"I just can't stay away from sugar!"
"My trainer does Paleo...."
"I want to lose weight, but I love bread!"
For almost a hundred years, low-carb diets have been recycled through our consciousness one bestseller at a time. Need to shed pounds? Cut the carbs.
It won't surprise anyone to hear that the USDA recommends 45 to 65 percent of calories should come from carbs. Not a surprise because the government is antiquated, wrong, and just wants us all to die anyway. I learned that listening to conservative talk radio.
And, we all know carbs cause diabetes. They're just evil. Need proof? Eve didn't destroy mankind with a steak, she did it with an apple. The ultimate irony: God didn't even choose a doughnut or scoop of fro-yo to blindside us; he tricked us into eternal damnation with something we thought would be healthy! An apple a day is a liberal, nanny-state attempt to control us.
We can't trust anyone!
Or maybe we like superstitions a little too much.
Here's a little gem I'll bet you don't know: in a first-of-its-kind study, researchers compared the effect of a low-carb diet versus a low-fat diet on insulin sensitivity, blood sugar, and markers of type 2 diabetes (HbA1c). I'll quote directly from the white paper or you won't believe me: "In contrast to the commonly held view, this study shows that type 2 diabetic patients on a high-carbohydrate and low-saturated fat diet have better blood glucose control."
This particular study focused on saturated fat. There are better ways to eat fewer carbs, including replacing some of those calories with healthier fat sources. But, count this as a major blow to the crowd who says we can eat all the bacon, burgers, and butter we want as long as we swear off starch. If you want all the fun academia that shows how dietary saturated fat leads to disruption of cell membranes, insulin receptors, and our resistance to cancer, it's all there. But I understand the new season of Game of Thrones is peaking--feel free to save the biochem for later.
What about overall health? Carbs lead to decreased immunity, right? Carbs are death to our white blood cells--they gum up every system in our body. I read that somewhere too.
Interestingly, Chris Masterjohn, PhD, has extensively studied the role of the "master antioxidant" glutathione as part of his nutrition sciences research. He is on a path interpreting diabetic research that shows diabetes isn't a condition of excess insulin signaling, but inadequate, or disrupted insulin signaling. Carbohydrate restriction leads to less glutathione, which can lead to lower levels of other antioxidants, which can allow an unmitigated free radical parade against our healthy cells. Masterjohn calls glucose the ultimate antioxidant.
I've written broadly on a process I call Metabolic Positioning. Managing carbs is not the same as restricting, or eliminating carbs. I recommend limiting processed carbs and sugar to no more than 25 percent of your carbs. If health agency standards of 45 to 65 percent of calories from carbs are followed, we're down to about 12.5 percent of calories coming from sources some would deem unhealthy or unnatural. I prefer to call them convenient and tasty. But, that still leaves us with around 50 percent of our calories from carbs in general--starch, bread, fruit, and all the things that low-carb dieters unwittingly think are bad. Most sane health advocates, whether they prefer a lower-carb or a lower-fat diet foundation, have to admit that we need some carbs and we need some fat. The truth is somewhere in the middle. As usual.
There's nothing sexy about being told that you need 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories, or that most of our vitamins and minerals come from fruits and grains as well as vegetables. Carbs schmarbs--tell me how I can lose 47 pounds by Saturday for my Match.com date-a-thon!
And I will--in the next couple installments of this series.