August 03, 2004

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Hey, Gang

Wow! Two issues in two weeks! Almost like old times.

The best stuff in this issue, hands-down, are some emails from readers about last issue's article on low carb and fertility. This is the sort of stuff that just makes me grin like an idiot all day long - and that makes me love this job.

Read on!


Posted by HoldTheToast at 09:09 PM

On The Road Again

Owing to, er, overwhelming circumstances, I have traveled far more in the past 18 months than I have traveled in pretty much the whole rest of my life put together. And I'm here to tell you one simple thing about being on the road: It's no excuse for eating junk.

You hear this pretty commonly: "I'm on the road all the time, and it's so hard to eat healthy." Bah. Excuses. I have been in a bunch of airports - Indianapolis, O'Hare, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, La Guardia, LAX, Dallas - and every single one of them has had food that will fit your low carbohydrate diet.

Main dish salads are ubiquitous; they're available at practically every fast food kiosk. They may not be gourmet, but they're fresh and low carb, give you a fast dose of protein and vegetables, and are easy to carry onto a plane if you're in a hurry. You can also find burgers and dogs without the buns, of course, and often other things as well - I saw a smoothies place at the Philadelphia airport the other day that offered a couple of low carb choices, complete with added protein powder. Diet soda, coffee, and tea are easy to find. My favorite, unsweetened, unflavored iced tea, is a little harder; too many places only have sweetened tea on tap, or the bottled, flavored stuff. Still, I can always find a caffeine fix without ruining my diet.

You certainly can't count on the airlines to feed you these days, and when they do it's often Festival of Junk Carbs. Every now and then I get a tiny packet of peanuts, but other than that it's pretzels on short flights, or a sandwich, chips, and cookies on cross-country flights (in this situation I generally eat the protein out of the sandwich, and discard everything else.) Too, sometimes you have to make a connection with no time to grab food. This is why I never travel without a snack in my carry-on bag - I always have a protein bar, or nuts or pumpkin seeds, and often both. These can make all the difference. Please, don't head out for a trip without "friendly" food, or you'll be prey to the first Cinnabon you see as you get off the plane.

Remember, folks: It's one thing to decide to have an Indulgence because you're on vacation, and at a special restaurant. It's something else entirely to eat lousy airport food because "I'm on the road, how can I eat healthy?" Especially if you travel as much as I do!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:54 PM

Low Carb and Fertility Continued

Last issue I wrote about a study that showed that mice and cows fed a high protein diet experienced fertility problems. I pointed out that mice and cows are herbivores whose hereditary diet did not include animal products, making the application of this finding to people wildly speculative at best. I also pointed out that carbohydrate intolerance in the form of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a very common cause of infertility, and that for many women a low carbohydrate diet enhances fertility.

I got some incredible mail in response to that article! Here are a few of the coolest stories I've read since starting this journal, and I've read some truly wonderful stories!

Hi Dana

Just a quick note: I was told nearly 20 years ago that I couldn't become pregnant without fertility drugs due to hormone problems (I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Last year, I went on the Atkins diet. Today I have a beautiful 4 month old daughter. Coincidence? Maybe, but I doubt it. It's not likely that I became pregnant due to losing weight either. I was a size 5 for many of those childless years.

~ Leann Daniels

I just wanted to add to your anecdotal evidence that low-carbing does not lead to fertility problems. I was diagnosed with PCOS in 1998. I got married in 1989 and went off the pill in 1990. I went to doctors off and on about my infertility problems for years - I never ovulated. I got as far as

almost having an IUI but we had to stop the injectible drugs as I was at risk of ovarian hyperstimulation. I didn't go back to the clinic after that as I felt like a lab rat and it was costly and stressful.

When I turned 40 I had a serious talk with my husband and we decided to give up trying to have a baby. I started doing some research on my own into PCOS and discovered that low-carbing was supposed to help women with PCOS maintain or regain their health. Someone at work lost a whole bunch of weight by low-carbing too and she had a 3 page photocopy of a woman's magazine article that she was following. It looked too good to be true - I mean who had ever been on a diet where you could have butter? I love butter and meat, so I thought the diet didn't look too bad. I bought Dr. Atkin's New Diet Revolution, read it, and decided that I liked what he had to say and would give low-carbing a try.

I swear, withing 36 hours I felt less bloated in my abdomen and had more energy. I added more exercise and some supplements to my life. I really craved sweet stuff at first and found myself downing lots of diet jello and diet pop - and I never drank much pop before, but I managed to kick that habit too. I lost 7 pounds on induction and for the next few months I stayed at about 60 carbs a day. I lost about 15 pounds and could have lost a few more, but I think I was afraid of the sucess that I was having and didn't want to push my luck! I did have the occasional beer, so when I gained a pound or two I'd just cut back on the carbs again until I lost them.

