Carbs. The forbidden love. We want them, we crave them, we enjoy them but we have no idea what they are.
If there was one word more closely associated with weight gain and unhealthy eating it would be carbohydrates. Why are we so scared of carbs? What foods are considered carbs? Why is food so difficult?!
According to Merriam-Webster a carbohydrate is: “: any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (as sugars, starches, and celluloses) most of which are formed by green plants and which constitute a major class of animal foods.” “What the hell does that mean?”, you ask. I have no idea. See, the definitions of food and the way the governing bodies word their recommendations are deliberately confusing and not intended to help you along. For example, we have all heard the term “saturated fats” but we don’t understand what that means. We are told not to eat saturated fats. End of explanation. Well, what they mean is “Don’t eat animal foods.” A doctor tells patients to limit their saturated fat intake and the patient leaves with a homework assignment to figure out what that means. It would be much simpler to say, “Hey, the research shows that the fats in animal foods wreak havoc on our bodies, avoid eating those.” But they don’t. The same goes with carbs.
Carbs are sugars. But it’s not that simple. Table sugar for example is an isolated substance and a simple sugar. It is also a carb. It’s not that good for you. White bread, or pizza dough or any other breads made with bleached, refined white flour is also a carb. Due to the refining and the tiny size of each grain of wheat and how pulverized it is, it is absorbed very quickly by the body and acts essentially as a simple sugar= not very healthy for you. Potato chips are also carbs, so are French fries. See the pattern? It seems like carbs are not healthy for you. “But wait, what are starches? Aren’t those carbs too?” Also according to Merriam-Webster, starches are, “a white odorless tasteless granular or powdery complex carbohydrate (C6H10O5)x that is the chief storage form of carbohydrate in plants, is an important foodstuff, and is used also in adhesives and sizes, in laundering, and in pharmacy and medicine.” Are you confused yet? Is it food? Is it laundry soap? Starches are potatoes, rice, whole grains, etc. Carbs have become synonymous with sugar and sugar with weight gain. We hear “starch” and we think of stiff laundry. The language used for these definitions is misleading and deliberately hiding what starches are. For example, potatoes are considered fattening however, a single baked russet potato contains:
Vitamins-B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, Folate, Vitamin A, C, E, K
Minerals-Calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, zinc
Amino Acids (protein)-Cystine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, theronine, tryptophan, tyrosine valine
Omega oils-3 and 6
In fact, the only nutrients a potato doesn’t contain are vitamin D (which comes from getting sunshine) and B12. And if not for pesticides the potato would have B12.* Does this sound like something that is unhealthy?!
*(B12 is ONLY synthesized by bacteria and pesticides wipe most of them out. It is found in meat due to the animals eating close to the ground and grasses, etc and over time trace amounts are stored in the animals meat and fat. But that’s for another article; back to starches.)*
Starches are the foundation on which civilization was built. Oats, wheat, barley rye, potatoes, corn, legumes- all of these helped humanity become agricultural beings and this ultimately led to the rise of civilization. These are not the simple sugars that should be limited but rather complex carbohydrates. This implies a steady breakdown. Partially broken down in the stomach and continued in the small intestine the easy output of sugars and energy is healthy and the sugar output is so easy that it has a very low glycemic curve. If these carbs made us fat don’t you think obesity would be more than a modern epidemic? Asian people are ALWAYS thought of (and rightly so!) as thin, lean, muscular people. And until very recently their diet was mostly RICE! And white rice at that! Carbs=fat? Not even close. The real foods that cause fat have fat. Carbohydrates and sugars do not cause weight gain. (More on sugar in upcoming article.) Fat makes you fat. Dairy, meats, vegetable oils all of these cause us to gain excess weight and we are in the dark because why? Money.
A senator from South Dakota, George McGovern, was the driving force behind the 1977 Dietary Goals for the United States. This was to be for food and health what the 1964 Surgeon’s General Report on Smoking was for smoking and health. At that time more than 50% of Americans smoked and due, largely, to that single report smoking has fallen below 20%. This was the hope for Senator McGovern. And in February 1977 this exciting, new guideline for what Americans should eat for good health was released. The main point of this report was, “The question to be asked, therefore, is not why should we change our diet, but why not? What are the risks associated with eating less meat, less fat, less saturated fat, less cholesterol, less sugar, less salt, and more fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fat, and cereal products—especially whole grain cereals? There are none that can be identified and important benefits can be expected.” And also in that report was, “Ischemic heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension are the diseases that kill us. They are epidemic in our population. We cannot afford to temporize. We have an obligation to inform the public of the current state of knowledge and to assist the public in making the correct food choices. To do less is to avoid our responsibility.”
This was a monumental moment in time. A United States Senate report identifying meat and dairy as the causes of our top illnesses-in 1977! Shortly after, the consumption of meat, dairy and eggs by American fell..but only for a moment. At the second hearing of the report the food industry made their counter-argument. The American Medical Association (AMA) also complained, saying it would interfere with a doctor’s ability to prescribe medicines. They fought this on every level and won. American health and food wellness lost to corporate greed. They got us to buy more food and not the healthy kind. In 1970 the average daily energy intake from food was 2,057 kcal and in 2008 the average was 2,674 kcal. The McGovern Report recommended vegetables and whole grains, the meat and dairy industry backed by the American Medical Association promoted more meat and dairy since then daily intake of whole grains and other starches has plummeted meanwhile, obesity and the amount of calories has risen. Who do you want to blame?
We need to go back to our roots, back to starches. Back to potatoes, rice, corn, beans, wheat, oats and other complex carbohydrates. We need the filling nature of starches like potatoes without the fat and cholesterol of steak. We love starches! Mashed potatoes, pasta, corn on the cob. We love this stuff and we don’t have to feel bad about it! We need, for once and for all, take a stand against the onslaught of factory farming and manipulation of our health by people only worried about making more money. Healthy patients don’t need doctors. So, please, go eat a bowl of oatmeal and google the McGovern Report.