The case against carbs

Why a diet high in carbohydrates is indeed a recipe for disaster



By Kari Heron

Published: Fri 13 May 2016, 7:40 PM


I have been a firm believer in a low-carb diet over the past five years of writing this column. That's right. You and I have been together for all of five glorious years through this column! What a fantastic ride it has been. Thank you, dear readers, for giving ear to my food ponderings and delectable delights over the years. Now, back to the topic - low-carb diets.
Research has shown that the vast majority of us are better off with less - and better quality - carbohydrates in our diets, and more better quality fats and optimal proteins. This is actually wisdom that all our grandmothers and great grandmothers knew: if you want to lose weight, eat less rice and starchy foods and cut out the sugars and desserts.
My own grandmother was wary of mango season in Jamaica because she knew that her love for mangoes usually betrayed her waistline with an additional 4.5kg of rotundity, if she was not careful to limit her intake. Mango season led to weight gain because of the fruit's high carbohydrate and sugar content and the easy ability to overeat them due to their succulent deliciousness during hot, balmy summers.  
My other grandmother would also cook religiously with coconut oil - an oil once wrongly maligned in order to support seed oil produced in excess in the USA, but now known to be superb in reducing blood sugar levels, among other wonderful life-enhancing qualities. We were told that saturated fats like coconut oil and butter were absolutely unhealthy and the only way to be healthy was to consume vegetable oils (like soyabean, corn and seed oils) and stay away from the richer nut oils, like coconut, or the saturated animal fats like butter and lard.
It is amazing that history has indeed proven the wisdom of our forebears right (well, they had to be right about something, otherwise man would have died out centuries ago). The wisdom of eating well - fresh, locally produced food in moderation, using the best quality ingredients, avoiding excess - and filling our days with as much physical activity as possible (or cutting back even more on intake to compensate) is still valid.
The wisdom of eating less starches and sugars to regulate one's weight has also now proven itself valid, despite them being "overruled" by the mass dietary proposals of multinational food companies. The same folks who proposed we consume most of our macronutrients from carbohydrates and the least from fats. They made carbs into heroes and fats into villains and created a low-fat monster propaganda, which we still struggle to shake off today.
But the world has gotten fatter eating low fat. Studies are now proving that en masse. And why would they not? Even your grandmother could tell you that playing with food and denaturing it is making a mockery of the very nourishment we were blessed with by nature.  
The truth is that a diet high in saturated fats and carbohydrates is indeed a recipe for disaster - which is the typical modern American, British and Western diet. It is simply a matter of calories in and calories out, as well as the quality of the source of those calories.
Fats were debased because they contain almost twice the number of calories per gram as other macronutrients - protein and carbohydrates. So they thought that cutting back on fats meant that you could easily cut back the overall numbers of calories being consumed - hence, low-fat diets. The problem is that fats also add satiety (although, that is more the job of proteins). They replaced good, healthy saturated fats with lower quality fats, particularly in fast foods and modern food productions (otherwise called 'processed foods') in order to produce food for the consumer at a lower price and increase their revenues.
The quality of the carbohydrates used also reduced significantly into more and more refined, useless carbohydrates, which quickly convert to sugars in our bodies - and which we crave both increasingly and addictively now. The invention of the huge commercial mills for the refinement of grains has led to an increase in diabetes all over the world, with the disease reaching epidemic numbers in people of colour internationally. We have become duped into our modern existence where so many are struggling with food addictions and eating disorders like never before.
We were better off when we ate whole heirloom grains in moderation and better fats and optimal proteins. And we are still better off applying that age-old wisdom of our forebears now. It simply goes thus - to lose weight or manage your health, eat less starchy and sweet food; eat lots of non-starchy vegetables, optimal proteins and good fats instead. Be as physically active as possible, pushing yourself to do more, especially since our daily lives simply require most of us to get out of bed and then sit all day.   
If you are looking for some guidance, check out Paleo, Primal, Keto, Atkins, Mediterranean and Low-Carb diets.


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