Keto Myths: Cutting through the misinformation

Everybody seems to be talking about The Ketogenic lifestyle these days. Every day there are sports jocks, celebrities and media speaking out about the pros and cons of Ketosis. With that comes a lot of bad information that is skewed by personal opinion and experiences. Let’s try and cut through some of the malarkey and figure out what’s real and what’s mostly made up of old wives’ tales in the keto world.

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Keto Myth #1. A Calorie is a calorie

In a 2014 documentary entitled’ ‘That Sugar Film’, Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau drastically changes his clean and healthy diet for a diet fueled with sugar. During his test period of 60 days, for which he was monitored by a full medical and nutritional team, he ate no junk food, but instead concentrated on foods with hidden sugars that are consistent with that of a normal Western diet.  Even though the number of calories that he consumed before and during the documentary remained the same, on the sugar fueled diet his health declined drastically. In two months, even though his calories remained the same, Gameau gained over 20 pounds, expanded his waist size, produced dangerous visceral fat around his belly and also developed pre-diabetes. He also noticed drastic mood swings and a decline in cognitive functions.

Calories come from three main macro-nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats and they’re all processed differently by our body. The main difference comes from the carb side of things with the macro-nutrient sugar is composed of glucose and fructose. Glucose which is moderately sweet can be metabolized within all of the body’s tissues, but the very sweet side of sugar, fructose is a very different story. Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver, turning it into fat, which it then sends out into our bloodstreams. This is the fat that settles into our arteries and become deadly plaque.

Nutrient analysis– All calories are NOT the same.

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Keto Myth #2. Eating fat will make you fat

Even thought most of us grew up being told that eating fat will make you fat, this is not the case. In a previous post (Sweet Little Lies) we learned about how big science was bought by the sugar industry  in the 50’s and since then we’ve all been hoodwinked into thinking fat is bad and sugar is good. As a result of that misinformation, we grew up with an abundance of ‘low fat’ and ‘diet’ formulated food items that were high in sugars and even higher in chemicals and it is making us sick. Fast forward to current day and now science and medicine is telling us that fat is not to blame. There are no known studies that prove that eating fat makes us fat.

That being said, there are some fats that we should avoid. Omega 6 oils such as vegetable oils (canola, sunflower and corn etc.) or soybean oils are highly inflammatory (Ketogenic Living – Beyond the sugar) and are not good for us at all. Over time inflammation can slowly begin to erode or destroy the tissues, potentially damaging arteries, organs, and contributing to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. For example, when inflammatory cells hang around too long in blood vessels, they promote the buildup of dangerous plaque. The body sees this plaque as foreign and sends more inflammatory cells, which in turn causes more plaque. As the plaque continues to build, the arteries can thicken, creating the possibility or even probability of heart attack or stroke. Chronic inflammation may lead to a host of issues, including hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer.

Bottom Line– Eat healthy fats and avoid vegetable, seed and soybean oil.

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Keto Myth #3. Our bodies need carbs.

There is no such thing as an essential carb! There are essential vitamins and nutrients, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids (proteins are made of building blocks called amino acids) There are no essential carbohydrates.

Its true that the brain does need glucose, but the body is very capable of taking this needed glucose from dietary protein in a process called Gluconeogenesis. Carbs are not required to fuel the brain. As a matter of fact, the brain running on ketones instead of carbohydrates is not only more efficient but is also preferred in many ways; better cognition, mental acuity, focus and mood improvement to name a few.

Long story short – The next time someone tells you about how carbs are essential, you can properly educate them with the facts.

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Keto Myth #4. Ketosis is the same as Keto-acidosis

They may be often confused, but not the same at all. Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when your body switches from burning carbohydrates and instead burns ketones, by way of using fat as fuel.  Our bodies are born in ketosis, and we remain in that state as long as we are breast fed, as breast milk is mostly fat. Keto-acidosis or DKA (Diabetic Keto-Acidosis) usually occurs in Type 1 diabetics, when the body can’t regulate ketone production. In this serious diabetic complication, even though they have glucose in their bloodstream, but without insulin, it can’t get into their cells.  As the diabetic can’t produce insulin, they continue to produce more and more ketones, which eventually leads to the person becoming critically ill. The state of diabetic-acidosis is not physically possible in a person who can produce insulin, even in small amounts.

Type-1 Diabetics who are insulin-dependent are most at risk for developing ketoacidosis (also called diabetic ketoacidosis), though prolonged alcoholism and extreme starvation may also cause this to occur.  Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs in under 1% of Type-1 Diabetics annually.

Bottom line – Unless you’re a T1 Diabetic, this is not something you have to worry about.

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Keto Myth #5. Keto should only be done for a short period of time.

