National Nutrition Week: The importance of an LCHF, whole foods lifestyle.

It’s National Nutrition Week, and we are taking a closer look at the importance of an LCHF, whole foods lifestyle for metabolic health. In recent months, it has been more important than ever to eat healthily and stay active during the pandemic. Naturally, the world has turned to consuming less refined products and rather opting for healthier choices, such as whole foods.

There has been some confusion as to what the term “whole foods” actually means. Whole foods are part of a larger group known as functional foods and have essentially undergone little to no refinement or processing prior to being consumed. Examples of these foods include, fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, tubers and meats.

Evidence in support of a low carb, high fat diet shows that by adopting the lifestyle patients have seen vast improvements in health markers. According to the study done by Hallberg SJ et al, patients saw a decrease in HbA1c levels by 1.3%. It is known that HbA1c joins with glucose within the bloodstream and is used as a means to measure the overall picture of your average blood sugar levels.  The prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) has steadily been increasing, and with that obesity, due to unhealthy lifestyle choices. In light of this trend, an LCHF diet has been shown to reverse obesity. Patients involved in the study saw a 12% decrease in body weight. It was also noted that carbohydrate restriction was more effective for weight loss, than low-fat diets over a 2 year period. Evidence suggests that long-term effects of a low-carb diet does not show to have any adverse health effects and has the consequent benefit of being relatively affordable.

A study conducted by the research team from The Noakes Foundation recorded results from 24 type 2 diabetic participants on an LCHF diet. The following results were obtained for the HbA1c levels of the participants who completed the follow-Up, HbA1c was 7.5 (6.5–9.5) % prior to starting their diets, 5.8 (5.4–6.2) % at first assessment and 5.9 (5.3–6.6) % at follow-Up. The participants experienced notable weight loss by the end of the assessments and the majority showed full or partial T2D remission – an amazing result for a medical condition that is thought to be irreversible.

The South African government has released recommended daily allowances for certain healthy foods, but the financial costs of the whole foods are often overlooked, and the socio-economic status of the country is not considered. This is certainly true during times of economic stress, as shown during COVID-19. Thus, the question begs, how many South Africans can actually afford to eat correctly every day? Fortunately, the produce mentioned above are relatively cost effective, more so than convenience goods. Although, an issue faced by under resourced communities is the availability of quality whole food products, as well as a general misinterpretation that dairy, fresh vegetables and unprocessed meat are more costly compared to other convenience foods, such as bread and processed meats and cheeses. So, how can the mindset be shifted and can a new, healthier diet be adopted by the populace?

Currently, The Noakes Foundation’s community initiative, Eat Better South Africa (EBSA) has developed a program to assist under-resourced communities to meet their dietary needs and better their eating habits. EBSA has taken the approach of educating under-resourced communities on the importance of embracing a whole foods diet, low in refined carbohydrates and sugar, by taking part in a comprehensive, community based 6-week nutrition program. Their goal is to aid these communities to reverse and prevent diseases of lifestyle, often associated with poor eating habits. These include, blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and insulin resistance. It has been noted that the above mentioned diseases are more prevalent in low income families, thus increasing the urgency to educate the communities on the diseases and how to avoid such diseases. The program places special attention on the budget and preparation of healthy foods, how to overcome sugar addiction and the teaching of the adverse effects of sugar and carbohydrates on the human body. Tremendous improvements of health markers have been observed in participants of the EBSA programme. 

Although whole foods form part of an LCHF lifestyle, certain whole foods fall into a “grey area” within the LCHF arena. Traditionally, diets have only considered the amount of carbohydrates that the whole foods contain, opposed to the type of carbohydrates they contain. It’s commonly known that foods containing higher amounts of carbohydrates have a greater effect on the post-prandial glucose response of the body. Here’s the tricky part…whole foods, such as beans, potatoes, carrots etc, are foods high in carbohydrates. On the other side, eating whole foods have come with a cornucopia of health benefits. These include reduced inflammation and a decreased risk of heart disease. 

If you wish to find out where these whole foods fit into the LCHF diet and how you can be enlightened on this “grey area” join us on the 15th October at 3PM UTC +02 for a live panel discussion with Prof. Tim Noakes on Grey Area Carbs – The Benefits and Drawbacks to shed more light on this topic. Visit the Nutrition Network Facebook page here to view the stream live.


Athinarayanan SJ, Adams RN, Hallberg SJ, et al. Long-Term Effects of a Novel Continuous Remote Care Intervention Including Nutritional Ketosis for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A 2-year Non-randomized Clinical Trial. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2019; 10:348. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2019.00348

Hallberg SJ, McKenzie AL, Williams P, et al. Effectiveness and Safety of a Novel Care Model for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes at One Year: An Open Label, Non-Randomized, Controlled Study. Diabetes Therapy. 2018; 9(2): 583-612. doi: 10.1007/s13300-018-0373-9

McKenzie AL, Hallberg SJ, Creighton BC, et al. A Novel Intervention Including Individualized Nutritional Recommendations Reduces Hemoglobin A1c Level, Medication Use, and Weight in Type 2 Diabetes. JMIR Diabetes. 2017; 2(1):e5.

Bhanpuri NH, Hallberg SJ, Williams PT, McKenzie AL, Ballard KD, Campbell WW, McCarter JP, Phinney SD, Volek JS. Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factor Responses to a Type 2 Diabetes Care Model Including Nutritional Ketosis at One Year: An Open Label, Non-Randomized, Controlled Study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2018; 17:56. doi:10.1186/s12933-018-0698-8

Cost of Eating: Whole Foods Versus Convenience. Foods in a Low-income Model. Available here: 

A-L Kinmonth, RM Angus, PA Jenkins, MA Smit, JD Baum. Whole foods and increased dietary fibre improve blood glucose control in diabetic children.  Department ofPaediatrics, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. Available here: 

Webster CC, Murphy TE, Larmuth KM, Noakes TD, Smith JA. Diet, Diabetes Status, and Personal Experiences of Individuals with Type 2 diabetes Who Self-Selected and Followed a Low Carbohydrate High Fat diet. Dovepress. 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 2567—2582 Available here: 

About the author:

Shannon Mace has a BSc degree in Human Life Sciences from Stellenbosch University, she majored in biochemistry and physiology. She has a keen interest in metabolic physiology and hopes to further her studies in the subject. Shannon has joined The Noakes Foundation as a researcher, as well as an administrator. She looks forward to helping the foundation promote healthier living and happier lifestyles.

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