It was amazing. I wasn't hungry and I wasn't thinking about food all the time and 7 months after I started I had 2 periods in 2 months after years of having 3-4 every 12 months. Low-carbing was getting my endocrine system back on track. Then it was winter and I started to feel sick and tired and bloated again and I craved carbs like mad. I thought maybe I had SAD on top of a big cold and then I figured it was menopause or (on bad days) ovarian cancer.

I finally went to the doctor, told her my symptoms, got a strange look from her and was told to undo my pants and get up on the examining table. She took one look at me and told me I was pregnant - probably 4-5 months. She pulled out her Doppler, rubbed some gel on my tummy and we heard a heartbeat. Twenty weeks later I had a healthy baby girl. I did get gestational diabetes, and the diet I was put on had way more carbs than I was used to eating, but the dietician I saw stressed healthy unrefined carbs and said I didn't have to eat the highest number of servings. (The GD diet doesn't take into account low-glycemic foods and is really designed for the average North American who eats too much junk food, so I suppose they don't want to make things too complicated and scary - though I wish they'd have different levels so people who are concerned about something could get more help.)

My daughter only breastfed for 4 months as I didn't have much milk and had to supplement with formula. She decided that the bottle was much easier. I was disappointed, but started low-carbing that day. A month later I had a period. A month after that I was pregnant again. So now I am 42 and 31 weeks pregnant with my second child. I've had GD from the start, and I'm really watching my carb intake, so the baby is gaining weight, but I'm not huge and I'm certainly not in ketosis. I wish I had known the connection between low-carbing and PCOS years ago, but I'm glad I finally made the connection myself. If this baby is a boy we are naming him Robert in honor of Dr. Atkins.

Sorry this is long, but low-carbing gave me 2 pregnancies after 12+ years of infertility, so it's a topic close to my heart.

Dana Carswell

Dear Dana,

I know you are busy, but I had to respond to the article about fertility and low carb eating. My husband and I had trouble conceiving for the first 17 years of our marriage, and the two children that we had were "with help"...HSGs, a laparoscopy, some fertility shots, AI, etc...After

I was on low carb for a year (and lost 70 pounds) I turned up pregnant...just out of the blue...not even trying. What a neat surprise!

Love your books and the ezine,

Angela Krempl

These stories are SO COOL! Leanne, Dana, Angela, you have my heartiest congratulations, and I know that Lowcarbezine! readers everywhere join me in rejoicing.

Also, re the effect of a low carb diet on other species, Dale Lover writes:

I have to respond to this because I also saw the study. I have 5 dogs of my own and am part of a large group of dog owners who feed their dogs raw and communicate regularly on a number of email lists. There are disputes on the diet for dogs as well, but most of us feed a diet similar to the hunter diet which is also very much like Atkins. The diet is primarily raw meaty bones, muscle and organ meats, green vegetables and some feed summer squash and zucchini in the veggie meat mush, eggs (I give only yolks) and yogurt. The only grain they ever get is a sprinkling of wheat germ and the whole wheat flour in the salmon treats I bake for them. My point is that dogs eating this diet, which is also similar to what they eat in the wild, have no difficulty getting pregnant and the puppies are marvelously healthy. Anyway, that is what made me skeptical of the results of this study, in addition to the general the sniping of many in the scientific community at the success of the low carb diet and the studies that show that weight can be lost without sacrificing health. It is as though anyone who can poke holes in the low carb theory and success will be considered a hero and there are some stretching science beyond the limit in an attempt to do so.

I, too, feed my dogs what is often referred to as the BARF diet (Bones And Raw Food) and they're thriving. They're both neutered, so I have no idea what the effect on fertility might be, but they're fit and energetic, with shiny eyes and coats, and none of the dental problems common in dogs these days. Indeed, when my vet asked me, "Have you heard about low carbohydrate diets for dogs and cats?" I responded, "Doc, I'm way ahead of you!"

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:40 PM

Dopey "Low-Carb" (HAH!) Product of the Week

Y'know those inserts in the Sunday paper? The ones that are nothing but coupons? I found the most hilarious attempt at wooing the low carb market in there the other day.

It seems that Auntie Anne's, a chain of mall stores selling fresh-baked soft pretzels, is coming after us with their new "Smart Bites" for those, as they say, "counting carbs." Smart Bites are little nuggets of pretzel, served in a cup, and each nugget has "just" 1 net carb.