A common misconception is that a ketogenic diet can only be sustained for a short period of time. In fact, the opposite is true, because of the cardiovascular benefits, reduced blood sugars, and the bonus anti-inflammatory reduction, ketogenic living is a great life plan. Studies have shown that living on a ketogenic way of eating for longer period of time did not produce any significant side effects.

The Keto lifestyle leads to both short-term health benefits (reversing metabolic syndrome, reversing autoimmune issues or losing weight) and long-term health benefits (staving off Alzheimers, cancer, diabetes or coronary artery disease). There is absolutely no reason a well-formulated ketogenic diet cannot be followed for life.

The takeaway – Keto living will make you healthy. Healthy is good and is recommended for life.

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Keto Myth #6. The keto diet is incomplete and you will be malnourished if you eat a Ketogenic WOE.

The Keto diet means different things to different people and just like in the western diet, some people do it well and others follow a modified version of their own liking. It is physically possible to stay in ketosis by eating hot dogs and margarine but doing so is a one-way street to a dangerous nutrient deficient diet and also not fulfilling what is keto is all about. When followed correctly, the keto diet is a well formulated diet, including nuts, healthy fats, proteins, occasional berries, dairy, plenty of green leaves and fibrous vegetables.  The only macro-nutrient that is missing form the ketogenic diet is carbohydrates.

In reality, most people eating a properly balanced ketogenic diet are probably eating more fruits (berries) and vegetables than while they were on the Western diet. Any trace minerals found in grains are also found in bigger concentrations in meats, dairy and other keto available foods.  For those that would argue with vitamin deficiency from not eating more fruit, need to realize that here is far more vitamin C in broccoli, kale and cauliflower than that found in an orange.

The verdict – Eat well balanced, nutrient rich Keto foods and all your bases will be covered.

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 Keto Myth #7. Everyone gets the Keto Flu.

While the majority of people experience Keto flu symptoms, there are some people who experience no symptoms or have symptoms so insignificant that its unnoticeable. Everyone reacts differently to Ketosis, but your best line of defense is to take precautions from the start to try and avoid or lesson symptoms.  Begin taking Magnesium supplements right away, eat Potassium rich foods and increase Himalayan Pink Salt.

Keto, or carb flu, is your body’s natural reaction to switching your diet from the typical Western diet, to a carb restricted version. It is your body withdrawing from the carbs it has used for energy your whole life and instead, now switching from burning glucose to burning fat.  Your body is transitioning into a fat burning machine.

Symptoms of the Keto Flu can include;

  • Sugar cravings
  • Dizziness
  • Brain fog/headache
  • Irritability/ Moodiness
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Lack of Concentration, Confusion
  • Muscle soreness / cramps
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Heart flutters / arrhythmia

The diagnosis – Preventive steps can ease the flu or even stop it before it begins.

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Keto Myth #8. Drinking Alcohol while on Keto is a No No

While going on a bender or drinking binge is not recommended, having a carefully researched and well deserved alcoholic beverage at the end of the week can be a part of your keto plan. A general rule of thumb is to stick to clear or lighter coloured alcohol and to stay away from darker (caramelized with sugar) versions of drink.  Stick with water flavoured with flavour enhancer instead of diet soft drinks which often contain non-Keto ingredients.  We use Stur (liquid, don’t use the powdered it has uglies), which is a Canadian product with no ugly ingredients and is sweetened with Stevia.  If your preference is something carbonated as a mix, choose Zevia which is a carbonated water sweetened with Stevia or Club Soda, both are Keto friendly choices. Dry white or red wines are usually acceptable in moderation and Prosecco and Champagne are also good low carb options. Drinks that are high in sugar and carbs, such as sweetened mix drinks and most beers, are not good choices.

What you need to know, is your body will burn off any alcohol in your system before it even thinks about burning off any body fat. So, having a drink may slow or stall your progress. Also, alcohol will most likely affect you much more as a Ketonian, so take it easy! Consider yourself a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. Even more important, please don’t drink and drive especially while in ketosis. As alcohol affects you more than usual, there is no place for being behind the wheel and testing your tolerance.

The drink order –  Easy does it and choose wisely.

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Keto Myth #9. Keto is for weight loss only

While the media and social networks most often talk about the weight loss possibilities of Ketogenic living, there is so much more to Keto. All over the world, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Diabetes, Autism and Epilepsy foundations and researchers are looking into the possibilities of Ketogenic living as a tool that can assist their members with daily living.

There is so much more to Ketogenic living than beyond cutting the sugar. Being in ketosis has been drastically shown to reduce toxic inflammation, reduce blood sugars, lower blood pressure, lesson symptoms of PCOS (Poly-cystic ovary syndrome) and lesson severity of and decrease amounts of migraines.  Then there are the people who enter in a stat of ketosis not to lose weight at all, but to maintain optimum health levels and to detox their systems.

