Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dispelling some myths

I am almost always hearing some criticism against low-carb diets and I wanted to at least clarify some things.

First and foremost I hear "Carbs are brain food, you'll get foggy headed and damage your brain if you don't eat carbs".

Some things to bear in mind- while the brain can and does run on glucose it can also run on ketones, which are what your body produces from fat when there are no carbohydrates available. Also- if glucose is actually absolutely neccesary it can be produced by the liver in a process known as gluconeogenisis. So no worries there. After the first few days of my body adjusting (metabolic shift) I was perfectly clear headed and if anything more alert and clear than I was before I cut my carbs. There's even some evidence to suggest that the brain not only operates just fine on ketones, it may operate even BETTER than it does on glucose.

So, that's settled (in my mind at least) what's next? "You need carbs for energy, so if you don't eat carbs you'll be weak and unable to exercise".

In answer to this I'll again point out ketones. These are what your body runs on when there aren't enough carbs to run on them. After the initial metabolic shift I have had plenty of energy, and in fact much more than I had on a carb rich diet. Can cutting carbs make you weak? Yes initially, when that is what you've been running on for a long time there is a short term lethargy that can take place, but it's temporary.

Moving on. "You can't eat any fruits and veggies on a low carb diet, you'll be vitamin and mineral deficient".

Let me just say that I probably eat MORE veggies than I did before I went low carb, and that the most carb dense veggies are also usually the least nutritionally valuable. I eat greens, cruciferous veggies, salad veggies, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, squash and more. I just don't eat starchy or overly sweet veggies like corn, potatoes, carrots (although I'll even eat them in small amounts) peas and so on. I even eat some fruits in small amounts. Berries in particular are some of the healthiest fruits around and not super high in carbs. I had blueberries this morning in fact. I eat less fruit than I used to but it's still in my diet, I'm just more sparing and selective.

There are others, but those are the biggest ones I encounter on a regular basis. It can be frustrating when you know that what you're doing is making you feel better but loved ones and friends are constantly attacking your choice instead of trusting you to make the right decisions for your body. I don't know that eating low carb is best for everyone, at least not as low as I have been doing, but I know it works for me. From what I can tell I have a resistance to insulin*, and one of the best ways to deal with that without a ton of medication is through lowering carbohydrate intake and raising healthy fats.

All I know for sure, 100% is that it works for ME. I feel better. I'm loosing weight. I'm not tired all the time. I'm thinking clearly and feel more alert and balanced without all the spiking and crashing I was doing. My heart palpitations are almost completely gone (I think the ones I get every now and then are iron related, working on that). That's enough for me. I read a lot of conflicting studies and articles about all of this and honestly I believe that anyone can take any study and spin the numbers in a way that is more favorable to the outcome that they already believe is true. So for now, I'm continuing to reduce my carbs and living an active lifestyle and pursuing my goal of being healthier and happier.

* Not 100% sure on this cause I haven't actually been tested for it, but I've had most of the indicators for metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance is one of them. Also, people who are insulin resistant are the ones that tend to do best on a low carb diet. I'm planning a trip to the doctor to get all my lipids and blood pressure checked out and I want to check into this as well.

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