Of course, you can make anything look low carb if you just divide it up into small enough pieces. Heck, Coca-Cola has less than 2 grams of carbohydrate per tablespoon! Doesn't change the fact that it has 40 grams per can. That cup contains about fifteen Smart Bites, so you're going to be counting quite a few carbs. If my elementary school arithmetic is holding up, that's 15 grams of usable carbohydrate per serving, or roughly the level I try to stick to in a meal, fercryinoutloud. It sure doesn't qualify Auntie Anne's Smart Bites as low carb.

Furthermore, despite having "more protein and fiber" than Auntie Anne's regular pretzels, I'm betting that Smart Bites derive most of their usable carbs from refined white flour, also spelled j-u-n-k.

Are Auntie Anne's Smart Bites an improvement over their regular pretzels? Apparently they are - but then, an Original Pretzel will run you 69 grams of usable carb, and a "Glazin' Raisin" Pretzel has a whopping 103 grams of usable carb, so there is a lot of room for improvement. Smart Bites are in the same category as the C2, Pepsi Edge, and "reduced sugar" cereals I wrote about last issue - still full of garbage, just less of it.

I'd like to point out here that for about the same usable carb count as a cup of Auntie Anne's Smart Bites you could eat a medium apple, a medium ear of corn on the cob, a slice-and-a-half of Natural Ovens Sunny Millet Bread, or any number of other foods which would be far more nutritious and satisfy your hunger far longer. If you really have an extra 15 grams to blow, Auntie Anne's Smart Bites are not your best choice by a long shot.

I know I hammer on this issue, but I worry that new low carbers will figure that they can just replace all that high carb processed junk with reduced carb processed junk, and they'll lose weight and improve their health. For most people this is simply untrue; most people have to drop below 50 grams of non-fiber carbs per day to lose weight, and many have to drop even lower than that, unless they couple carb reduction with pretty strict calorie counting. Too, I hear frequently from people who tell me that the day they started adding a lot of reduced carb "treats" to their diet was the day their weight loss stopped. "When you plateau, lose the treats" is a very good rule to live by.

I strongly suspect that a low carbohydrate diet based on processed stuff will not deliver anything like the health benefits of a low carb diet based on real food. Carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and nuts and seeds come with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Carbohydrates from processed low carb junk do not. Too, hunger is not solely a response to needing calories from food. You can also feel hungry because your body is craving nutrients it isn't getting. Processed stuff can't fill that hunger.

Please, folks, eat real food. Real food, real food, real food. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, vegetables, low sugar fruits are what a low carb diet is about, not chee-zee junk food that still contain enough carbs for a whole meal. If once or twice a year (NOT once or twice a week) you're really craving a hot pretzel, Smart Bites are better than a Glazin' Raisin or Original Pretzel. Other than that, they have no place in a healthy low carb diet.

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:37 PM

Grandma's Peach Cobbler

It's the height of the summer fruit season, so use some! Here's a recipe the whole family will love, from the upcoming 500 More Low-Carb Recipes.

Grandma's Peach Cobbler

Well, except Grandma's was a lot higher carb than this! This is a charming, old-fashioned dessert.

4 cups sliced peaches
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup polyol
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup vanilla whey protein powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon Splenda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375. Spray an 8x8 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sliced peaches (I use unsweetened, frozen peach slices -- saves lots of time and trouble, and since they're going to be cooked, it makes no difference in the final texture), 1/4 cup Splenda, polyol, and lemon juice. Toss everything together, and spread evenly in the pan. Dot with 2 tablespoons of the butter.

In another mixing bowl (or heck, go ahead and use the same one if you like) combine the almond meal, vanilla whey, baking powder, the 1 tablespoon of Splenda, and the salt. Stir together to evenly distribute ingredients.

Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter. Measure the cream, and stir the butter into it. Pour into the dry ingredients, and mix with a few swift strokes of your whisk or a spoon -- you just want to stir enough to insure that there are no pockets of dry ingredients lurking.

Spread the batter evenly over the peaches, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and evenly golden brown. Serve warm.

9 servings, each with: 250 Calories; 17g Fat; 14g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 11 grams usable carb. Carb count does not include polyol sweetener.

Note: If you can't get polyol sweeteners (maltitol, erythritol, and the like) locally, you can get them from lots of low carb etailers. My pals at Carb Smart carry them: . I prefer erythritol for most uses - it has a very low absorption rate, so you get very few usable carbs from it, and it's less likely to cause gastro-intestinal effects, too. You could use all Splenda, instead, but you won't get the same syrupy, gooey quality to the fruit filling. It'll taste good, though!

Posted by HoldTheToast at 08:28 PM