The single biggest problem with nutrition today is that we’ve trained people to people think fat is the enemy and to load up on carbs. All the science says the reverse is true.
This is due to two reasons:
- Fat makes you feel full, so you eat fewer calories whereas eating carbs makes you want to eat more so you consume more calories
- Fat doesn’t raise your blood sugar so no insulin is released. Insulin tells your body “store excess calories as body fat.” Conversely, eating carbs raises your insulin levels like crazy. So your body goes into fat storage mode.
So if you want to lose body fat, eat more fat in your diet (50% or more) and cut your carbs (to 30% or less of total calories), especially refined carbs. It’s really that simple. (See this low-carb diet video).
If you try to eat a diet of 80% fat and 20% protein, you will have a tough time finding foods that are low carb. Supermarket shelves are full of products labeled low-fat or non-fat. So the supermarket want to limit your fat intake which means you’ll eat more carbs which means you’ll consume more calories which means you buy more food and their profits go up.
It’s nearly impossible to go to a supermarket in America and find a food whose package touts: “low carb, high fat.” That is, in a nutshell, the biggest problem in American nutrition today. The packaged foods are all biased towards making you obese. That’s why we are, as a society, overweight.
My advice for a healthy diet for normal people
- Eat real foods as much as possible. These are foods that aren’t processed.
- Limit your carbs to less than 40% of total calories. This is a big reduction from the 60% carb diet currently recommended by the US government.
- A diet of 20% protein, 20% carbs, and 60% fat is a reasonable choice. You have a variety of foods to choose from with this mix. Eating too much protein can be bad. You can increase carbs to 40% of calories and still be healthy. But our 35 year experiment with higher carbs showed that going higher than this is not advised.
- Limit the amount of sugar/refined carbs you eat as much as possible. These causes the most damage.
- Avoid foods labelled “low fat” and “non fat” and choose the full fat alternative whenever possible.
The reasons for these recommendations are explained below.
Losing weight tips
- Lose weight gradually by eating 20% fewer calories. You can lose about a pound a week. If you try to lose weight more quickly, you will lose muscle. Muscle is easy to lose and at least ten times harder to gain back.
- The ideal diet for weight loss is 20% protein, and 80% fat. It is very hard to lose weight when your carb intake is 40% or more of calories. Don’t overeat protein (e.g., 30% or higher) or the excess protein can turn to sugar and cause you to store fat. Protein is the #1 food for making you feel full. Fats are second.
There are two basic reasons you lose weight on a low carb diet: Protein and fat make you feel full so you will eat fewer calories. This is extremely hard to do when you eat carbs because carbs don’t make you feel full, so it’s easy to over eat. Secondly, carbs raise your blood sugar which tells your body to convert any excess energy into fat.
Consider the experts on getting fat: Sumo wrestlers. The most definitive study ever done on Sumo wrestlers shows that the more carbs and the less fat they eat, the fatter they get. Calories were immaterial; the wrestlers with the most body fat actually ate fewer total calories! We need to ignore intuition and face reality: the more fat you eat, the thinner you will get. See the Sumo wrestler’s diet.
If you exercise, that’s great; you’ll feel better and be healthier. But you don’t have to exercise at all to lose weight. It is really all in your food choices.
The evidence as to why you should eat a diet that is mostly fat
The US government has recommended 60% carbs since 1980 because of fear of heart disease. They were wrong. They have been giving us bad advice for decades.
Since 1977, the US government dietary policy has advised people to limit their fat and cholesterol intake and eat a diet of 60% carbs, 20% protein, and 20% fat. These dietary recommendations were the main reason that obesity, diabetes and CVD have increased since 1977 (Note: CVD actually has decreased, but the causes were better medical care, fewer people smoking,etc).
The government guidelines were based on speculation that increased dietary fat translates into increased body fat. There never was any scientific evidence to support either recommendation; it was all politically motivated. The advice should have been to “Eat more fat” because it is the carbs that are bad, not the fat. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for America advisory committee is finally going to eliminate the cholesterol part: it only took 35 years of no evidence. I think they’ll finally realize they were also wrong about fat in about 10 years after 45 years of no evidence.
Educated people know that saturated fat, while it does raise LDL-C, does not raise your risk of CVD. Fat doesn’t cause heart disease. It is LDL-P, apoB, c-reactive protein (hsCRP), and triglyceride/HDL ratio which studies have shown to be much better markers for cardiovascular risk. Those measures improve if you eat fat.
The fact is humans have eaten low carb for the past 50,000 years. It is only since the US government told everyone to cut the fat that we got obese and sick.
Our diet prior to 1980 was 40% carbs, 40% fat and 20% protein (in terms of calorie breakdown). That’s a safe diet. If you want to improve the health benefits, increase your fat %, lower your carb %, and keep protein the same (try to get at least 20g of protein at each meal because your body doesn’t store protein and if you don’t get enough protein your body may break down muscle to get it).
