Blogpost: The Fear of Carbs!

People have been told by their parents for hundreds of years to eat your vegetables. Healthy people eat fruits and vegetables. Many people grew up with backyard gardens full of vegetables and yes, potatoes. Even the USDA has a plate that includes a minimum of 4 servings of fruits and vegetables. No one spoke of “carbs” or protein. They referred to fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy. Why are people counting “carbs” and fearing fruit?

In the 1980s we introduced politically correct low fat snack foods to combat heart disease. This was really just adding more sugar to junk foods to decrease the overall percentage of fat. Nutrition labels were also introduced requiring companies to change their marketing strategies to compensate what now might be perceived as an unhealthy food. Amazingly, we started looking at the grams of fat that is a measure of weight rather than the actual percentages of macronutrients and calories. This was convenient for companies because a gram of fat has 9 calories and a gram of protein and sugar each have 4 calories. Of course the serving size description was in small font on the top so that attention is drawn to the grams of each macronutrient and not calories per serving. If a 15 once can contains 3.5 servings and each serving is 300 calories, the total calories for the can is 1,050 calories. If there are 4 grams of fat per serving that is 36 calories per 150 calorie serving or 24% fat. If there are 4 grams of carbohydrate per 150 calorie serving then it is 4 x 4 grams or 16 calories per 150 calorie serving or 11% of calories from carbohydrate. This may make your head spin and add hours to your shopping day as you go up and down the grocery store isle reading labels. However, there is an easy solution located in the produce section.

A whole foods plant based diet is about 70% carbohydrate, 20% protein and 10% fat averaged over the day. But those are just macronutrients. One could easily eat a very poor vegan diet with these percentages indulging in products containing simple sugars and saturated or hydrogenated low fat snack foods. This is where the produce section helps.

A simple question is how does this food help me? Will it decrease or increase inflammation in my body? Does this food contain anti-oxidants, fiber, phytonutrients, and vitamins that will help me get healthier without the side effects of chemical, and metabolic byproducts. For example, an egg contains mainly vitamins as well as protein but also contains toxins in the fat and a whole day’s worth of cholesterol that your liver has already produced. How is it that we count carbs in fruit but not junk food? Let’s look at an apple. It contains a total of 80 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fiber, 8% of the RDA for calcium, 2% of the RDA for ironand 8% of the RDA for vitamin C. Now let’s look at a Hostess Apple pie. It contains 480 calories, 78 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of fat (9 saturated) and 3 grams of protein. In additions it has 560mg of sodium!, one gram of fiber and NO vitamin C. I’m not sure what they did with the “apples” to make them loose their nutritonal value? Go ahead and eat 6 apples to get to 480 calories and note the nutrition that you get.

The carbohydrates in an unprocessed plant based diet are not the issue. It is the processed foods that contain simple carbohydrates ie sugar and fat that lead to glucose intolerance and diabetes. It is the fat that impedes glucose tolerance not the glucose itself. Eat the whole apple without the pie crust and everything will be ok. Eat a big salad at lunch with beans and whole grains and then eat an apple and your glucose will still be ok. Eat an apple and a burger that contains fat and you will see a spike in your glucose that is much higher.

Stay in the produce section and don’t worry about the “carbs.”

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