Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

5 things low-carb gurus don’t want you to know

27 Comments

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I hate these lists: 5 foods you should never eat, 8 foods for a flat belly, and one I saw last week “10 Things Dietitians Say About Low-Carb Diets That Don’t Make Sense“. I should confess that as a dietitian, the headline alone immediately got my back up. Still, I took the bait and clicked the link.

Some of the stuff on there was quite reasonable, and some of it inaccurately portrayed dietitians and nutrition. It drives me nuts that we study nutrition for 4+ years in university, do internships, and must demonstrate continuous learning to maintain our professional status as registered dietitians, and yet those from other professions (and non-professions) are constantly proclaiming to the world that we’re nutritionally biased ignoramuses. Okay, so I didn’t exactly read this list with an open mind. No apologies.

Here are my top 5 retorts to this post and others in the same vein:

1. Low-Carb Diets Are Hard To Stick To

Have you ever tried a low-carb diet? There’s a reason why nearly everyone you meet who’s on a low-carb diet is singing its praises at a month or two in. How many people do you know who’ve consistently followed low-carb diets for years? Probably not many. There’s a reason for that. They are hard to stick to. Sure, you can feel physically satisfied on a low-carb diet but there are other aspects of it that can make it difficult to stick with. There’s the social aspect of food. It can be hard to follow a low-carb diet when others around you aren’t, forgoing birthday cakes and pizza. There’s also the restrictiveness that comes with a strict diet. You lose a lot of options when you cut-out or dramatically reduce carbohydrate intake. Finally, if you’re at all athletic, it can be extremely hard to train and perform at your best without carbohydrates.

2. The Opposite of Low-Carb Is NOT Low-Fat

Why is it that every time I hear someone poo-pooing on dietitians for our reluctance to support low-carb diets claiming that we push low-fat diets? The macronutrients are: carbohydrate, fat, and protein. While we all vary in our needs and desires for each of these, they all play a role in a healthy diet. I don’t know any dietitians who promote low-fat diets. Yes, in the past, because nutrition research is often flawed, we believed saturated fat was unhealthy. Most of us are over that. As I’ve said before, real dietitians eat butter.

3. Low-Carb Diets Are Not Proven To Be Safe In The Long-Term

As dietitians, it’s our job to provide people with the information that they need to make informed choices. When the average life span is over 80 years in Canada a two year study is but a drop in the bucket. Yes, you can probably be healthy on a low-carb diet. You can also be unhealthy on one as well. A diet of steak and bacon is low-carb, as is a diet of vegetables and fish. It’s a lot easier to get all of the nutrients that you need when you consume a greater variety of foods.

Yes, the Inuit ate high-fat low-carb diets. Will your low-carb diet consist predominantly of raw meat and seal blubber? I thought not.

4. Just Because You Can Be Healthy Following A Low-Carb Diet Doesn’t Mean That You Should

You can be healthy following all sorts of diets. You can also be unhealthy following them. A low-carb diet can be healthy, as can a vegan diet. You need to figure out what works best for you. Don’t let nutritional gurus convince you that their diet is the only way to go.

The main draw of a low-carb diet generally isn’t health anyway, it’s weight loss. These are not one and the same; no matter what the gurus may say. A healthy weight very much depends on the individual and health is not just physical. There is no shame in deriving pleasure from food.

5. We Don’t Like Diets

It’s nothing personal. We’re not eschewing your beloved low-carb diet because we have shares in the wheat industry. We tend to be wary of any diet because they are restrictive and have end dates and “cheat days”. The way you eat should be a way of life that you can maintain until the end of your life (which will hopefully be in the distant future because you’re following a healthy, enjoyable, varied, and balanced diet).

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

27 thoughts on “5 things low-carb gurus don’t want you to know

  1. LOVE this. Thank you!! I think there is a lot more to add to the rebuttal to that silly Gunnars article, but you did a nice job keeping it to the point and all of your points are spot on. Thanks!

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  2. Love this response to the article. I too would have taken the bait from the title and read it with the same conviction as you. Thank you for sharing

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  3. I have found I am allergic (hives and facial swelling) to all grains (including organic rain water fed brown rice!), so my diet is restricted in carbs because of that. I do use a lot of veggies (variety as well as quantity) and rely on having a lot of sweet potato, some regular potato, as well as lashings of coconut. Nuts and seeds and legumes also figure high in my diet. But eating out and hospital stays can be rather problematic!

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  4. Hard to stick to… well, yes, I’m 8 years low carbing now and never suffered one single day. There are lots of people like me out there in the world. Perhaps you should make a closer look before you spread nonsense, being a dietician or not.

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    • That’s great that it works for you. It doesn’t for many. That’s not nonsense, it’s fact.