The whole war on fat has been completely misguided. The truth is the more fat you eat, the thinner you get. But because few people know/believe this (and in fact believe the opposite that “fat is bad”), we have a fat society. See there is no link between saturated fat and heart disease.
Get a copy of Nina Teicholz’s award-winning book, “The Big Fat Surprise” to read the unbelievable story of how American have been hoodwinked into eating a diet that is causing massive health problems that is costing us hundreds of billions of dollars per year. If you don’t have a lot of time, pages 292 to 315 will give you a good overview of the history and science behind low-carb diets. Pages 150-159 tell how we are forcing our kids to eat an unhealthy diet. Nina spent 10 years researching her book. Books by Gary Taubes are also excellent.
Every randomized controlled trial (RCT) study that I’m aware of shows that low-carb diets always beat out low-fat diets (see 23 Studies on Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diets – Time to Retire The Fad). In general, the lower the carbs, the greater the health benefits. Here’s why low-carb diets work. Ideally your diet is 80% fat and 20% protein and 0% carbs. Note: RCT studies are the “gold standard” of studies.
The bottom line is fat (with the exception of trans fats) is very healthy; it has no adverse health impacts. You should eat mostly fat if you want to lose weight and keep your diabetes under control and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. The more fat you eat, the better.
It is the consumption of carbs (especially refined sugars) that cause heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. That is why when they shifted the diet in 1980 to focus on eliminating fat (which means you replace all that with carbs that turn to sugar) that these diseases skyrocketed. A study of 175 countries over 10 years done at Stanford confirmed the link: the more sugar intake increases, the more diabetes rates increase; when sugar intake decreases, diabetes rates decrease proportional to the amount of sugar. The study found that sugar was the only food with a strong correlation to diabetes.
Today, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and American Heart Association recommend limiting sugar intake. The WHO guidance is less than 5% of calories per day.
But the US government does the exact opposite of this guidance. In the US, we limit fat, not sugar. That’s why I (and nearly third of America) were likely to have developed diabetes.
Since the DGA came out in 1977, only a few health metrics improved and that was attributed largely to non-diet related reasons (better medical care, people being more active, cut in smoking). All the other metrics got much worse: obesity, diabetes, childhood obesity, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, etc.
The current US government recommended diet of 60% carbs is insane. That is why America is fat. It’s all caused by the “healthy diet” we were told to eat. A recent study of 160 countries over 10 years showed the more carbs you eat the fatter you get. The more fat you eat the thinner you get. It’s counter-intuitive but its no surprise because this is the way human physiology works and is what top scientists have been saying for decades.
When you eat carbs (especially processed/refined carbs like bread, dry cereal, fruit juices, vitamin water), two bad things happen: 1) your brain never gets a signal to stop eating and 2) your insulin levels go up which tells your body to store all the extra calories you are eating as fat. It’s as simple as that. It is basic biology. If there is a study anywhere which says the opposite or is more definitive, I’d love to see it.
This is why most people can’t lose weight. They cut the fat instead of cutting the carbs and then when it doesn’t work, they cut even more fat, and get even fatter, so they cut even more fat. If you talk to most fat people and suggest to them that they eat more fat to lose weight they think you are a nut case. It’s so weird that people who gain weight never try to eat opposite of their current diet… that’s because they don’t understand what “opposite” means. It means keep protein at 20% of total calories and lower the carbs and eat more fat.
Getting around 25g of protein at each of your three big meals is very important so you don’t lose lean muscle. You will lose weight if you just do that one thing because protein rich foods are the best at making you feel “full.”
What’s worse is we are now actually mandating changes that force our kids to be even fatter. We forbid schools to serve whole fat milk or eveb 2% milk. That’s simply unbelievable. The US government is forcing schools to make our child obesity problem worse, not better. There have been at least five studies about whole milk and weight gain and all say exactly the same thing: the more we restrict whole milk, the fatter our kids get. That’s no surprise because that’s the way human physiology works: it’s the carbs that make us fat, not the fat. See USDA mandate will make our kids fatter.
It is sugar, not salt, that causes hypertension. We’ve known about the hypertensive effects of fructose since 1967 (as Robert Lustig points out in his papers), but it was recently “rediscovered” that it is sugar (not sodium) that causes hypertension. Nearly 800,000 people suffer strokes each year in the United States; 82%-92% of these strokes are ischemic (i.e., reduce blood supply). Stroke is the fourth leading cause of adult death and disability, resulting in over $72 billion in annual cost.
Cut your sugar, your hypertension disappears and your blood pressure drops. Since I cut sugar from my diet, my blood pressure is now “like a teenager” according to the lab techs who can’t believe it. The “DASH” diet was recently highlighted by US News & World Report because it reduces hypertension (blood pressure). The diet limits sugar intake. That’s the “secret.” You don’t have to change your eating habits at all. Just eat less sugar.
