Sunday, August 24, 2008

Low carb mythology: The Beginning

If you decide to embark on a low-carbohydrate lifestyle, I can assure you that you will hear a whole host of reasons why you shouldn't do it. In fact, you may believe some of those myths as you read this. I once did, even after I had been eating this way for some time. Read on if you're interested in exploring some of the existing low-carb mythology.

Myth: The diet is all meat, cheese, and eggs.
Truth: Depending on your preferences and your personal tolerance for carbohydrate consumption you'll eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beef, poultry, pork, seafood, eggs, and cheeses. If you're interested in seeing one person's take on a low-carb diet, then check out my "What I Eat" blog.

Myth: All that saturated fat is bad for you.
Truth: There's really two myths rolled up in one here. First off is the assumption that the fat from beef, poultry, pork, eggs, and cheese is all saturated. The truth is, it's not. Much of the fat from beef, poultry, and pork is unsaturated fats both poly- and mono-. Don't believe me, check it out from a source that gives the breakdown of the different fats such as the "Protein Power Lifeplan Gram Counter". The second half of this myth is that saturated fat is bad for you. I guess it depends on who you ask. If you want scientific information on this, I suggest reading "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes, or checking out any of the blogs that I link to and searching on "saturated fat". I think you'll find some useful information. What I will say about the subject is two things: 1)Humans have eaten saturated fats for millions of years and have thrived doing it. Saturated fats are naturally occurring in animals and some plants. The newcomers to our diet are grains and sugar. More importantly, watch out for excess unsaturated oils in your diet from plants like soy, canola, corn, and other vegetable oils. Those are as unnatural as you can get. 2)Saturated fats may raise your LDL or "bad" cholesterol (there's more to this story that I'll post later), but when you avoid grains and sugar other important things will happen to your blood fats. Your HDL "good" cholesterol will go up, your triglycerides, another "bad" blood fat will go down. Some studies show that HDL to Triglyceride ratio may be a better predictor of heart disease than LDL to total cholesterol. Don't trust me, check it out.

Myth: A high-protein diet is bad for your kidneys.
Truth: Another two myths wrapped up in one here. First off, you won't be eating a high-protein diet, you'll be eating a high-fat, adequate protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Fat is your fuel, it's the gas in your engine. Protein is a basic building block of all your cells. You'll eat enough protein to maintain your body and possibly build some more muscle. Second, you can find studies where kidney function improved from higher protein intake. If you're kidneys have problems, talk to your doc before changing your diet.

Myth: The weight you lose is just water weight.
Of course you lose water weight, but you are going to lose fat too. All diets produce water weight loss initially. Between my wife and I we've lost over 100 pounds, I find it hard to believe we were toting around an extra hundred pounds of water. I have personally lost and kept off over 60 pounds. Any sane person has to believe that I couldn't have lost 60 pounds of water and still be alive. Trust me, I've lost a lot of fat too.

Myth: Eating that way will increase your risk of heart disease and/or cancer.
Truth: No it won't. There are civilizations from around the planet who have thrived and continue to thrive on this diet. African tribes, Native Americans, the Inuit are some examples of people that have eaten high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets and had no incidence of heart disease and/or cancer before they were exposed to a "civilized" diet. If you're overweight, obese, diabetic, have high blood pressure, or suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) you may benefit from eating a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet.
If you want some more in depth information about the populations who have eaten these diets for a long time, check out "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes.

Myth: If you stop eating this way, you'll gain back all the weight you lost.
Truth: Sorry to say, this one is not a myth. It's the same truth whether you're on Weight Watchers, a low-fat diet, a low-calorie diet, or the grapefruit diet. The other truth is that if you find a healthy way of eating that you stick with for the rest of your life, with some opportunities for indulgence, you'll continue to reap the health benefits for the rest of your life.

The bottom line is that you need to evaluate for yourself what a low-carbohydrate diet is about, decide if it could work for you, and if those around you are concerned for your health, then work with your doctor to check out the things they are concerned about.

If you hear some low-carb mythology I haven't talked about here, add a comment or send me an email at

If you have a hard time convincing your family, friends, or doctor that this is the right thing to do for you or they don't believe it is safe, talk to me or some of the other readers here. We can help you work through their concerns and help you show them how it can improve your health.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

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