Within months of Banting becoming popular a number of social media groups sprung up in support of Prof Noakes and his real food ideas. These groups are wonderful for spreading the real food message and supporting banters on their journey to good health. However as well meaning as most people are, a large amount of advice that is dished out on social media groups is not expert or even educated advice. Members often share an opinion rather than an evidence based fact and regularly other folk screenshot these comments or posts and before we know it, an idea has spread faster than a Cape wildfire and become embraced as fact.
An issue that I find particularly concerning is the desire of many to include high carb foods onto their list of acceptable foods to eat while trying to lose weight or regain good health. In particular pulses ( lentils, chickpeas, dried beans etc.) We all know by now that if you are a fit, healthy individual with normal blood sugars, insulin levels and healthy cholesterol, there is not much wrong with eating whole foods – even potato, lentils etc sometimes.But let’s face facts here . How many people pursuing the Banting lifestyle fall into that category?
According to the medical journal The Lancet, “South Africa has the highest overweight and obesity rate in sub-Saharan Africa: seven out of 10 women and four out of 10 men have significantly more body fat than what is deemed healthy.” read the article here. And this folks is where most the banters are at. People looking for weight loss plans and solutions for lifestyle disease do not fall into the optimal weight and health category.
According to Dr Larry Distiller, founder and managing director of the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology in Johannesburg “The diabetes tsunami is here. And we in South Africa are in trouble.”Read article here
Falling into the high diabetes risk category is the Indian (near and dear to my heart) community. Living and working on the North Coast of KZN this is the community that I predominantly serve and of course as some of you already know, my nearest and dearest is a hotIndianbantingfriendlydoctor, so I have a personal interest in the culture as well as the traditional cuisine.
India is now known as the diabetes capital of the world and needless to say diabetes is most prevalent among the Indian population here in SA because of a strong genetic predisposition. Aside from the genetic predisposition the traditional diet is unfortunately carb loaded and very often sugar rich. There is little quite as tasty as a potato curry (yup all potato) or a spicy biryani loaded with tender potatoes, rice and lentils. Not to mention a bowl of warm after dinner soji (a rich semolina dessert made with condensed milk, cinnamon and almonds) and of course sweet meats that feature at all occasions. I won’t pretend that I didn’t love it !
A further challenge that we see in our community is that many people are not well off and rely on carbohydrates as staples. It is the norm to dish a large portion of rice with a small portion of meat/ curry. Potatoes, dried beans, lentils are all much more affordable than meat but a large number of Indians are vegetarian or practice regular fasting days on which animal products are excluded from the diet. Of course adapting Banting to the culture seems challenging when you look at this scenario but it is quite possible to successfully follow a low carb diet using foods primarily from the green list. When we coach patients we teach them exactly how to substitute with low carb choices.
In practice I personally would not recommend that any diabetic, pre diabetic, insulin resistant, overweight person include high carb foods into their diet. Of course this does not have to be a lifelong exclusion (btw there are other issues with pulses that I will discuss shortly.) Once normal HbA1C is achieved and fasting insulin is down and you are losing weight successfully, adding pulses into traditional meals now and again is no problem. Do keep in mind though that although your total carb count for the day is important, for those with impaired glucose/ insulin response we DO NOT want to be sending blood sugar sky high at any one meal. This is particularly important for those decreasing injected insulin or sulfonylurea drugs (which you should not be attempting without the guidance of your doctor)
For those following a LCHF diet it is recommended that carb intake for profoundly insulin resistant people stay below 50g per day and ideally 25g. Some experts feel that NETT carb count (with fibre value removed) is acceptable and other experts recommend we stick to below a TOTAL carb count of 20g per day.
Lets have a quick look at the carb count in pulses. I take my macro nutrient values from the USDA as I find the various food counting apps all vary and some differ significantly from reliable data. All values are for COOKED foods.
- Lentils 100g = 12.23 NETT carb 1 cup = 24.86g NETT carb
- Chickpeas 100g = 19.82g NETT carb 1 cup = 32.47g NETT carb
- Mung beans 100g = 11.9g NETT carb 1 cup = 23.28g NETT carb
- Black eyed peas 100g = 14.73g NETT carb 1 cup = 27.22g NETT carb
So you can see from the above values that if you eat a “bean” or lentil curry with just one cup of beans or lentils you are going way over your daily recommended carb allowance and that’s a huge amount of carbohydrate to consume to get just 18g of protein ( on average we need between 60g – 100g of protein per day depending on our size , age and activity levels) It is a misconception that vegetarians can get adequate and complete proteins from eating legumes.
Of course if one cup of lentils was added to a meat dish being shared between a family the carb count would be a lot lower but even then , it’s a relatively high carb count. .
Now what is the other controversy surrounding pulses? It’s something called phytic acid. Phytic acid is a natural substance found in plant seeds and it is known as an ” anti-nutrient.” In other words, it prevents certain minerals from being absorbed by the body,namely iron,zinc and calcium. This is not a problem in people who are eating pulses only occasionally but in vegetarians who eat pulses with most meals, deficiency in these minerals is often a reality.
A way around this is to soak the pulses in water overnight. Studies have shown that an 8hr soak will remove 79%of phytic acid making the pulses safer to eat.
Pulses are thought to have a number of benefits including antioxidant properties and if you would like to read more on this here is a great article on Kris Gunnars blog Authority Nutrition with references to studies. check it out here.
If you want an extensive food list check out our book “The Banting Solution.” Bernadine spent hundreds (literally) of hours detailing foods with raw and cooked macro nutrient values in the most commonly used portion sizes. You will be left in no doubt about what you should or should not eat to keep your carb count low and unhealthy food off your plate ( and out of your mouth). We have also included an ingredients list which is list of food additives that we find in food. So you never have to look at a food label again and wonder if an ingredient in it is safe to eat. Buy the book online or look out for it at your local book store.