When I began to eat a very low-carb diet in December, I was in for several surprises. The biggie was how easy low-carb eating is for me. I had long thought -- and written -- that it was hard to be satisfied without a heavy load of carbs. Experience taught me otherwise.
Another surprise was how many veggies I eat now. Like most folks, I assumed that a low-carb diet meant going veggie-less.
This article won't go into my reasons for this huge dietary change, except to say that I wanted better control of my diabetes. Several of my articles here in the past couple of months tell how I was able to lose more weight on this diet.
I have indeed stopped eating any type and form of grains and lentils, which can be low-glycemic but are certainly not low-carb. Following a low-GI diet for the past dozen years, I had eaten almost no rice, no potatoes or other root vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets.
But the green leafy vegetables are very low-carb and nutritious. And I am learning that they can taste absolutely wonderful too.
Some of my favorite vegetables are the salad and cooking greens, red peppers, artichokes, and okra. Now that I am low-carbing, I usually have a big salad for lunch and a side of cooked greens for dinner along with a quarter pound of fish, chicken, or grass-fed beef -- or just the greens.
Unless I go for a huge helping, none of these lead me to exceed my chosen carb quota of about a dozen available carb grams per meal. It is the available carbs -- in other words the starches and sugars but excluding fiber, which we don't digest -- that I pay attention to.
The late Dr. Robert Atkins likewise considered what he called digestible or net carbs in his books like Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution.
So to do the Doctors Michael R. and Mary Dan Eades. They subtract fiber to get the "effective carbohydrate content" in The Protein Power Lifeplan.
However, it wasn't clear to me after studying Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution by diabetologist Richard K. Bernstein, M.D., whether his recommendations for no more than 42 grams of carbohydrate per day included fiber or not. So I asked him.
"I use total [carbohydrates], because I feel that the indigestible part actually participates in the Chinese Restaurant Effect, now known as the incretin effect," Dr. Bernstein wrote back to me. "Large meals will cause greater stretching of the intestinal cells that release hormones into the bloodstream when they are stretched, as after a meal," he wrote in his book about the Chinese Restaurant Effect.
Dr. Bernstein's allotment of carbohydrates for himself and his patients is low. He makes the point in his book that carbohydrates "are totally nonessential to your health and well-being....There is no such thing an an essential carbohydrate for normal development, despite what the popular press might have you believe."
Then, why eat any carbohydrates, which are of course the main culprit in raising the blood glucose level of anyone who has diabetes?
"The main reason I don't suggest that you avoid all carbohydrate," Dr. Bernstein writes, "is that there are many constituents of vegetables -- such as vitamins and minerals, but also many other non-vitamin chemicals (phytochemicals) -- that are only recently becoming understood, but that are nonetheless crucial to diet and cannot be obtained through conventional vitamin supplements."