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      • Forty years of scaring people away from natural fat, it’s not difficult to see why that used to be a fact.
        I disagree with what you consider a balanced diet; you’re starting from a skewed premise.
        Are you saying 2 million years wasn’t long enough to establish that a lower-carb, higher-fat diet was safe?
        Diet refers to intake, and it could equally be called a healthy eating plan.
        Good luck Diana, let’s see if you stand by this when you’re 50.

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  5. Don’t thinkKarin.W. actually read your article? You’ll always get the odd low-carbist sniping on the internet. I put it down to their low blood sugar.

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  6. There’s definitely alot more who can’t stick to low carb! Alot of people (in the world) cannot afford a low carb diet, nevermind sticking to one

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  7. Reblogged this on Fat Mum, Fit Mum… and commented:
    Great post.

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  8. I like the way you put out your points. You don’t hate us people on lchf, you don’t say it’s useless, what you said are not untrue.

    It’s only hard to stick to for people who are not used to eating a lot of fats. They will get used to it, people who jump about diets quit when they don’t see results.

    low carb high fat adequate protein lifestyle has it proven health benefits, weight loss follows naturally. But health benefits only come if we stick to the diet, which brings us back to point 1 haha.

    Personally I’m on lchf and part time raw vegan for few years, I eat sweet potatoes, rice and grains once a while. There’re a few diets and ways to good health and longevity. But they all agree with a few points : no wheat and sugar.

    Listen to your body and Do what works for you.

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  9. Nice one. Especially number 5.
    As with every diet, the lo-carb takes it to an extreme. If you over-do anything it’s gonna be bad for you, and the cards people have been consuming were outa control! How about calling it a reduce-your-carb-somewhat-&-eat-a-balanced diet?

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  10. Yes, with LCHF we take it to the extremes – extremely good health :) Over-doing moderation will not be good for you too. When some one read in moderation, you eat in moderation. When he’s sick he will eat medicine in moderation, and go hospitals in moderation. LCHF has been proven (and also tried and tested by people like me) . Watch documentaries like “Fat Head”, “Carb-loaded”, and “Cereal Killer”.

    Saying LCHF is hard to follow is just a personal psychological excuse. Feed our minds first before we feed our body. Yes it takes time to see results in your blood tests, Don’t quit too soon. People have commented that it’s takes 3 to 6 months for their cholesterol blood tests to be in the healthy range, but to normalise blood glucose the effect is immediate when you eat LCHF.

    How can LCHF be expensive? When I’m fasting I spend $0 on food for 24-48 hours. (Some females do not play well with fasting.) But here’s a good read to save some $$$: http://www.lowcarbdietworks.com/lowcarbblog/ideal-low-carb-solutions/ .

    Well, we have to blame people who advocate LCHF as a weight loss fad diet and earn money from it. They are the ones who say “you can eat anything you want and all you one without counting calories!” which is nonsense.

    I’m on lchf not for weight loss, but for health and fitness. I’m not that kind who drinks bulletproof coffee as and when I want like drinking water. All my carbs intake comes from fruits and vegetables (raw and cooked), sometimes I just eat vegetables the entire day when I feel like it, nothing unhealthy about that. I’m not in a low-carb church where the minister says fruits are high in carbs, you can’t eat that it has 0.3g carbs!: http://whole9life.com/2011/11/fructose-foolishness/

    A Ketogenic diet is the only way a Type-2 diabetic can have a normal life back WITHOUT any medication. Tried and tested.

    Well, live and let live. It’s your choice to eat in moderation. But really, just don’t eat wheat and sugar.

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  11. Do Dietitians really now think saturated fat is healthy? This surprises me very much, the most credible evidence I’ve seen says the opposite.

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  12. Pingback: Top 5 Posts of 2015 | bite my words

  13. I started eating Keto (LCHF) on Feb 1st. Last October my A1C was 5.8, a year after I was diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic with an A1C of 5.7. Last Monday I had another A1C. It was 5.2, PERFECTLY NORMAL. My BP was 116/69 and he reduced my medication. Can I stick to this? YES! I feel fantastic, all of my cravings are gone and I will do whatever I have to in order to avoid diabetes.

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  14. Call your “balanced diet” whatever you want to if you don’t want to call it “low fat”. The fact is that that most dieticians claim that the only way to lose weight is eating a balanced diet and counting calories. I guess I can only speak for myself here but counting calories makes me always feel deprived. On a keto diet, I have never had more energy, less hunger, and more satisfaction in my food. The evidence is very clear that calorie counters lose les weight than low carb. And my A1C is just fine. Thank you very much!

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    • I’m not sure what “most dietitians” you’re talking about but most dietitians I know (including myself) don’t promote low fat diets. We don’t promote any one diet. I don’t count calories either, although I know many people who swear by it for weight management. It’s great that you feel a low-carb diet is beneficial. That doesn’t mean that it’s the way that everyone should eat.

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