The ketogenic diet has garnered much attention in recent years, and many truths and myths have emerged as a result. For example, some say that all you eat is bacon and beef—and there is also a dietary mandate to add butter to your morning coffee.
But seriously, some common assumptions about the low-carb, high-fat diet are misguided and can lead to some doing the diet incorrectly or not attempting it at all.
There are many benefits to debunking the myths and following a ketogenic diet. So, getting down to the essential fundamentals to enjoy this healthy way of life is worth researching to separate fact from fiction.
The following are some common myths floating around about the ketone-fueled diet and some clarity around the matters, so you walk away armed with the necessary knowledge to live your best low-carb life:
Myth #1 - The Keto Diet is New
Leveraging metabolic ketosis and running primarily on ketones is a fascinating concept, but it is not new. The low-carb, high-fat diet is an established approach founded in the 1920s to help reduce symptoms in children with epilepsy, and its many well-researched benefits are sound.
Furthermore, in ancient communities and cultures, fasting and other dietary protocols regulating food intake have treated epilepsy and other ailments since as early as around 500 B.C.
Adhering to a ketogenic diet is an excellent way to leverage the power of fasting, periodically and systematically, to optimize glucose regulation and metabolic flexibility—while maximizing weight loss with ease—on a low-carb, high-fat meal plan.
Intermittent fasting empties glucose stores, coaxes the body into an utterly ketotic state, and allows you to experience the physical, mental, and emotional perks of cutting carbs while increasing healthy fats.
Myth # 2 - The Brain Prefers Glucose for Energy
An adult of average weight requires approximately 200g of glucose per day, with two-thirds or so, around 130 g, exclusively needed by the brain to cover fundamental glucose needs—with the brain competing with the rest of the body for a boost when levels drop very low during periods of fasting.
While we have a baseline glucose level required for everyday function, ketone bodies are beloved by the brain because they can cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result, ketones serve as an optimal fuel source easy for the body to access to support optimal brain function.
Myth # 3 - The Keto Diet is Unsustainable
A ketogenic diet makes for a fantastic lifestyle. And although most available research stops tracking individuals following a low-carb, high-fat diet after a couple of years, its time-tested benefits give hope that the plan has excellent long-term potential.
Plus, there are various iterations of the keto diet to choose from or cycle through at different stages of life (e.g., pregnancy, an athlete engaged in intense training, etc.) to accommodate changes in your body's nutritional and performance demands.
Suppose you are highly athletic or have reached your goal weight and maintain your figure while still keeping carbs low. In those instances, you may want to incorporate the cyclical, targeted, or high-protein versions of keto into your regimen to see whether they better support your feeling and looking your best.
Regardless of the alternative keto plan selected, they all offer more freedom with your macros and allow you to enjoy a bit more carbs or protein in the process.
Myth # 4 - All Fats are Keto-friendly
We encourage sourcing and enjoying loads of healthy fats in your keto diet, but not all fats are created equal. And it's essential to choose your fats wisely to avoid encountering lower-quality ingredients like fully or partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats.
Stick to premium fats like omega-3 fatty acids found in freshwater fish like salmon; olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, butter, lard, and tallow. And steer clear of cheaper alternative fats like soybean, corn, peanut, or canola oil. Virtually all these variations are chemically altered and highly processed when produced, so leave these selections on your market's shelves.
Myth # 5 - All Low-carb Foods are Keto
The low-carb diet encompasses a spectrum, with the ketogenic and carnivore diets landing at the most highly carb-restricted options. And although the keto diet contains many low-carb foods on its suggested list, not all low-carb foods are keto-friendly.
- Artificial Sweeteners: While sugar alternatives like Splenda and Equal don't contain sugar or carbs, their ingredients are known endocrine disruptors, and you should avoid them.
- Trans Fats: Although these fats benefit a company's bottom line by extending the shelf-life of their food products, they are less than best for promoting health for those who consume them—showing evidence of causing adverse metabolic reactions over time.
- Gluten: While this culinary protein doesn't spike glucose, some avoid it on a keto diet noting that gluten is associated with triggering a chronic inflammatory response that may lead to digestive issues for vulnerable populations (e.g., those with Leaky Gut Syndrome, Celiac Disease, or Crohn's Disease).
Myth #6 - All Carbs are Off-limits
The glycemic scale shows us that the carbohydrate impact of various fruits and vegetables exists on a broad spectrum. Luckily, we can enjoy items that fall toward the lower end of the index rather than excluding all carbs from our diets entirely.
Instead of french fries, you can opt for a zucchini hash or crispy, fried cauliflower buffalo-dipped poppers. Or you can swap in lower-carb-count flours like lupin, almond and coconut instead of grain-based options that will surely spike glucose and remain off-limits on keto—so you can have your cake and eat it too.
Check out our dedicated post on the best worst veggies for those following a ketogenic diet to help you craft your meal plan to explore the variety of low-carb veggies we advise while eliminating those that may compromise ketosis and slow weight loss.
