There are plenty of myths that revolve around low carb diets. Below are a few big ones that I’m going to go into detail about.
Saturated Fat and Cholesterol are Bad for You
This is probably the most popular myth. The answer is simple. There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that saturated fat is bad for you. This whole scare began with Ancel Keys’ Lipid Hypothesis. The Lipid Hypothesis was far from conclusive and future scientist who have tried to build on it found themselves building on sand. There has been no credible study to date showing that saturated fat is bad for you. In fact, there have been credible studies showing the exact opposite.
What about Vitamins and Minerals?
With advertisements claiming so many benefits from certain fruit drinks, smoothies and vitamin rich vegetables, everyone is afraid of not getting enough of them. Hell, I even took my Flintstone vitamins when I was little! The problem with the theory that we need a minimum of these dietary vitamins to stay healthy is a bit shaky.
People who have followed an extremely restricted ketogenic diet have shown no signs of vitamin/mineral deficiency, scurvy, or illnesses. Vitamin A, B6, K2, B12, iron, sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc are all present in meats and organ meats. There has been no credible scientific evidence to suggest the necessity of antioxidants and exotic vitamins. Actually, one quote by Gary Taubes states:
Reactive oxygen species – the molecules we want antioxidants to fight – are created in large part by burning carbs (glucose) for fuel and so are a product of carb-rich diets. Eat fewer carbs and antioxidants in the diet become a moot issue.
Consuming too Many Calories
The whole idea that overeating calories is extremely popular and makes a lot of sense to the untrained ear. Unfortunately, the science doesn’t add up. There’s a variable missing when calories are discussed. Eating a lot and not exercising doesn’t make your body store more calories(energy). Eating a lot of carbs can make your body store energy instead of using it. It’s all about hormones, mainly insulin.
Our metabolism is there to regulate our calories. Our metabolism is regulated by a series of hormones. When our hormones are out of balance, it throws our metabolism out of balance as well. That means our bodies can’t deal with the energy coming in efficiently.
But some people go on low calorie diets and lose weight, right? Well, yeah. The average American diet comes from lots of soda, bread, pasta, fries(potatoes), chips and other starchy foods. So if most of our calories are coming from carbs, reducing our calories for the day means we’re also reducing our carbs for the day.
Not Getting Enough Energy/Carbs
Unfortunately, this is another big one. Some people think unless they’re massively overloading carbs, they’ll feel tired and sluggish. They believe that carbs are a vital nutrient for survival. According to some credible low carb studies, there is no known requirement for carbohydrates in diet. Truthfully, all we really need is about 50 or so grams a day to meet energy needs (maybe less depending on energy levels). Even an athlete can perform optimally with such a low number of carbs.
Some people will actually enter the state of ketosis when restricting carbs to about 50 grams or less a day. This is when the body switches from using sugar as energy to using fat.
Ketosis is Dangerous and Will Make you Feel Bad
This one by far is the most absurd. Many people will hold onto the popular dogma that ketosis will leave you feeling tired, depressed, sluggish, and with bad breath. This theory of being tired, sluggish and feeling depressed is strictly observational. Some people will experience these symptoms when entering ketosis. This is mostly because of the lack of sugar and it’s temporary. Our body goes through an adaptation period when we go into ketosis.
It’s true that we expel acetone, one of the ketone bodies from our urine and breath. The breath is never really noticeable and is associated with the smell of peaches. Another big one is that ketosis is stressful on your kidneys and is bad for your organs. Unfortunately, some people confuse ketosis with ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a rare, life threatening condition that occurs in those with type 1 diabetes.
Ketoacidosis and dietary ketosis are two completely different things. In fact, our internal organs function better on ketones than they do on glucose.
I Have to Give up Everything I Like to Eat!
You can eat steak, shrimp, chicken wings, burgers (without bun), steamed or fried vegetables, salmon, sashimi, salads, and nuts. Is that not enough? The problem with most American diets are that the dishes revolve around carbs. Just substitute the pasta, rice and bread for veggies in meals. Stop the sugary drinks and desserts, its really that simple. Unless your health really calls for it, being extremely low carb isn’t really necessary.