Bottom Line – There are multiple benefits for ketogenic living.

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Keto Myth #10. Its ok to cheat on keto.

Ok, we live in the real world and realize that nobody is perfect.  Keto is a little different though, as Ketosis is a metabolic state, its not just as simple as giving yourself a bit of a food treat. Ketosis makes it safe to eat all that fat because we are eating a very low carb, anti-inflammatory diet.  People get into trouble when they try to combine them both. Eating carbs similar to a Western diet and fats similar to a Keto WOE can become a cocktail of trouble for you and your cardiovascular system.

It might not be realistic to expect that you’ll stick to the keto diet guidelines 100 percent of the time. But unlike other diets, where cheat days might be encouraged to give you a mental break and even support your metabolism, cheating on the keto diet can cause you to transition out of ketosis.  This in turn can affect your metabolism and play a role in the yo-yo effect of years of dieting. In our experience instead of cheating you’re better off finding a keto equivalent to what you’re craving.

Last but not least, cheating or celebrating by having carb laden foods on Keto lifestyle is the equivalent of somebody who is celebrating the six month anniversary of quitting smoking, by having a cigarette.  Its counter production to your end goal and just plain doesn’t make sense.

The Truth of the matter – Just don’t do it, it will hurt you in the long run.

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Keto Myth #11. Keto is the same for men and women.

Its one of the great injustices in this world, men lose weight quicker than women. In my own experience, Hubby and I both started Keto at the same time. We both eat an almost identical diet and if anything, I exercise and well….He only does if he has to.  Especially at first, the weight fell of him and even though I did great in losing weight, it was nothing in comparison to what he lost. Here’s a couple of reasons why this happens.

1. Estrogen – Men and women both have it in their bodies, but women have about 11% more. Women’s bodies are programmed by this sex hormone to carry more fat. Because of the extra estrogen, women may have a harder time losing fat than men.

2. Muscle – For the most part, men carry more of their weight in muscle as women do, because of higher testosterone levels, and those bigger muscles help to give men a bigger boost in their metabolic rate. The extra muscles can help men burn more fat when they try to lose weight.

3. Stress – Women tend to stress about things more than men do and with stress comes Cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. Cortisol increases can cause our cells to become resistant to insulin, which in turn can lead to a rise in blood sugars, a gain in weight and potentially T2 Diabetes.

The advice – Don’t sweat it! Its best not to compare somebody else’s journey to your own. Keep making good choices and keto on..and most important. Don’t stress over it.

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Keto Myth #12. Eating a Keto diet will cause your Cholesterol to go through the roof.

Modern science is showing that diet has very little effect on your cholesterol levels. Instead, the cause of Coronary Artery Disease is inflammation.  In a nutshell, its not about the amount of cholesterol, its about the ratios between triglyceride-to-HDL, CRP ( C-Reactive Protein – blood test marker for inflammation in the bloodstream) and A1C (three month average of your blood sugars). Luckily, Ketogenic living is known for lowering triglycerides, raising HDL and lowering CRP and A1C!!  You can also ask your doctor to review your tests to see if your LDL is made up of fluffy large particles that are not dangerous, or the more dangerous, small dense particles which are known as LDL-Pattern B.

If you are being told by your doctors, that you need drugs for your high cholesterol I would suggest you do some researching and reading (The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease by Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra  or Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore.) and then pass your book on to your doctor to read when you’re done. Keep in mind that many of todays doctor have been out of medical school for years and many have not kept up with the latest science.  By educating yourself on this you may have more recent information on this that that of your doctor.

*Its also important to note that Keto often temporarily raises cholesterol but after about 6 months you should see a significant decrease in that number.

In a nutshell – Despite fears of cholesterol, there’s research showing that ketogenic living can be beneficial to your health.

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The Final say – Please, don’t take my word for this, that’s not what my articles are about in any way. They’re about getting you thinking so you will dig in and do your own research and then come to your own conclusions. I’m not in the position to give you any medical advice, this is my opinion and my thinking. It is formed purely from doing my own research and my own personal experience.

Bad information is everywhere. At the end of the day, sometimes you have to look at the source of the information and try and figure out if this person providing the information has an ulterior motive to make you think that Keto is bad. Does this person have an exercise program or health brand or book that they are trying to sell?  Is this person working off old information or old wives tales? You need to keep in mind that most people were raised under the false pretense that fat is bad for you.  If you were born after the 50’s it’s been ingrained in you to eat sugar and not fat, all in the name of supporting the sugar industry.

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