Myth # 7 - Ketosis is the same as Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Ketosis, a healthy metabolic state, and ketoacidosis, often unfortunately experienced by diabetics, are often confused as the same thing, but they're certainly not. Ketosis is a helpful and natural state that occurs in the body when we deplete our glycogen stores, and we shift into using fat and ketones for fuel instead. In contrast, ketoacidosis is a condition that develops when your body can't produce adequate insulin.
We are often in a ketotic state directly before and after birth. And the body is comfortable shifting into ketosis during times of fasting or famine. Furthermore, ketosis supports proper brain and physical function, essential for all facets of human development.
Plus, elevated ketones aid in boosting energy and mental sharpness in many while helping regulate glucose and warding off unpleasant conditions related to poor insulin balance and function, like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Myth # 8 - The Only Benefit of Keto is Losing Weight
A ketogenic diet is a fantastic approach to weight loss. This century-old approach to eating creates a potent thermogenic, fat-burning state in the body to aid in torching extra calories and burning down carbs and glucose stores to facilitate the body's transition from relying on sugar to running optimally on fat and ketones for fuel.
However, maximizing weight loss is only one of many benefits of limiting carbs and sugars on the ketogenic diet. Here are some other significant benefits to eating a low-carb, high-fat diet in addition to helping you to slip into a smaller dress size in no time:
- The hormone-balancing effect of the keto diet can directly aid in improving your complexion and preventing pesky breakouts and other skin irritations.
- Increased ketones and lower levels of carbs and sugars in the body may translate into improved triglyceride levels once you incorporate cholesterol-free and plant-based options into your plan to keep intake of saturated fats in an ideal range.
- Limiting carbs and feasting on foods filled with healthy fats provide a fantastic appetite suppressing effect. So, while you may eat a higher percentage of fats in your diet, you're less likely to overeat as fat easily satiates and helps you eat less volume while still feeling fuller for longer.
- The keto diet is a beautiful tool to help prevent symptoms of diabetes, as it helps regulate insulin and blood glucose while promoting metabolic flexibility—allowing your body to use all energy sources efficiently and as needed.
- Keto has impressive benefits on brain health and neurological function, aiding in communication between healthy synapses to help prevent or lessen the symptoms of potentially debilitating conditions like epilepsy or dementia.
Myth # 9 - Keto is Expensive
A keto diet could consist exclusively of prime rib, lobster, and caviar. Or, you can easily enjoy keto on a dime with inexpensive staple ingredients like eggs, heavy cream, and frozen fruits and veggies.
Plus, it's possible to shop sales or frequent venues like Trader Joe's with consistently lower prices for high-quality, sugar-free fare to maximize your budget and get the most for your money while limiting carbs.
Also, utilizing meal prep and making most of your meals at home drastically reduces your monthly food budget, making the low-carb, high-fat diet more accessible to all.
Myth # 10 - Keto is Too Difficult
Macros, net carbs, sugar alcohols, it can all feel a tad overwhelming to navigate as you acclimate to the keto diet. But eating a low-carb, high-fat diet is as simple as you choose to make it.
You could cycle a handful of healthy low-glycemic ingredients in heavy rotation and feel completely content. Or you can add exciting and new elements to your meals as you wish; there's no pressure to do the diet in a way that doesn't fit your individual needs.
Keep your focus on monitoring carb and sugar intake, source the best cold-pressed oil or organic animal fats possible, and eat quality meats or seafood to curate a well-rounded meal plan with zero fuss.
Also, it's helpful to leverage practices like meal preparation and make freezer meals ahead for long-term storage to have ready-made meals available to heat and eat at your convenience.
Myth # 11 - Calories Don’t Matter
Eating with absolute abandon in the honeymoon phase of the keto diet can feel exhilarating. You get to eat cheese, bacon, and eggs and still experience rapid and consistent weight loss—probably for the first time in your life.
However, weight loss or gain comes down to caloric deficits or surpluses, respectively, whether you're eating carbs in your meal plan or not.
Structure your macronutrient and calorie targets based on your health and fitness goals, and adjust those figures accordingly based on results you witness over time.
Myth # 12 - I Have to Eat Meat and Dairy on Keto
Meat is the centerpiece of many keto diet meal plans, but it, along with dairy, is optional. Eating a vegetarian or vegan version of the keto diet is possible with the aid of some clever plant-based swaps and substitutes that offer variety in taste and texture with minimal carbs.
Check here for more creative tips and tricks to follow a low-carb vegan or vegetarian keto diet without losing it! The good news is, the plant-based keto options available are likely more plentiful than you realize, especially with the explosion of new products coming to market in the past year alone!
Myth # 13 - Keto is Bad for Cholesterol
Eating a diet primarily filled with fats might raise the eyebrows of those mindful of curbing cholesterol and managing coronary health, but promoting healthy cholesterol while eating significant amounts of healthy fats is a nuanced matter.
