I decided that this was one issue that I really had to discuss. This subject
matter is two-fold, one to answer an email sent in by someone asking me about
dieting, more specifically about Low Carb Diets, and secondly as a topic for an
upcoming discussion in my Nutrition and Diet Therapy Class. I am not going to take
an official stance on low carb diets, it is of little importance if I support them
or not, but I just want to add some subjective and objective insights and some
miscellaneous information about carbohydrates and our diets.
Before I get into particulars about our diets there are a couple
important points that I need to stress.
First, and most importantly, if you are going to make any drastic
changes to your diet, PLEASE CONSULT A PHYSICIAN!!!!
A drastic change in your diet can prove to be more harmful than helpful. I am not a
physician, dietician, nutritionist or food scientist, but I know about food and I care about people.
So before taking mine or someone else's advice
please consult a physician or other qualified medical professional.
Secondly-and if you are dieting, it is just as important-we must
understand that a diet is just that. A diet. It takes time and
dedication to make any sound dieting program successful, sometimes it
is not what you eat it is how smart you eat.
One thing that I am glad to see with the Low Carb Craze is that more
and more people are reading labels and are generally more inquisitive
about the foods that they are ingesting. More people are finally
becoming aware as to what the commercial companies are doing to the
natural foods with the additions of the chemicals, additives and
preservatives to preserve and enhance the flavors and shelf life of
their products. Although it has been my experience that a lot of
these people are being misguided, it does my culinary heart some good
when I realize that at least they are reading labels and getting a
better understanding of what they are putting into their bodies.
I read an article some time ago, I wish I could quote the author, but
I don't remember who he was, but the general gist of his theory was
based on a principle that I recommend to all, the
acronym for this philosophy is LEAN.
L Lifestyle- Why modify your diet if you cannot modify your life?
E Exercise- I cannot stress this enough, most of the problems that
occur with Westerners is the lack of exercise, it really takes little
effort to exercise. By exercising I am not saying spend an hour on
the treadmill, , I mean simply by circulating your blood and burning
calories, for some a daily walk in some cases is sufficient.
A Attitude-This is a very important part to any program, having a
positive attitude not only about your goal, but about your life and
the LEAN philosophy as well.
N Nutrition-Understanding nutrition in general and the entire program
that you are about to participate in is very important, the how's and
why's of why you are taking this or avoiding that, and how the
program is going to satisfy all of your nutritional needs. If you are
paying for the program, be able to ask the staff the what's, how's
and why's. If they cannot satisfy your questions I suggest you find
someone that is capable of addressing your issues.
OK, with all of that said, let us get into some information:
Carbohydrates By Definition:
An important source of energy provided by food and
drink. There are three major categories for carbs. Sugars (glucose,
sucrose, fructose etc.), starches, and cellulose. Starch and sugar
are easily digested and an important source of energy. Cellulose,
although providing important dietary fibers is not converted by
dietary juices. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and
complex. Sugar is a simple carb; rice, potatoes, pasta, breads,
fruits, and vegetables provide complex carbs.
When someone suggests eating more carbs, they mean the complex ones,
specifically those that are high in fiber -- such as whole grains,
leafy greens, and fruits. It doesn't mean to go out and have a couple
pieces of Cheffy's White Chocolate-Blueberry Fantasy Cheesecake or a
5 pound bag of sugar.
While sugar is a simple carb, it is not evil and has never been
proven to be the underlying cause of disease (although it's an
important consideration for circumstances such as diabetes). It's not
so much the type of carbohydrate you eat as the company it keeps. The
simple carbs found in cakes, ice cream, candy, cookies, muffins, and
doughnuts generally cavort with fat. On the other hand, complex carbs
are generally accompanied by fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and
minerals. Carbohydrates really aren't that bad as long as you choose
In my opinion, one of the problems that I have with the high protein-low carb
diet is the same problem that I have had over the years with genetic
engineering of grains, vegetables, feed etc. affecting everything
from humans to livestock to our ecosystem; the problems I have been
disputing for years with aspartame, and countless other products that
were needlessly and haphazardly approved by the Dept of Agriculture
and the FDA due to political or corporate pressures. THE TESTING IS
INCONCLUSIVE!!!! There were no long term studies prior to the
approval by not only the government but by the American people.
The Atkins Diet is a case in point.
The aversion to fat has been replaced by an aversion to
carbohydrates. So this puts bacon and eggs back on the breakfast
plate and a nice juicy beef tenderloin on a plate with no baked
potato. This is, of course, driven by the popularity of the high-
The media will tell you about Johnny losing seventy pounds or Susie
going from a size 29 to a size ten, but they don't tell you of the
possible harm that can very well be done by calcium loss, ketosis,
the chances of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, the
lack of biotin and other important vitamins that these diets tend to
ignore. This is not because the dieters themselves are ignorant, it
is because they have been misled, and they haven't done their
homework before attempting to play around with their nutrition and
metabolism, thanks to the hype that diets such as these have
I am not intending to bash the Atkins Diet or any of the Low Carb
diets for that matter, it is of little significance if I support them
or not, I am just instigating thought and offering insight. My point
simply is this, an extreme diet of any kind—say, one high in meats
and whole-milk dairy products—may be harmful because high-fat diets
have been associated with a number of chronic diseases, including
cancer and heart disease. Also, when a whole class of foods is
restricted and/or limited, critical nutrients may be lacking from the
diet. Although the potential negative effects that I previously
mentioned may take some time to become apparent, it is important to
understand that the long-term safety of these fad diets has not been
Consuming high-protein or high-fat diets may initially induce weight
loss in some people. but what has to be understood is that weight
loss is based on calorie restriction—not on what is being consumed!
