy vegetables, even grains. But when we’re overweight, it would be best to drastically cut our net carbs for a couple of weeks so that we have a good base point from which to experiment with different types of food.

You have also heard me talk about foods that are “low glycemic index” or “low glycemic load”.  Low glycemic load is closely associated with net carbs.  To avoid confusion, just know that low net carb is something that you can calculate from a food label.  Glycemic index and load are not yet found on food labels. 

 So if you want to kick-start your weight loss and have a base from which to experiment, take a couple weeks where you keep your net carbs to 20 grams or less. In this phase, you can eat all the healthy protein you want, so you will be full.  For most of us, restricting our diets to 20 grams of net carbs a day will not be sustainable for more than a couple of weeks. So as the weeks go by, slowly add more net carbs into your diet until you get around 50 grams per day. It all depends on your body, how you handle certain carbohydrates, and what’s going on with your brain chemistry.