Chef Michael Hayes Speaks Out About Carbs and our Diets
I decided that this was one issue that I really had to discuss. I am not going to take an official stance on low carb diets, but I just want to add some personal insight 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, bottom line.
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 (and other diet) crazes 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, by Dr. Sears, whom developed a theory based on his recovery from colon cancer and the diet that pursued based on a principle that I recommend to all, the acronym for his philosophy is LEAN.
Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, Nutrition
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.
Find out more about the LEAN Philosophy
OK, with all of that said, let us get into some information:
Carbohydrates - 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, phyto-chemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Carbohydrates really aren't that bad as long as you choose them wisely.
In my opinion, (and we all know Cheffy has quite a few of them), 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-protein diets.
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 received.
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 established.
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 then as 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 in Ann Arbor, Michigan once said; "…if you have trouble pronouncing it, it probably isn't good for you…"
Visit The History of Labeling Guidelines to get a better insight into reading and deciphering labels, things to look for and to avoid, and the general legislative information on US labeling requirements.
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 phyto-chemicals 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 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 ones.
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. However, proper nutrition combined with sleep, exercise and harmony in our lives can!!!
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. What I mean by this is that sometimes we consume an amount of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that our body cannot use up thus turning them into fat. Doesn’t make a lot of sense does it?
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 proteins.
So live, eat, drink happily, merrily and healthy. Stay in tune with your body, mind and spirit and remember that when we take care of life’s simplest pleasures, when we devote our energies into the little things in our life, the world, our communities, our families and our hearts will live in harmony with the larger things that evolve around them.
References for this article:
Jill Melton-Cooking Light, March 2004
Various Issues of Your Craving Is My Command Newsletter, “Cancer and Nutrition", "Nutrition 102", "Soy and Nutrition", Michael Hayes, 2002, 2003,