My purpose in creating this website is to inform people about healthy low carb living. This site contains information that is likely very different from that which can be found on the websites of other dietitians. However, if you'd told me a year ago that I'd be touting the benefits of a low carb lifestyle, I would have probably said you were crazy!
I'd been eating a very healthy, semi-vegetarian or pescatarian diet (I consumed dairy, eggs, and fish but no poultry or meat) for many years. Because of genetically high cholesterol, I limited my saturated fat intake, always ordering egg white omelets instead of regular, eschewing butter and choosing trans-fat-free margarines instead, and avoiding cheese and cream sauces. I rarely ate desserts, occasionally having just a bite or two of my husband's cake/ice cream/cheesecake, etc., when we were dining out. Aside from one overweight period during my teens, which I attribute to hormonal upheaval and typical teenage emotional volatility, I 'd been thin and my weight fluctuated by no more than 5 pounds for more than 20 years. Sometimes people in the diabetes classes I teach would ask if I was diabetic too. My answer was, "No, but I try to eat as though I have diabetes." This was absolutely true; I followed the same dietary recommendations I espoused to them: 1 cup of healthy whole grains, three ounces lean protein, one to two tablespoons of healthy oil/fat, and two or more cups of nonstarchy vegetables. Lots of oatmeal, black beans, and whole grain pasta. A healthy dietitian, practicing what she preached!
So when I received the results from labs that were done for life insurance purposes back in January of this year, I was speechless. Not only was my LDL ("bad") cholesterol elevated, but my fructosamine (a measure of blood sugar levels over a two-to-three-week period of time) was flagged as high, indicating the potential for diabetes. And my hemoglobin A1c (a measure of blood sugar levels over a two-to-three-month period of time), although still within normal range at 5.5%, was still far higher than would be expected for someone my size who ate the way I did. Now, while these numbers were not outrageously high, as someone who works with people who have diabetes or prediabetes every day, they certainly suggested to me that something was not right with my blood glucose metabolism. I purchased a glucometer and began testing after meals, and discovered my blood sugar levels at one hour were significantly higher than they should be. Within the next few weeks, I saw that the more carbohydrates I ate, the higher the number would go. My fasting blood sugar always remained within normal range, however.
I made an appointment with an endocrinologist, who wasn't overly concerned since my fasting levels were so normal. He did want to retest my A1c, and by that point, it had increased slightly to 5.6%. I cut down on the carbs slightly (not too much, though -- I'd been taught that we need enough carbs to keep our brains and other organs working properly), and then I started doing research online about strategies to control postprandial, or post-meal, blood glucose. It seemed that many people were using low carbohydrate diets with great success in managing their diabetes and postprandial blood sugars. I was skeptical, but once I started reading the available research on carbohydrate restriction, it all started to make complete and perfect sense. I discovered that that the high carbohydrate, low fat diet I'd been taught to believe was ideal was anything but for many people struggling with diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and dyslipidemia. This was quite difficult for me to accept at first, but now that I have, I'm quite excited about the potential to help people struggling with these conditions.
So how are my blood sugar levels now? Well, they're definitely better, although since I do have early-stage diabetes (not sure what type yet), I continue to have occasional spikes, especially when I increase my carb intake even a little bit. I haven't had a repeat A1c nor a new lipid panel yet. But I'm committed to a low-carb lifestyle, including recently eating poultry again for the first time in more than ten years. I can honestly say I'm extremely satisfied with this way of eating. It's not for everyone, but I believe it can help people improve many aspects of their health as well as their quality of life.
I'm glad you took the time to read my story. I intend to post on this blog at least monthly, perhaps more if time permits. Here's to a happy and healthy future for all of us!
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE