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Seven Myths About Low Carb Diets

The Most Common Low Carb Misconceptions

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Updated July 06, 2014

Low Carb foods

Low-Carb Food Pyramid

Image © Karen Struthers
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about low-carb diets. Anti-low carb information often draws an image of people eating very unhealthy diets, with no vegetables or fruits, guzzling cream and eating bacon dipped in butter all day. We are supposedly courting heart disease, and are on a dangerous road to poor health.

The truth is that low-carb diets focus on nutritious, healthy food, and research into reducing carbs continues to show more and more positive results. Here are the myths about low-carb diets I hear most often.

1. Low Carb = No Carb

This misconception is the idea that a “low”-carb diet must be really really low in carbohydrates. You will read that low carb diets attempt to “eliminate carbohydrates,” for example.

Fact: Not one low-carb diet author advocates this. Even Atkins Induction, which is very low in carbohydrates, is not “no carb,” is only meant to last two weeks, and actually can be skipped altogether, according to the Atkins Web site.

Fact: Diet authors who recommend reducing carbs have all sorts of different ideas about carb levels.

Fact: The carbohydrate level should be adjusted to the individual.

Fact: Over the years, the “nutritional establishment” has been gradually lowering the range of recommended carbohydrate in the diet, at the same time condemning reduced-carb diets, some of which may be recommending the lower end of the new “accepted range,” or close to it. Example: Dr. Dean Edell, a prominent media physician, once stated that the Zone Diet, a 40% carbohydrate, low saturated fat diet, “could be dangerous” because it is too low in carbohydrates. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that 45% to 65% of the diet be carbohydrate, depending upon the individual.

See:

2. Low-Carb Diets Discourage Eating Vegetables and Fruits

Because vegetables and fruits are mainly carbohydrate, people believe that they are not allowed on low-carb diets.

Fact: The opposite is true –- non-starchy vegetables are usually at the bottom of the low carb pyramids meaning they are the “staff of life” of the diet (replacing grains in that role) and people who follow a low-carb way of eating almost always eat more vegetables than the general population. For the most part, vegetables and fruits ARE the carbs eaten when following a low-carb way of eating.

See: – includes suggestions for working veggies into your diet

3. Low-Carb Diets Have Inadequate Fiber

The reasoning goes that since fiber IS carbohydrate, a low-carb diet MUST be low in fiber.

Fact: Since fiber remains undigested (in fact, it lessens the impact of other carbohydrates on blood sugar), it is encouraged on low-carb diets. Lots of low-carb foods are high in fiber, and on diets that encourage carb counting, fiber does not enter into the calculation.

See: Low Carb, High Fiber

4. People Eating Low Carb Are Courting Heart Disease

Fact: In study after study, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and other markers for heart disease risk decline on low-carb diets. Also, in one large long term study, even low-carb diets with a lot of animal fat and protein did not raise the risk of heart disease.

See:

5. Low-Carb Diets Will Damage the Kidneys

The reasoning here is that because people with kidney disease are usually encouraged to eat LOW protein diets, a diet that is higher in protein will CAUSE kidney disease.

Fact: This has never been shown to be the case, and, in fact, a low-carb diet is often not higher in protein than the latest recommended levels.

6. Low-Carb Diets Will “Suck the Calcium Out of Your Bones”

Again, this is based on the idea that low-carb diets are always high in protein. People on higher protein diets tend to have more calcium in their urine. But this turns out to be a red herring.

Fact: it turns out that protein, rather than cause bone loss, actually protects our bones.

See: FAQ: Low-Carb Diets and Bone Loss

7. Atkins "Died of His Own Diet"

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this one –- and I am STILL hearing it.

Fact: Robert Atkins, originator of the Atkins Diet, died from head injuries resulting from a fall. See his death certificate. Also, he was not fat when he died, but took on a lot of fluid in the hospital while in intensive care after his injury. More about Atkins' Death

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