GAPS is not a Low Carb Diet

by brenda on February 13, 2012

{photo credit}

One of the biggest complaints that we heard when we were putting our children on GAPS was that it was a low carb diet, and that isn’t healthy for kids. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who don’t understand the diet and who really believe it is supposed to be a low carb one. Let me set the record straight.

I just made my family’s menu for the week. I am going to share with you 1 day of our menu, and the amount of carbs per person.



Eggs with raw cheddar cheese, mushrooms and onion 7 g

Yogurt with Honey and Bananas 53 g

Creamy Cauliflower Soup 9.5 g

Raisins 28.75 g

Spinach & Cheese Turkey Burgers 4.8 g

Apple Cider Baked Beans 30.8 g

Herbal Tea with Honey 34 g

2 Dates 36 g

Total = 203.85 grams of carbs per person, per day

And Farm Boy 1 will have between 30 and 60 more grams than this, depending on how much of his special drinks he takes in (because we want him to gain weight). This will total 233.85 to 263.85 grams of carbs for him.

And if we had any on hand, we would add sauerkraut to the list above, which would add about 6 more grams of carbs.

The Low Carb Scoop

Atkins followers start with a carb count below 20 grams per day, and increase to up to 50, or 70 if they’re being generous. They eat processed foods and chemical sugars, as long as they are low carb. GAPS relies entirely on whole, real foods.
Mark Sisson fans have a goal of keeping their carb count to under 150 grams per day, for weight maintenance.
There is debate about how “low carb” the Paleo diet ought to be. Rob Wolf says he used to recommend low carb, but now he doesn’t. Some say to keep the carbs below 100 per day, or 75 per day. And yet, a study showed that some hunter-gatherer Eskimos were actually eating about 112 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Low Carb vs. High Carb

So you see, 203.85 g is not exactly low carb. It is not high carb, but it is not low. Some say that if you are following the Standard American Diet (SAD), you will consume between 250 and 300 grams of carbs per day. I can’t find any official data on this, but I suspect that it’s even higher. Cereal for breakfast, with 1 cup of fruit yogurt, coffee with nondairy creamer, a sandwich with turkey & swiss with an apple and chips, a chocolate chip granola bar for snack, a spaghetti dinner with 1 slice of french bread and caesar salad with bottled dressing and croutons and a small bowl of chocolate chip mint ice cream for dessert…This is a typical American day, right? The carb count on this meal is 325 grams. If you’re eating at McDonalds, 1 Big Mac and a large fry and a large Sprite is 186 grams of carbs–that is for one meal–add breakfast, lunch, snacks, beverages and any potential desserts, and the total carb count would be way over 300.
There has been a lot of talk about high carb diets potentially being healthier for the metabolism. I have to say that I’m still not sure I believe in this theory yet. I plan to sit back and watch how it works for everyone else who is trying it. 🙂
I hesitate to jump on board with the high carbers, because I know that carbs are for energy–and yet most Americans live a pretty sedentary lifestyle. So if we intake more energy than we need, where will it go? And, I know that hunter-gatherers did not consume a ton of carbs, and they were healthy and lived longer lives than the pioneers (who relied sometimes exclusively on grains). There are studies that show that carbohydrates are not necessary for human survival at all–that every single nutrient in carbohydrates can be obtained from meats and fats or can be synthesized by the body. And yet, there are studies that say otherwise (you have to wonder who sponsors all of these studies, but that is another story!). Americans have been eating more carbohydrates and less fat over the last few decades, and yet, heart disease and diabetes have increased.
I think that the type of carbs consumed is a big issue. I plan to write another post about the types of carbohydrates that are allowed on the GAPS diet. If you want to eat high carb and eat GAPS, I think it’s totally possible–it’s just that you have to stick with GAPS legal carbs.
The preparation of carbs has changed over time, which I believe has been detrimental to our health. If you want to eat grains, for example, you must know how to prepare them properly or they will damage your body. I think this is where the pioneers went wrong–they were living on mostly grains (which some say is poverty food, at best), and they were not preparing it correctly. If they were not supplementing with enough meats, the unsoaked grains would have depleted their mineral stores. No wonder they didn’t make it through child birth, hard winters, and common viruses. I’ve mentioned the grains class that is coming up. If you are eating grains and you don’t know how to prepare them properly, you need to learn how, for your health! This class is a great opportunity for that.
I also believe that we have different metabolic types. I think that high carb may work for some people (perhaps depending on their blood type and ancestry), and low carb may work better for others. Some people may need to eat lower carb on GAPS–and that’s possible too. It’s just that GAPS wasn’t meant to be a “low carb” diet and it isn’t necessary to be low carb to thrive on GAPS. I know that for myself, this GAPS way of eating (not low carb, not high carb, like the menu above) has worked best. If I eat too few carbs, I feel sick. If I eat too many carbs, I feel sick. It’s a balance, and it’s all about learning our own bodies!

Do you eat GAPS? How many grams of carbs do you think you eat per day? What are your favorite carbs?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula February 14, 2012 at 2:23 am

Hi Brenda, This seems to be the hot topic of the moment, isn’t it? I’ve been reading a lot of comments of people who believe they did not do well on Gaps because it was too low carb for them. I totally agree with you that Gaps is not by definition LOW carb. It’s a Specific carb diet, but not necessarily low carb. Dr. Natasha repeatedly writes about how people should listen to their own bodies and how the amount of protein, fat and carbs that any given person needs depends on many factors, even the season. Having said that, I do find it challenging to keep the carbs up on Gaps when Candida is an issue. Candida means no honey, no fruits and, for some people, even no squashes. Now, that’s a challenge.


Anna Ramos April 19, 2013 at 11:40 am

You put a comment in here on metabolic typing, and I just want to express my opinion, if you care to hear it, not that I’m an expert, but just an observation. The metabolic typing hypothesis is that our metabolisms are different because we have evolved and adapted differently, depending on where our ancestors lived, which also determines our blood type as well. I don’t believe in evolutionary nonesense, at least as far as humans are concerned, so I feel the logic is faulty for starters, but I wonder if it isn’t more of a matter of gut-bacteria that has been passed down, that makes some things more digestible to some, and less to others.


Liz Trekkiemaiden Morgan January 11, 2015 at 1:59 am

BTW Atkins does not equal the whole world of low carbing!! The I think the majority of low carbers do not follow Atkins now for precisely the reasons you stated. We eat more Paleo which is fine for GAPS. But eternal thanks to Dr Atkins for opening the world’s mind to low carb and everything that’s wrong with the SAD.


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