Low-carb diets are incredibly powerful. They may help reverse many serious illnesses, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. However, some myths about this diet are perpetuated by the low-carb community and it will be your knowledge and expertise as a Certified Nutrition Coach, Professional Personal Trainer, or Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist that will help confused clients navigate these diet myths.
Low-carb Diets Work for Everyone
Studies show that low-carb diets aid weight loss and improve most risk factors for disease. That said, this eating pattern is not appropriate for everyone. Some people may simply feel unwell on the diet, while others don’t get the results they expect. Athletes and people who are physically active need significantly more carbs than this diet can provide.
Carbs Will Make You Fat
A high intake of sugar and refined carbs harms your health. Still, carbs are only fattening if they’re refined and included in foods that are highly palatable and easy to overeat. For example, baked potatoes have plenty of fiber and help you feel full — whereas potato chips are deep-fried in corn oil and seasoned with salt, making them heavily processed and addictive. Keep in mind that many populations around the world, such as inhabitants of the Japanese island of Okinawa, maintain good health on a high-carb diet that includes whole, unprocessed foods.
Carbs = Sugar
Claiming that all carbs are broken down into sugar in the digestive system is partly true — but misleading. The word “sugar” applies to various simple sugars like glucose, fructose, and galactose. Table sugar (sucrose) consists of one molecule of glucose connected to fructose. Starch, which is found in grains and potatoes, is a long chain of glucose molecules. Digestive enzymes break starch down into glucose before absorption. In the end, all carbs (excluding fiber) end up as sugar. While simple sugars are easily digestible and cause a significant rise in blood sugar levels, starches and other carbs in whole foods don’t tend to raise blood sugar levels as much as those in desserts and refined or processed foods. Therefore, it’s important to distinguish between whole foods and refined carbs. Otherwise, you might believe that there’s no nutritional difference between a potato and a candy bar.
It’s Impossible to Gain Weight on a Low-carb Diet
Some people believe that weight gain is impossible as long as carb intake and insulin levels are kept low. Yet, it’s very possible to gain weight on a low-carb diet. Many low-carb foods can be fattening, especially for those who are prone to binge eating. These include cheese, nuts, peanuts, and heavy cream. Although many people can eat these foods without any problems, others need to moderate their intake if they want to lose weight without restricting calories.
Calories Don’t Matter on Low-carb
Some low-carb advocates assert that calorie intake doesn’t matter. Calories are a measure of energy, and body fat is simply stored energy. If your body takes in more energy than you can burn off, you store it as body fat. If your body expends more energy than you take in, you burn fat for energy. Low-carb diets work partly by reducing appetite. As they make people eat fewer calories automatically, there’s little need for calorie counting or portion control. While calories matter in many cases, rigorously counting them is largely unnecessary on a low-carb diet.
Carbs Make You Sick and Cause Disease
Many people who are metabolically healthy can eat plenty of carbs without harm, as long as they focus on whole foods. However, for people with insulin resistance or obesity, the body’s metabolic rules seem to change. People who have metabolic dysfunction may need to avoid all high-carb foods. Keep in mind that even though removing most carbs may be necessary to reverse a disease, it does not mean that carbs themselves caused the illness. If you don’t have metabolic dysfunction, it’s fine to eat high-carb foods — as long as you stick to whole, unprocessed foods and exercise regularly.
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