Before you read this article, make sure that you check out PART 1, where I went over the basics of a keto diet, and PART 2, where I gave my best strategies for getting started!
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Hey there and welcome back to my "What the Heck is the keto Diet?" Series! This is part 3, where I will be addressing some common misconceptions related to the keto diet, and let me tell you - there are PLENTY of them out there! After you finish reading, let me know if there is anything that you are still not sure of, or any misconceptions that I missed!
*The information in this post should in no way be taken as medical advice. You should always consult with your physician before beginning any new fitness or nutrition program.
So let's dive right in shall we???
Misconception #1: The ketogenic can isn't safe.
Let's just get the biggest myth out of the way right here and now. SO many people confuse ketosis and a ketogenic diet with diabetic ketoacidosis. Being in a state of ketosis, induced by a ketogenic diet, IS NOT the same thing as ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis is an extremely dangerous, life threatening condition that only occurs in insulin dependent diabetics (usually type 1).
When a diabetic doesn't get enough insulin, their body responds as if they were starving and switches from burning glycogen, to fat instead - ramping up ketone production.
The problem is, that they aren't out of glucose - and they actually have high blood glucose levels. Since insulin in the hormone that allows that glucose to enter cells, that extra glucose just accumulates in the bloodstream, all the while the body is still producing ketones. When ketones levels get extremely high (around 20 millimolars) the diabetic patient will get extremely ill.
In fact, if you produce even a tiny bit of insulin - then it is impossible for you to have ketoacidosis. Your body will not allow itself to produce that many ketones. In fact, a typical reading for someone on a ketogenic diet would be between 0.5 millimolars to 2.5 millimolars - now here near that 20 millimeter reading that would lead to ketoacidosis.
Misconception #2: Your body needs carbs.
Your body is perfectly capable of running on glucose from carbohydrates OR ketones, so when you start eating a keto diet, your primary fuel source also changes. There is actually research that points to ketones as the preferred source of fuel for the brain. it has even been shown to reduce Alzheimer's symptoms in affected individuals. (Links for these studies can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE)
While it is true that your body does need some glucose to function properly (only around 30-50g/day), it is perfectly capable of generating that glucose itself via gluconeogenisis (read about this under the keto macro section of PART 2) This is why it is important to reach your protein target each day when eating keto, but not important to reach the carbohydrate macro.
There is a segment of the keto population that follow a zero carb diet, consuming primarily meat and zero carb fat sources. I am personally just scratching the surface of understanding all the mechanisms at play, but I urge you to check out THIS PODCAST to get a crash course on zero carb, and perhaps challenge some of your beliefs!
Misconception #3: A ketogenic diet will raise your cholesterol, and lead to heart disease.
This is something I get told on the regular - usually when I am eating my favorite breakfast of several pieces of bacon, fried eggs cooked in the bacon grease and coffee with butter and heavy cream 🙂
The truth may surprise you! About 80% of the cholesterol in your body is produced in the liver - and only 20% is taken from what you eat. The more cholesterol you eat, the less your body will make and vice versa.
Eating a low carb, high fat diet typically causes your HDL (good cholesterol) to go up and your Triglycerides to go way down. While LDL (the bad cholesterol) actually changes from a dangerous small dense particle, to a benign larger fluffy particle. So, while it is true that your cholesterol may go up on a ketogenic diet, it's not a reliable indication that something bad is happening.
In fact, research is now showing, that insulin resistance is likely the biggest contributor to heart disease. One of the best diets for stabilizing insulin is a ketogenic diet. You can read an article about this concept HERE!
If you are concerned about your cholesterol or triglycerides on a keto diet, I encourage you to check out the book Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore.
Misconception #4: The ketogenic diet is the same as Atkins Diet.
While there are definitely similarities between the Atkins Diet and a ketogenic diet, there are some differences. The first, is that the Atkins diet has an "introductory phase" where carbs are kept extremely low (15-30g) Once the introductory phase ends, the dieter is able to increase the amount of carbohydrates, although they are still kept low.
The next, and probably the biggest difference, is related to protein. Remember, in part 2 of this series, we talked about keto macros. I told you that it was important to keep protein at a moderate level to prevent extra protein from being converted to glucose in your body. If that doesn't ring a bell then check out the 'keto macros' section of part 2!
Atkins dieters are "allowed" to eat unlimited protein, making it difficult to achieve ketosis. It is possible to follow an Atkins plan AND be in ketosis -but it is equally possible to follow that plan and NOT be in ketosis.
Misconception #5: A ketogenic diet isn't safe or sustainable long term.
Despite the recent popularity, a ketogenic diet has been around for centuries.
The Inuit survived on a zero carb diet, since plants are pretty sparse in the arctic 🙂 . In fact, our earliest ancestors were likely eating a primarily ketogenic diet, since most of the plants that we eat today, weren't available in their current forms.