The message to America is simple:
- cut your intake of refined sugar (like white bread, pasta, cereal, etc).
- increase your fat intake (which means substituting fat for carbs/sugar)
Saturated fat is not the enemy! Sugar is.
Do those two things and you’ll change your life. All the health metrics we monitor would improve.
There is no need to back off of red meat, cut the fat off of meat or chicken, etc. And choosing low-fat and non-fat products…that’s all bad advice…the high fat versions will help you lose weight and improve all your health metrics according to every RCT study done in the last 20 years. In short, your supermarket is full of low-fat and non-fat versions of product. Those are the products that will kill you. People buy them because people have been mislead to believe they are the healthy alternative.
When normal, non-diabetic people ask me for diet advice, I tell them, the government recommendation “Eat less fat” is wrong. The advice should have been “Eat more fat.”
Based on clinical studies, the ideal diet for diabetics appears to be a ketogenic diet of 80% fat, and 20% protein. The only kind of fat to avoid is trans fat that is only found in processed foods. The other three fat choices (saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fat) are either neutral or beneficial to your health.
It’s a bit hard (and it limits your food choices) to eliminate carbs completely. A diet of 20% carbs, 60% fat and 20% protein is a diet that some of my nutritional experts eat.
Good foods: All “real foods” are fine. Eggs, butter, fat, cheese, cream cheese, Kentucky fried chicken (original recipe), heavy cream, avocados, red meat with all the fat, bacon with all the fat, hamburgers, fish, sour cream, greek full fat yogurt, mustard, low-sugar hamburger relish, unsweetened almond milk, and cocoa are all great low carb foods that are super healthy. Hot dogs are also high in fat and protein and low in carbs, but are more processed and contain a lot of sodium so they are a mixed bag.
Foods to limit: Foods labelled “fat-free” or “low fat.” There are two reasons for this. First, you need the calories. The more calories you get that are fat calories the better. So when you see foods with a fat-free or low-fat label it means, “these foods are bad for you.” Secondly, when when they remove the fat, they often (but not always) increase (sometimes by a factor of 2 or more) the sugar to make it taste good. Limiting items high in carbs/sugars like soft drinks, vitamin waters, fruit juices, soft drinks, dry cereal, bread, pasta, rice, jam, muffins, bagels, potatoes, french fries, ice cream. Whole milk is fine, but unsweetened almond milk is much better (much lower carb content). If you aren’t sure, check the label
You don’t have to give up any food you like, just try to reduce the quantity of these “bad” foods. Eat more fatty things and fewer carbs, esp. refined carbs. If you exercise, that’s great; you’ll feel better and be healthier. But you don’t have to exercise at all to lose weight. It is all in your food choices. Protein and fat make you feel full so you will eat fewer calories and lose weight without starving. This is extremely hard to do when you eat carbs because carbs don’t make you feel full, so it’s trivially easy to over eat.
When I tell people this, they first ask, “Are you kidding?!?” Then they are thrilled. People said “If that is true, you have changed my life. I love you! This is the best news I’ve heard in years!”
Dr. Berstein’s blood work is disclosed on page 137 of his book. If you read that page and the next page, it confirms everything I’ve said here. I’ve reproduced his numbers here so you can compare it to yours.
|Lipid test||Low fat diet||Low carb diet||Normal range|
|LDL||wasn't available in 1970||53||<100|
|HDL||wasn't available in 1970||123||>39|
|Lipoprotein(a)||wasn't available in 1970||undetectable||<10 is normal|
|Triglyceride/HDL||wasn't available in 1970||0.36||<2 is ideal. >4 is too high. This is a great indicator of CVD risk for both men and women.|
I think that there are few people on the planet with healthier numbers. His blood work is that of an Olympic athlete; it doesn’t get any better than this. He also points out that it has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with diet: decades ago he was on a low-fat diet and all his numbers were awful. He was a heart attack waiting to happen. It all turned around when he changed his diet.
Arguments that super low carb diets are dangerous over the long term is silly. Dr. Bernstein would have been dead a long time ago if that were true. He’s been eating a very low-carb for over 50 years and his blood work is better than just about anyone on any kind of diet that I know about.
What you will find are lots of people suggesting their diets, but none of those people will disclose their own blood work (and if they do, it will be bad). The people on the DGAC never disclose their blood work, nor do they see how their blood work would change if they followed the advice here. You are supposed to eat as they tell you despite the fact that they don’t have anyone who follows their advice with blood work any where nearly as healthy as Dr. Bernstein. Bernstein’s diet is simple: reduce carbs to a minimum, eat 20% protein, 80% fat. That’s the key message. That’s the secret to the healthiest diet.
To read more great articles on nutrition, see Authority Nutrition.
Still skeptical? Read this 1 page article on the admission of a prominent researcher that we got it wrong about demonizing fat and promoting carbs.
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