Fad diets prohibit a lot of foods—in the case of high-protein diets,
carbohydrate intake is severely restricted. And guess what? People
lose weight not because of the altered food balance, but simply
because they are restricting calories. Of course they will lose
weight!, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out!
Now, if you are going to restrict calories, which is vital to losing
weight, isn't it better to restrict them in a way that is consistent
with a healthy diet? Nobody needs excess protein and fat in their
diets for the many health-related reasons we have already discussed
and this is not something that had just been "discovered" in the past
few years—it has been understood for decades . Sometimes the market
will bring something to light and before you know it, it
is "nouveau", when in actuality it has been around longer than the
journalist or marketing guru that brought it to light to begin with,
such is the case of the low carb diets, it was first documented in
the early 1860's and suffered just as much, if not more criticism
than the Atkins and South Beach diets are suffering now.
A few Cheffy Tips:
My basic rule of thumb is I do not open a can for any purpose. Food
is simple and should be loved and enjoyed. If you want the time to
enjoy your life, how about putting some time into your life? Reading
labels if you buy packaged and canned foods is very important, if you
have any troubles deciphering what is put into your foods, try doing
a little home work into finding out what is in your products. I
cannot stress this enough. I know that it is hard to decipher what
the labels say, but as a general guideline, like my friend Bruce Rose
from Rosewood Farms Soy Plant says, "…if you have trouble pronouncing
it, it probably isn't good for you…"
Don't Panic-Eat Organic
This is how food was meant to be to begin with. And some call it
progress…I tend to disagree.
To avoid going into the genetic engineering debate, let me kindly ask
you to eat organic foods. They are healthier not only because they
provide more minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals than commercially
grown foods but they are not allowing toxins; such as pesticides and
herbicides and other unhealthy man-made gunk into our bodies. As far
as eating organic meats and poultry, it is the same case scenario.
The free range varieties of meat, game and poultry that are on the
market are not only better for you, they taste better and are not
filled with growth hormones.
Use Fresh Herbs
Happy Herbs-By cooking with herbs we add our own special zing to
dishes, and we also add benefits to our health because many herbs
possess anti-oxidants among other happy and properties. I am a
favorite of herbs; I always use them when I prepare a meal, soup,
sauce or whatever. For those that have followed my teachings know, I
favor basil, thyme, oregano and rosemary. Rosemary and fenugreek are
two herbs that possess the greatest values as anti-oxidants, some of
the other Happy Herbs include: Allspice, bay leaf, basil, cardamom,
cinnamon, cloves, cumin, fennel, ginger, mace, marjoram, nutmeg,
oregano, sage, thyme and turmeric to name some of the most popular
Steamed instead of boiled
Don't boil your darned vegetables!! Not only do you lose a good part
of the flavor, you are also losing important vitamins, minerals,
enzymes and happy, disease fighting properties that Mother Earth
provides for us.
Cheffy's Closing Thoughts or Nutrition 102
One of the most difficult things about understanding nutrition is
taking it from text to practical use in our everyday lives, sometimes
this is a lot easier said than done.
If nutrition were a perfect science, perhaps we could come up with the perfect diet, but
nutrition is a lot of things, and being an exact science is not one
of them. Even if it were an exact science and there was such a thing
as a perfect diet it would exclude majority of the American
population because of the lists of likes and dislikes every
individual has, and that is not even considering those that have
anomalies to their diets such as diabetics, gluten and lactose
intolerances and the list goes on and on.
Food and health are indisputably related.
The problems many of us have are deciphering what is "good" and what is "bad", some of these
in each list may be right or may be wrong, depending on which
nutritional study we may have been reading at the time we have made
our decisions. I have used this line before, and although I cannot
find the exact quote, my favorite food scientist, Shirley O. Corriher
had said that all scientific studies coming out on food and nutrition
should all be prefaced with "As of what we know now…". I love this
statement, there is nothing closer to the truth.
Most people will say that they have
altered their diet to become healthier.
Now I read this as becoming healthier as in aiding in not
becoming ill or stricken by disease by bad eating habits. Being
healthy is a lot more than not being sick or hindering illness. The
World Health Organization defines health as " a state of complete
physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of
disease and infirmity"…Now, not even my hypothetical "perfect diet"
could attain this. Proper nutrition combined with sleep, exercise and
harmony in our lives can however.
One of the most important overbalances that happens in our diets,
Americans especially, is the happy little balance that exists between
the energy our foods consumed provides and the energy our bodies will
use up. Meaning that sometimes we consume an amount of carbohydrates,
proteins and fats that our body cannot use up thus turning them into
Now going with this thought…Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins are very
important to our everyday diets, they provide energy to our heart,
lungs and other vital organs. Fats and proteins supply nutritional
value to our bodies that carbohydrates alone cannot, but an equal
balance of all three of these are very important. To eat an excessive
amount of protein is useless because the additional amount of
protein, that our body is not going to absorb is just going to turn
into fat, one gram of protein contains the same amount of calories as
one gram of carbohydrates (four), but it is easier for our body to
burn off carbohydrate calories than those attained by fats or
So live, eat, drink happily, merrily and healthy.
Stay in tune with your body, mind and spirit.
Remember that when we take care of life's simplest pleasures,
When we devote our energies into the little things in our life,
and our hearts
will live in harmony with the larger things thatevolve around them.