I've been asked by several type 1 diabetics, "Why eat LCHF?" or more directly, "Why eat so limited?" or "That seems so hard!"
So I am writing this blog to answer those questions and concerns.
Why eat LCHF?
Way back in 1996, I was pretty sick, even though a diabetologist told me I was fine because my A1C was 6.5. I had 2 frozen shoulders and 2 frozen hips. My whole body was stiff, I was only 38, but I felt old, and I simply could not play with my kids. If you are young as you read this and 38 sounds old, it's not, not old enough for a healthy person to feel as old as I did. I asked the doctor what to do. She recommended I see a surgeon. Well, no thanks! I think this was when I became sure that I didn't trust modern medicine beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I looked around for answers until a friend, also a type 1, sent me an article, via snail mail, about frozen shoulder and diabetes by Dr. Richard Bernstein. He explained that frozen joints were a complication from high blood sugars experienced when someone has type 1 or 2 diabetes. So that was my answer, uncontrolled blood sugars was the cause of my stiff joints. And did I mention I was also dragging myself around, feeling pooped all the time? Dr. Bernstein had a set of cassette tapes explaining how a type 1 diabetic could learn to control their blood sugars. I ordered the cassette tapes that day! I listened in rapt attention and started his program the next day. He promised a book coming soon, which I bought as soon as it came out.
I felt a sense of immediate determination. Within a few months of beginning the Bernstein program as stated in his book, Diabetes Solution, I felt energetic, and all my joints were totally normal. For the first time since I was diagnosed (1971), I felt amazing!
The explanation went something like this:
Eat no food that raises blood sugar, so you can take less insulin, and take insulin timed carefully to match the food you eat which keeps your blood sugars in a constant state of normalcy. Then, expect normal blood sugar readings and completely normal A1c. That means your blood sugar will seldom go in the low ranges and seldom go in the higher ranges, and you will be off the roller-coaster!!! Dr. Bernstein's book was written back in 1997 but has still not been accepted by the American Diabetes Association, primarily because he disagrees with their recommendations of a high carb diet. The Bernstein diet continues to offer all diabetics a plan to prevent and heal all complications caused by blood sugar problems. Dr. Bernstein was and is still ahead of his time. He was an early proponent of LCHF.
Why high fat?
Dr. Bernstein's book, Diabetes Solution, said very little about fat, and even the later editions from 2008 still say very little. But, if asked, he might say that the amount of fat is irrelevant. Your choice.
After reading newer books on how to achieve the best health, I am convinced that the right kinds of fats are important for improving health for anyone. One of those books that I am reading right now is Maria Emmerich's Keto-Adapted. She explains that consuming certain fats, incorporated into the ketogenic diet, are the best strategies for more than just achieving your ideal weight, although many start there with the diet. The high fat ketogenic diet is also beneficial for all autoimmune compromised individuals, including type 1 diabetics. Tremendous benefits have been demonstrated in type 2 diabetics, as well. Her book is filled with testimonials from many people who were dealing with autoimmune conditions, interspersed between her just scientific enough explanations of how this all works. So, yes I am recommending her book, again: Keto-Adapted.
Here are some of the important points I gleaned from her book:
😄 the fat supplies the additional calories lost from leaving out the carbs;
😍 Saturated fat supplies the essential fatty acids that feed the brain, joints, and immune system;
😛 These "good fats" keep you satiated, so there will be very little if any cravings for carbs. That is the difference I see in my Bernstein days from 1996-2003 -- even though my health was improved dramatically, my cravings were uncontrollable. Now, with the emphasis on saturated fats like coconut oil, bacon fat, bacon, lard, raw butter and plenty of it, I experience absolutely no cravings. I have never, ever felt this satisfied, before or since my diagnosis.
How can you limit your diet so much?
Most people would say! "I want to have fun and eat a normal diet." As I said, all the fat enables feelings of satiety and keeps me happy. And while I get to eat so many of the foods I love, I really don't miss anything. As a diabetic, I wasn't eating sweets anyway. I haven't eaten grains for the last 18 years, so I don't miss bread. When I see paleo and low carb recipes for bread, they just look foreign to me. Even a low carb bread would be too high in carbs for me. I manage my blood sugars and insulin on 15 grams of carbs a day. And I'm counting the carbs in eggs and vegetables like lettuce and kale. But with all the fat, I don't miss the carbs, really!
I eat such delicious food like fried eggs, and bacon, vegetables sautéed in bacon fat, eggplant fries, grassfed burgers, and raw butter. Plus, I make an adventure out of locating and purchasing my food, tracking down local farmers to find amazingly beautiful seasonal vegetables, going to the farms or Farmers Markets to buy the best grass fed meats and raw local butter. To keep the cost down, I often buy less expensive cuts, like ground beef and short ribs, which I slow cook in water for a long time. This has the added benefit of making a nourishing bone broth which I consume daily. Since I buy no packaged food or drinks and very rarely go to restaurants, our food costs are lower than most!