Again, not all fats are beneficial, and composing your diet of ghee and avocado oil as primary fats instead of margarine or shortening is ideal. Again, it's essential to source your fats wisely, especially since they will make up the most considerable portion of your caloric budget each day.
Myth # 14 - All You Eat is Bacon and Butter
As we mentioned, you could live your whole keto life without ever eating bacon, butter, or other animal products. Plus, it's crucial to emphasize the quality of your micronutrient intake to ensure you're eating a balanced and nutritionally sufficient diet, not just that you're curtailing carb intake and indulging, enjoying lots of fatty food.
Add loads of dark leafy greens, gut-healthy fermented foods like kimchi, and complete proteins like chia, hemp, and flax seeds to your diet for added fiber, nutrients, and a serving of slow-digesting carbs that defy the stereotypes of what folks eat on a low-carb diet.
However, if you choose to try trendy options like the Beef and Butter Fast to jumpstart or re-energize your keto diet, check out our recent post for some hacks and insights to ensure the best experience possible.
Myth # 15 - Keto is Bad for Your Health
Quite the contrary. A well-balanced ketogenic diet filled with premium cuts of meat and fish, high-quality fats, and low-glycemic fruits and veggies is a very healthy lifestyle approach.
Of course, a keto diet filled with highly processed and packaged foods (a.k.a., dirty/easy keto) is not the nutritional goal, and eating this style of low-carb diet can lead to less than ideal long-term outcomes.
Focus on eating whole, organic foods as often as possible, only supplementing with packaged options occasionally for convenience and not as your dietary foundation.
Myth #16 - You’re Weaker Because You Don’t Eat Carbs
Fitness buffs and bodybuilders have devoted loyalty to a high-carb diet for amassing more muscle and supporting muscle recovery for decades. But acquiring lean muscle can occur while curbing carbs and eliminating simple sugars.
Considering alternative versions of a keto diet, like the cyclical keto diet, can prove incredibly helpful for athletes or or those who need fuel for frequent high-energy levels of physical performance.
Myth # 17 - Keto is a High Fat, High Protein Diet
Some conflate the Atkins and ketogenic diets, but the two have distinct differences. For example, a ketogenic diet suggests consuming moderate protein to constitute 20-25% of daily calories. In contrast, the Atkins diet advises eating 30% to 50% of their total calories from protein.
Myth # 18 - Everyone Experiences the ‘Keto Flu’
Achiness, soreness, fatigue, and unpleasant breath may all accompany the first days and weeks of your keto journey. However, some experience mild symptoms or none at all.
Consider transitioning to a low-carb diet for a few weeks and then gradually moving deeper into a keto diet. And be sure to stay hydrated while also consuming loads of electrolyte-rich beverages like bone broth to stave off the undesirable side effects of the transitory keto flu as you eliminate simple carbs and sugars from your diet.
Myth # 19 - You Can’t Drink Alcohol on Keto
Consuming large amounts of alcohol is ill-advised on any weight-loss plan, including a keto diet. However, minimizing alcohol intake doesn't mean eliminating spirits and wine while following a low-carb, high-fat diet.
Take care when consuming alcohol to keep a close eye on calorie and carb intake, and watch out for syrups and add-ins in mixed beverages that can raise your blood sugar level through the roof and quickly kick you out of ketosis.
Check out our comprehensive guide to drinking on keto for a detailed rundown on which alcohols are lowest in sugars and carbs and the best ways to enjoy sugar-free libations on a ketogenic diet.
Myth # 20 - You Must Intermittent Fast on Keto
Wielding the many health and appetite-suppressing benefits of intermittent fasting, and reserving feeding times to limited time windows, aids in autophagy and regeneration of healthy cells while helping the body burn fat and ketones for fuel to release excess body fat rapidly and with minimal effort.
However, fasting isn't a requirement on a ketogenic diet but a tool to introduce as you become grounded in your keto diet. Ease into your keto plan and develop a rhythm before attempting to fast as a part of your low-carb protocol to make sure you master each element before combining methods.
The ketogenic diet is a tried and proven method for achieving much more than weight loss. From regulating glucose and supporting healthy insulin function to promoting heart, thyroid, and brain health, boosting ketones to fuel the system is wise for many reasons.
And the truth about keto is that it is an ancient approach with modern relevance that promotes neurological wellness while curbing your appetite to levels that make monitoring meals and fasting intermittently a breeze.
Ditch the myths about the low-carb diet and approach the keto protocol armed with solid knowledge, tips, and best practices to support you along your journey toward fat-adaptation, like those we've shared in our recent post dedicated to seven habits to implement to ensure a successful low-carb experience.
Keto is a healthy, sustainable, and accessible approach to eating that one can execute on a variety of budgets. Plus, the plan is flexible and able to support those with moderate energy demands to those engaged in activities requiring peak athletic performance.
Give the eating style a try and adjust elements of the plan as needed to tailor the program to your needs and preferences. Keto is a diet that supports vitality, mental sharpness, and elevated energy levels that you can alter in subtle ways to make it a perfect fit for any health-conscious modern foodie.
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