Generally, low carbohydrate myths and concerns are being circulated by those who may not have done their due diligence make assumptions, or by those who have not yet caught up with the latest science. Studies continue to support the fact that low carb is an excellent choice for weight loss, heart health, diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), nutrition, gut health, mental clarity and more information is coming to light regarding the ketogenic diet in the role of adjunctive cancer therapy.
I bet you have heard them already – it’s dangerous, it’s unhealthy, it’s unsustainable, it’s restrictive, there’s no evidence. These concerns are unfounded and I wanted to address how many of these can be debunked and counter-argued.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Are No Carbohydrates Diets
As far as essential nutrients go (meaning the nutrients you need to eat as the body cannot make them), there are no known essential carbohydrates. There are essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (proteins), but there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Low carbohydrate plans do include fruit but focus on the nutrient dense varieties such as berries over the high sugar tropical fruits such as mango, bananas and pineapple. Low carbohydrate diets do include carbohydrates which are sourced nutrient dense lower carbohydrate vegetables, nuts, berries and dairy (if tolerated). For many people, vegetable intake actually increases. Processed carbohydrates are removed and replaced with more vegetables. Low carbohydrate diets do not rely on the dense starches such as those found in rice, pasta and bread to bulk up meals, they rely on vegetables instead.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Are High Protein Diets
A well-formulated low carbohydrate plan is moderate in protein. Excess protein is converted into glucose in the body via gluconeogenesis. In my plans, I always advocate to eat meat that has been well-raised along with having minimal intervention such as steaks, roasts, drumsticks, organ meats. There is a vast difference between processed meat such as hotdogs and burgers to meat such as steak, roasts, chops and ham on the bone. Protein is required for essential amino acids.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Have No Variety
A low carbohydrate diet is full of many whole, real foods. When processed carbohydrates are removed one is left with everything else. A high carbohydrate diet can actually crowd out nutrition whilst a low carbohydrate diet crowds out junk. A sandwich has very little nutrition (with only a few scant nutritious ingredients inside) compared to a large salad. Having sushi for example, is the equivalent of eating white bread (in terms of carbohydrates) and very little of the nutritious fillings inside. Low carbohydrate diets consist of meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. Many who adopted this way of eating say they have started cooking for themselves for the first time and love experimenting with new recipes and new foods.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Are Too Restrictive
A low carbohydrate diet restricts products not food. Did you know every year thousands of new products come into the marketplace? Of these, 85% of them have some form of added sugar. Low carbohydrate plans encourage a huge variety of foods, just not processed products. The problem in modern times is that so many products or fake foods contain sugars and grains, so a low carb diet may appear to be heavily restricted, but only because there are so many of these products available. By removing processed food, you almost become low carb by default.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Are Not Sustainable
Studies continually show that once people choose to follow a low carbohydrate protocol and give up sugars and grains, they do it for good. Once one learns and feels how damaging sugars and processed carbohydrates are to the body, to well-being and to the appetite, it becomes an effortless choice to feel good always, no willpower required. This could be one of the reasons why the sugar and grain industries are fighting back so vehemently. Once they lose a customer, they lose them for life.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Deplete Energy
Most people report that they have never had so much energy. Fat is a far more sustaining fuel than glucose. Once all the stored carbohydrates (glycogen) have been depleted and the body switches to burning fat for fuel, energy abounds as there is almost an unlimited supply of energy in fat stores. You will no longer be on the sugar roller coaster, with afternoon slumps and evening munchies.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Fail To Fuel The Brain
The brain can be fuelled by both glucose and ketones, which is how the human race has survived famines and periods of fasting throughout history. The brain can run very efficiently on ketones, which are, in fact what gives many people such mental clarity and continuous concentration when reducing their carbohydrate intake. A very low carbohydrate, therapeutic ketogenic diet has an anti-seizure effect for those with epilepsy. Ketosis is also a better environment for neuronal recover and repair, reduction of seizures and prevention of Alzheimer’s. If any glucose is required by certain parts of the brain, the body is perfectly capable of producing it from protein through gluconeogenesis.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Increase Heart Disease Risk
Study after study has repeatedly shown that it is the high level of carbohydrates in a diet that increases inflammation, creates the dangerous form of LDL cholesterol carrier (tiny, angry oxidised LDL), raised triglycerides, raised heart disease risk and Type 2 diabetes (which is one of the biggest risk factors of heart disease). Reducing carbohydrates and increasing healthy fats actually reduces these risk factors. Lowering carbohydrate intake reduces triglycerides (best predictor of heart disease), reduces blood pressure, improves HDL and improves the size and type of LDL. New research is creating an understanding of how important cholesterol is and why having a low level is just as much of a concern as having the wrong type.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Are Low In Fiber
Hmm, all those leafy greens being consumed is insufficient? Nuts, seeds, coconut? How much fibre is enough anyway? The myth of losing fibre from grains is persistent. Most whole grain products are quite often processed with the fibre and grains added back in. These are then enriched and fortified with vitamins. Obtaining fiber from whole foods with minimal human intervention is a better bet.
Low Carbohydrate Diets And Ketosis Are Dangerous
Following a low carbohydrate diet is not synonymous with a ketogenic diet, nor does it imply one will be in ketosis all the time. In reality, many people are in ketosis without even realizing it! Ever wonder how you survive your sleep and are not eating? Your body switches to utilizing its fat stores as fuel once all its glycogen stores are depleted. Fat is released from the fat cells into the blood stream. These fatty acids are turned into ketones which fuel the body and brain. Ketosis is entirely different to ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a condition that occurs in Type 1 diabetics where the level of ketones in the body cannot be controlled, it makes the blood acidic and can be fatal.
Low Carbohydrate Diets Are a Passing Fad
Humans have been eating a low carbohydrate for thousands of generations, it is in fact the current high carbohydrate guidelines that should be seen as a fad diet. People tend to use the term ‘fad diet’ as a derogatory term when diets are unsuccessful, but low carbohydrate plans work, both in the short and long term. Entire populations thrive on low carbohydrate diets. The first book was published in 1862 by William Banting and Dr. Harvey who prescribed weight loss by eating no bread, no pasta, no sugar, no beer, no starch – only meat, fish, and vegetables. Ask your grandparents what they did to lose a little weight – they stopped eating bread and potatoes.
So is a low carbohydrate diet is dangerous?
You decide. By reviewing some of the above and doing your research you will be equipped to come to your own conclusion. What I do believe is dangerous however, is eating processed food, and the incredible high carbohydrate, highly refined diet promoted and eaten in our culture. This leads to obesity, heart disease, insulin resistance, Alzheimer’s.
Low carbohydrate eating improves health in almost every way. It encourages weight loss, reduces hunger, improves metabolic syndrome, improves blood lipid profiles, reduces risk of heart disease, reduces blood pressure, improves insulin sensitivity and improves glycemic control, reduces triglycerides, reduces risk of T2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Low carbohydrate diets are easier to adhere to when compared to low fat diets. Reducing your carbohydrate intake and preventing insulin resistance can be one of the most powerful things onecan do to live a long and healthy life.