There are a great many misconceptions about low carb diets, and one of them is that they must be very low in dietary fiber. We all know fiber is good for us. It fills us up, keeps us regular, slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, and may contribute to heart and colon health. It’s pretty important stuff. Since low carb diets eschew many commonly accepted sources of fiber, such as whole grains and legumes, many people believe low carb diets to also be low fiber diets. And if they are low in fiber, it logically follows that they can’t possibly be good for us, right? Wrong. Don’t mind me if I just gently blow a few holes in that idea.
First, let’s consider the best source of dietary fiber. It is not, as many people believe, whole grains and legumes but vegetables and fruits that give us the bulk of our daily fiber intake. Or at least it should be. It goes without saying that any healthy diet should include a variety of vegetables and fruit every day. We’re all supposed to be getting our 7 to 9 servings or more per day and that holds just as true on a low carb diet as it does on any other. And thankfully, the vast majority of vegetables, and some fruits as well, are both low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber. No matter what diet you follow, if you’re skimping on these foods, you’re cheating yourself of the best sources of fiber and other nutrients.
You might also be surprised to find that many of the low carb alternatives to whole grains have just as much as much or more fiber than their conventional counterparts. Nut meals typically contain 3 or 4 g per serving, which is as much fiber as a serving of whole wheat flour. Coconut flour varies between 5 and 10 g of fiber per serving, depending on the brand, and almost all of the carbohydrates in flax and chia seeds are from dietary fiber. Many low carb recipes also substitute veggies like cauliflower and zucchini for rice and pasta, increasing the fiber and nutrients of many dishes even further.
A great part of the confusion surrounding low carb diets comes from the misperception that they are high protein diets. They aren’t, or at least they shouldn’t be. Done correctly, a low carb diet should be low in carbs (obviously!) and high in fat, with moderate amounts of protein. I know the high fat part scares many people, but science is increasingly coming out in favor of the idea that fats, even saturated fats, are not the enemy. Admittedly, it’s still a bit of a hard sell, and with low carb diets being so misunderstood, they are easy to vilify. I get that; it was a hard sell for me too at first.
I recently read an article about two men, identical twins, who decided to put low carb versus low fat to the test. For a period of one month, one twin ate low carb and the other ate low fat. In the end, the twin on the low carb diet lost more weight, but says he felt sluggish, his breath stank and he was constipated. Well no wonder, since his version of low carb consisted solely of meat, fish, eggs and cheese. He didn’t do a low carb diet, he did a NO carb diet, eating zero fruits, vegetables, nuts or seeds for a whole month. There was nary a gram of dietary fiber to be seen and I don’t know anyone who would advocate this kind of extreme dieting. Naturally, the article gained traction on many news outlets across the globe. Is it any wonder that with this kind of press, low carb diets are so misunderstood?
One more thing that should convince you how important fiber-rich foods are if you’re going low carb is that they count against your overall carb count. Fiber is indigestible and is not absorbed into the bloodstream. It has no effect on blood glucose levels and many countries don’t even consider it a carbohydrate in their nutritional labeling. The US lists it as a carbohydrate, however, and most low carb diets suggest calculating “net carbs” by subtracting the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrate. Bingo. Right there, you just ate less carbs than you thought you did.
I advocate eating a variety of fiber-rich foods on a low carb diet, as they will help you feel full, healthy and energized. With so many great sources of fiber available, there is simply no need to limit yourself to meat, fish, eggs and cheese. And why would you want to? You can enjoy an amazing variety of foods without blowing your low carb goals. And you’ll be much happier and more likely to stick with it.
Mocha Chocolate Chunk Chia Seed Brownies
- ¾ cup Chia Seed Meal (about ½ cup whole seeds – I grind them in my coffee grinder)
- ¾ cup Swerve Sweetener or other Erythritol
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- ¼ tsp Salt
- ½ cup Butter
- 3 oz Unsweetened Chocolate
- 4 large Eggs
- ¼ cup strongly brewed Coffee
- 2 oz Dark Chocolate Chunks (70 to 90% cacao)
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9 x 9 square baking pan. Line with parchment paper, with some overhanging the sides for easy release. Grease parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together chia seed meal, sweetener, baking soda and salt.
In a large saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together, whisking until smooth.
Whisk in eggs (mixture may seize), then whisk in coffee. Stir in chia seed mixture until well combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
Spread batter in prepared pan and bake 15 to 16 minutes for a fudgier consistency or 18 to 20 for a cakier consistency.
Remove and let cool completely in pan.
Remove brownies from pan by grasping the overhanging parchment and lifting carefully. Cut into 16 squares.
Carolyn Ketchum is the writer, photographer and almond flour wizard behind All Day I Dream About Food, a low carb and gluten-free food blog. Her mission is to prove to the world that special diets need not be boring or restrictive and that healthy dishes can be just as good, or better, than their sugar and gluten-filled counterparts. It’s astonishing what you can do with a bag of almond flour, a stick of butter, and a willingness to experiment. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest for inspiring ideas for the low carb, gluten free lifestyle.