"Why single out carbohydrates, when overconsumption of anything can make you fat? (Answer: because it currently sells books and magazines.) For that matter, fat and protein are MORE easily stored as fat when overconsumed. Carbohydrate at least has something else it can be converted to (glycogen) before becoming fat. Protein and fat do not. Excess protein has no other avenue than to become fat and excess fat--well, what else? Further, carbohydrate has a better chance of being burned as energy than the other two, because our bodies use more carbohydrate than fat under most circumstances."


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"Confused About Carbohydrates?"
You bet--after article like that! Author Robyn Landis takes a line-by-line, claim-by-claim approach to a current media article and challenges what's misleading and illogical about it.

Article: "Confused About Carbohydrates?" ny Melissa Diane Smith, Delicious! May 1997

Problem: Claims to "clear up the myths and facts about carbs" but actually perpetuates myths instead. Basically just parrots the unsubstantiated assertions of the carbo-phobic pushers (which are exactly what confuse people!)--and "explains" them using vague, hole-filled and incomplete reasoning that we'll take a look at here.

QUOTE: "You may be surprised to learn that carbohydrate consumption in this country has skyrocketed (and dietary fat intake has dropped), yet more Americans than ever are overweight."

RESPONSE: Hey, sounds like the author's been reading some carbo-phobic diet books! I question whether the athor of this article actually looked into government statistics on this, or whether she repeats it because some high-protein-diet-authors say so. The anti-carb faction's unique interpretation of the facts doesn't fly. The way Smith scharacterizes the assertion here, it's implied that fat intake has plummeted through the floor. Go ahead and try to substantiate that. Even if statistics weren't with me on this (at best, the percentage of fat has dropped slightly, but total intake in grams has increased slightly), I would trust my own eyes: I observe people everywhere I go--what they eat and what they buy--and the idea that the whole nation is truly eating low-fat is a fantasy. (A nice one--Iwish it were true--but a fantasy.)

Moreover, wait till you see how the article characterizes the nation's "increased grain consumption" (next bullet down).

And by the way, the problem is that many Americans are overfat or obese, not "overweight." Heck, I'M practically "overweight" according to the charts, but since my bodyfat's 18 percent, my blood preasures great, my cholesterol's impressively low and my HDL is through the roof, I needn't worry.

QUOTE: "Statistics show... we eat more grains than ever. Since 1977, intake of ready-to-eat cereals has increased by 60 percent, and grain mixtures (such as pizza, pasta and nachos) has increased 115 percent. Consumption of snack foods such as crackers and pretzels has risen even higher--200 percent!"

RESPONSE: Is this for REAL? I though, "THIS is what they mean by 'we eat more GRAINS?'" It's the PERFECT example of distortion that results from sloppy semantics, key omissions, and failure to look at the big picture. Carbo-phobics blame "carbohydrates" for the nation's ills, but frequently don't define "carbohydrate"--or they lump in simple, junky carbs with complex nutritious ones. YOU need to make the distinctions.

In this case, consider that about 98 percent of the "ready-to-eat" on the shelves (100 percent of the top-sellers, I'd bet) are made or refined flours and loaded with sugar. (Check for yourself.) An increase in consumption of these does NOT prove that a diet high in whole grains, legumes, beans, fruits and vegetables is bad for you! It does suggest that a diet high in refined grains and sugar is bad for you. Well, duh--most health authorities been saying that for years. But even at that, an increase in obesity during the same period of increased cereal consumption does not prove that the cereal caused it. What else are people eating? What about a corresponding decrease in excercise and increase in sedentary lifestyles? (During that same time period, home computer use has increased.. Does this prove that home computer use causes obesity?)

It gets even dumber. Pizza, pasta and nacho consumption has increased 115 percent, and from this we conclude that "high-carbohydrate diets are bad!?" Apply some logical critical thinking here. Where is that increasing obesity isn't due to the gobs of cheese, pepperoni and sausage on the pizza; the cheese, guacamole and sour cream on the nachos; and the alfredo sauce on the pasta--which would be a far more logical conclusion? (There isn't any evidence.) This is just someone looking at an obese person eating nachos and assuming the problem is thenachos and not the topping! (Well, that assumption makes a pithy book cover, but so what?) Oh, and crackers. If the majority of the public is buying the well-known brands that have 80 to 120 grams of hydrogenated fat per box, or the small-market health-food lowfat crackers? Right. If I eat lots of Cheese Snippets and get fat, you're going to blame that on carbs? Again, check the box and do the math

If this is what people mean by "increased grain consumption," it's a joke. This is what I mean about questioning what you read. Someone says Americans are fat because they eat more grains than ever. (Because they read it in some book.) Ask "What kinds of grains do you mean? Where did you get those statistics? How do you know they eat more grains? What else are they eating? What other factors are possible in increasing obesity? Have all those other factors been ruled out?" Beware generalities!

THE BOTTOM LINE: NO evidence has been presented showing that people get fat eating WHOLE grains, legumes, beans, vegetables and fruits. (No evidence has been presented showing that people even DO that on a consistent basis!)
Those I know who do (myself included) are healthy and lean. If you eat a diet based on those foods (just about 60 percent) you do not get fat and sick. You get fat and sick eating too much fat, too much protein--and yes, too much sugar and refined grain. But if you eat daily breakfasts of Fruit Goops in whole milk and daily dinners of Pizza-To-Go's Triple-Cheese Deluxe, don't blame the results on rice and beans!

QUOTE: "Vegetables and fruits are so much lower in carbohydrate that six cups of steamed brocolli have the same carbohydrate content as on cup of pasta! That means you can eat a lot more fruits and vegetables without consuming too many carbohydrates."