Since around 1921, the ketogenic diet has been used to treat epilepsy in children with no long term negative effects. You can read all about this HERE.
As far as whether a ketogenic diet is sustainable, that is completely subjective to the individual. The best way to determine this is to try it out for a couple of months and decide for yourself 😉 .
Misconception #6: You will gain all of the weight back when you are "done" with your keto diet.
This is something I hear all the time, and it makes me want to bang my head against the wall. The conversation usually goes something like this ...
"My friend did keto and lost 30 pounds, but when she quit, she gained it all back and then some."
My response (after I remove my palm from my face): You're telling me that your friend was overweight from eating an unhealthy diet, switched to eating a healthier, ketogenic diet where she lost 30 pounds. Then she gained it all back when she started eating the unhealthy diet that got her overweight in the first place? I'm shocked.
In case you missed it - that was sarcasm. I am actually not shocked.
Unfortunately, there is no diet in the world that will give you life long results without making life long changes and keto is no exception to that rule. Of course if you stop eating keto, and start eating a standard high carb, high fat and high calorie diet - you will gain weight.
Once you reach your goal weight, you do have a little more leeway in your macros - but you still must be mindful of what you are eating and continue keeping your carbs low in order to maintain your weight.
Misconception #7: I can't do keto if ...
You could fill in this gap with just about anything, but some of the most common that I hear are - You have diabetes (type 1 or 2) you have hypoglycemia, thyroid dysfunction, PCOS, you are pregnant, you don't want to lose weight or want to gain weight, you are vegan/vegetarian, or you are lactose intolerant.
I have seen firsthand, people with all of the above issues thrive on a keto diet. The macros may need a bit of tweaking to fit your needs and there may be other considerations, but with close monitoring and the correct approach, I think most people can do just fine on a keto diet.
I have a history of hypoglycemia as well as mild PCOS, and was really worried about blood sugar issues when I was starting keto. I was SO pleased to find that eating keto, I no longer suffer from the blood sugar crashes that used to scare me previously.
If you have any special or unique concerns in regards to a keto diet, I recommend discussing it with your physician as well as seeking out support from someone who has similar issues as you, and who has successfully implemented a keto diet.
Some great places to check are Facebook groups and on Instagram by searching hashtags. The Instagram community, in particular - has been SO supportive and is such a source of motivation and positivity for me personally.
Remember that this is not medical advice and is only an observation of what I have personally seen and what i have seen in others, and if you are considering starting ANY new diet you should speak to your doctor first PARTICULARLY if you have any medical condition.
Misconception #8: A keto diet will result in nutrient deficiencies.
We have been taught to believe that "healthy carbs," fruits and vegetables are the holy grail when it comes to vitamins and minerals, and that they are essential parts of the human diet.
Luckily, many keto staples such as red meat, eggs, fish, cheese, nuts, and green vegetables offer up all the nutrients that you need -along with the fat that you need to absorb them! In fact, keep in mind that the RDA (recommended daily allowance) was constructed based upon a standard american diet model - which is high in carbs, average protein and low fat. So many people who are eating a high fat, moderate protein and low carb diet - may actually need less then the recommended allowance.
One of the biggest nutrients that people seem concerned with on a keto diet is vitamin C. First, there are several great, low carb sources for vitamin C (kale and broccoli for example) that it is totally possible to hit the recommended intake while eating a keto diet.
But it's also important to know that carbohydrate intake, actually depletes the amount of vitamin c in your body. So, when you are eating less carbs, you need less vitamin C and vice versa.
Misconception #9: Ketosis damages the kidneys.
This is a common misconception that is perpetuated by people who believe that a keto diet is high in protein. If you read PART 2 of this series, then you already know that is FALSE! If you already have kidney disease, you may have been told to limit your protein, but for people without kidney disease there’s no reason to worry about excessive protein.
By lowering elevated blood sugars a low-carb diet may actually protect the kidneys. Especially for people with diabetes, low carb can save their kidneys, by helping control their blood sugar levels!
Misconception #10: I will feel deprived while eating a ketogenic diet.
I can only speak personally on this since it's such a subjective area. But, let me say - I have tried SO many diets and i find keto to be the easiest to integrate into my lifestyle. As I am writing this, I just returned from a dinner out at a local restaurant with family. I had no problem ordering off the menu ( I had a delicious steak and asparagus - both topped with butter) I didn't have to worry about points. containers, making special requests of the kitchen - or anything else. *although there is not a thing in this world wrong with making special requests of the kitchen and I do occasionally have to.
It is SO easy to eat out on keto. With only a few exceptions, most restaurants have something on the menu that can easily fit into a keto diet. Bunless burgers, steaks, grilled chicken, fish, salads - the list goes on.
When it comes to sweets and snacks - there are so many AMAZING substitutions available. All it takes is a quick pinterest search to find tons of yummy keto recipes for just about anything imaginable. On top of that, companies are responding to the HUGE demand for keto convince foods and new products are popping up almost daily.