“Carbs” is a buzzword. It’s almost as taboo as politics or religion. People tell us what to eat or not, but can’t really tell you why. As a dietitian, one of the biggest misconceptions I see as I work with residents and families is their concept about carbohydrates, “carbs.”
Who knows where the confusion all began, but certainly our busy and indulgent environment contributed: “I want what I want, and I want it now.” The food industry responded with a plethora of enticing processed and prepackaged products. Many diets switched from dinner hour at home with fresh, from scratch, balanced meals to a grabbing a quick bite on the run. Many Americans started gaining weight and consequently began to see an increase of diseases associated with weight gain – heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes to mention a few. We went on the prowl for the villain and condemned refined carbohydrates, forgetting about the fats. Soon all carbs, even unrefined, were criticized and they became the culprit for all our weight gain and health problems. High protein, low-carb menus, meals and diets became a fad as the media jumped on the bandwagon.
Some carbs are bad, especially the wrong kind and too much of them. However, all carbs are not bad. On the contrary, the friendly carbs are very good for us and can be the hero in providing health benefits beyond the nutrients themselves.
Though I see the high protein, low-carb mania decreasing, I am concerned when a misunderstood baked potato is questioned and calorie packed “low-carb” sour cream, butter and bacon bits are consumed without the blink of an eye (Do I need to mention the 800 calorie, 8 oz. steak that came with it?). I never hear complaints about the luscious triple chocolate brownie dessert that had 3-5 times the amount of carbs, calories and fat than the potato. So let’s learn how to navigate the web of carbs.