Food & Nutrition

These 8 Myths About Carbs Could Be Wrecking Your Health

Eat the foods you love while losing weight, preventing disease, and slowing aging—sound too good to be true? John McDougall, MD, explains why you should embrace carbs and starches in ‘The Healthiest Diet on the Planet.’

Myth: Carbs leave you drained and foggy-brained

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Truth: Every cell in the body uses carbohydrates for energy. When the brain can’t access the carb glucose for energy—like in a low-carb diet—it turns to ketones from fats instead. But a 1995 study in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that burning ketones instead of glucose leads to impaired brain function. Just like athletes load up on carbs before an event, you can turn to carbs several times a day to keep your energy up in your hectic life, Dr. McDougall says. These healthy snacks contain a moderate amount of carbs and can help stop cravings.

Myth: Avoiding gluten is healthy for everyone

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Fact: Gluten-free products might be popping up more and more in grocery stores, but that doesn’t mean they’ll give you a health benefit. Less than 1 percent of people who eat a Western diet have celiac disease, McDougall’s research has found. Unless you have gluten intolerance, there’s no dietary need to eliminate gluten. And many people who have self-diagnosed themselves with a gluten intolerance could be wrong:  Here are seven conditions that mimic gluten intolerance, for example.  See your doctor and get a thorough exam before you cut out major food groups.

Myth: Cutting out gluten will help you lose weight

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Fact: You might think that at the very least, the diet restrictions of going gluten-free would make people cut calories. But a 2012 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that after nixing gluten, almost 16 percent of people with celiac disease who were at a normal or low BMI moved to an overweight BMI class, and 22 percent of those who were already overweight gained weight.

Myth: Humans weren’t designed to eat starches

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Fact: Several studies have shown human ancestors ate starches. A 2010 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that Europeans started processing starches, maybe ground into flour, 30,000 years ago or earlier. Research in a 2011 issue of the journal said starch grains have been found in Neanderthals’ skeletal teeth from 44,000 years ago. Hunter-gatherers did eat meat products, but most of their calories came from plants.

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