RESPONSE: Smith says the key to controlling carb intake is to replace grains grains with fruits and vegetables. Well, first of all, we do need some grains--WHOLE grains! You wouldn't want to replace all grains in your diet with fruits and vegetables.

But what amazes me about this statement is the way all fruits and vegetables are simplistically lumped into a single category! The fact is, fruits and vegetables are very different--while both are packed with healthful nutrients and phytochemicals, fruits are generally much higher in natural sugars. Which means fruits are much higher in carbohydrate--comparable to the grains whose consumption ironically is being discouraged (They tell you not to eat bread, but berries are okay? Makes no sense.) And, although moderate amounts of fruit (several servings a day) provide crucial vitamins and minerals, the carbohydrate that fruits provide is mainly simple carbohydrate. (See the inconsistency? You're told to avoid carbs, especially simple carbs--but then you're supposed to replace whole grains with fruit--whiich is loaded with simple carbohydrate!) Subsisting mainly on fruit would not result in a very different blood sugar/insulin response than subsisting on sugar cookies.

Conveniently, Smith uses the example of broccoli, a very low-carb vegetable. To vaguely imply that everything in the vast smorgasbord of fruits and vegetables would compare similarly is ludicrous. You can NOT eat a lot more bananas without increasing your carb intake significantly! (In fact, only ONE banana has carbohydrate value approximately equal yo that cup of pasta.) And if you'd already had a few fruits, and the pasta was whole grain, the banana wouldn't necessarily be a better choice.

Also, how much is the "too much carbohydrate" you should keep from eating? A quick-tip "what-to-avoid" section exhorts, "Go easy on the carbs." Go easy? That will be interpreted a hundred different ways by a hundred different people. This is a classic diet-speak generality like those leveled at Americans for decades. "Don't eat too many calories." "Don't eat too much fat." "Don't eat too much protein." "Make sure to get enough fiber."

How much is enough? How much is too much? Let's look at what the article says.

QUOTE: "Julian Whitaker, M.D... recently modified his dietary recommendations from a higher carb diet to one that contains 60 percent carbohydrates... 20 percent protein and 20 percent fat."

RESPONSE: Now THAT's interesting. Right after explaining why you should eat "less" carbohydrates, Smith cites this recommendation. What's interesting about it is that 60-20-20 is precisely what I eat and have been recommending for years! (Bodyfueling® was published in 1994 and was giving classes with that recommendation for four years before that.) Now, if I want to cash in on the current "lower-carb" craze, I suppose I could say "Hey! I've lowered my carb recommendation! Now I think I should eat 60-20-20!" and everyone would ooh and aah and buy my book, thinking it's in that "category."

This is what happens--the recommendation stays the same, but it's FRAMED by the context of what the current fad is. You can label yourself to align with what's selling. If the pendulum was swing torward "high-carb," people would say they've "raised" the recommendation to 60 percent. If it's swing torward "high-protein" people will say they're "lowering" the recommendation to 60. Either way, it's 60 (and most health authorities--and healthypopulations--agree.) The rest is posturing politics and semantics.

QUOTE: "It's true that carbohydrate contain fewer calories than fat, but they can be easily stored as fat if they're overconsumed."

RESPONSE: Oh, and protein and fat are not stored as fat if they're overconsumed? Of course they are. So why single out carbohydrates, when overconsumption of anything can make you fat? (Answer: because it currently sells books and magazines.) For that matter, fat and protein are MORE easily stored as fat when overconsumed. Carbohydrate at least has something else it can be converted to (glycogen) before becoming fat. Protein and fat do not. Excess protein has no other avenue than to become fat and excess fat--well, what else? Fursther, carbohydrate has a better chance of being burned as energy than the other two, because our bodies use more carbohydrate than fat under most circumstances. And if your burning protein as energy (which you shouldn't be doing), you've got a whole other problem on your hands!

QUOTE: "[Glucagon] stimulates the breakdown of fat and glycogen (a storage form of glucose) to provide energy for all body cells, especially brain cells."

RESPONSE: Misleading. Fat cannot provide energy to brain cells. The central nervous system relies nearly exclusively on glucose.

QUOTE: "Beans and grains are sources of carbohydrates; however, few people realize carbs are also vegetables, fruit sugar, nuts..."

RESPONSE: Carbs aren't IN sugar--sugar is carbohydrate. And nuts have a lot more fat than carbohydrate. If you lived on nuts and got fat, I'd hardly blame the carbohydrate in them!


I agree that everyone's a little different and you can experiment--within a moderate and proven range of healthful recommendations. Some people may do better on 50 percent carb, others on 65. But as you experiment, know why you're doing it and what you're talking about--don't just make sweeping changes based on half-truths and vague generalizations!

Remember that cutting sugar and refined junk doesn't mean cutting carbs like beans, legumes, and whole grains as well as fruits and veggies. Remember there is NO proof that eating a diet high in those complex carbs makes you fat--and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. And most people do NOT need to add MORE fat and none need to add more animal protein to their diets in order to be healthier!

Being lean and healthy requires a range of things. Not just One Thing--especially not one as general as "eat 'less' carb." This is no different than all the other One Thing Answers; all the High-This diets and Low-That diets. They are not The Answer.

I am not healthy because I eat a "low-fat diet." I am healthy because I eat a moderately high COMPLEX carb, moderate protein, moderately low fat diet that's rich in a wide variety of healthful foods; I don't diet/starve/go long periods of time without eating; I exercise regularly and moderately; I eat organically grown foods...and do many other things for my health as well, as detailed in my books. ALL those things add up to health.

I know--it's not as exciting as headline-making "THE HEALTH AUTHORITIES WERE WRONG! CARBS ARE BAD! YOU CAN LOSE WEIGHT FAST!" But it's the truth. I guess it just depends what you're really looking for.

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