Carb-bashing is all the rage in cyberspace, particularly in the more conservative habitats where I tend to troll - for example, here
, and here
. The basic argument is "it's not the fat, it's the carbohydrates." Particularly, those nasty, refined carbohydrates - that's what really puts on the pounds, they claim. But how can one tell?
The problem is that it is awfully difficult to tease out the actual carbohydrate effect in one's (Western) diet from the fats since carbs - particularly the refined ones - are almost always used as a vector for fat. The typical use for breads is to have something to spread fat on. And when was the last time you had plain, unaccompanied boiled potatoes - never? So I have no doubt that cutting way down on your carbs will help you lose weight, because you'll also be cutting down on fat, and so it's almost certain that total calorie intake will decrease. And I'm sure that more complex carbohydrates (say, brown rice) is better for you than simple carbs (white rice), but is that really the problem?
Consider this: look at all the obesity around us. Do you really think these people got that way from eating too much linguine with vegetables sauteed in olive oil with garlic? Are they wolfing down huge portions of white rice with steamed vegetables? Are they starting off their day with a plain bagel and black coffee? I don't think so.
Think about how people actually eat pasta. It's not linguine with sauteed vegetables - it's more likely Fettuccine Alfredo, most likely the souped-up four-cheese
variety, where strings of cheese follow the fork from the plate right to the mouth. Rice is most likely paired with some creamy meat concoction, where it's main purpose is to soak up the excess sauce. Bagels are indeed major calorie hogs, but a typical bagel has about 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter or cream cheese, or else is used for a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. And our favorite food of all, pizza - one might think of it as a carb, but of course it's really just piles and piles of cheese. Carbs, in America at least, serve the primary purpose of giving structure to fats. And of course there's the potato. No one eats potatoes plain. They are invariable either immersed in fat to fry or soaked in butter after mashing.
What about soda, you might ask? Well true, soda has no fat - but it is often the accompaniment to fast food meals (which as we've been discussing above are mainly fat). Still I have to admit I do see lots of fat people just sipping on soda. But I also see lots of fat people walking around with huge jugs of ice water. Fat people simply drink a lot of fluids, related to their fluid retention
, which in turn is aggravated by the salty fast-foods they consume.
A "sweet tooth" is often blamed for obesity, but I contend it's really a "fat tooth." Do you really think those sneaky fatsos are going off and hiding in a corner gorging on Jolly Ranchers or jello? Again, not likely. What they're eating are snickers bars, oreos, twinkies, and ice cream sundaes - and not with low-fat Hershey syrup, but with high fat hot-fudge topping. Yes, these are all loaded with sugar - but they're especially loaded with fat.
To be clear, I'm not arguing that carbs are wonderful and should be consumed with abandon - I am
contending though that the notion that fats are fine and it's really carbs that are the problem is mistaken. My preference is the so-called Mediterranean diet
. Use more mono- and un-saturated fats. By all means consume whole grains, nuts and fruits (yes - those sugar-laden fruits!). But skip the whole-wheat pasta - it really sucks. If you've ever made pasta by hand, you realize how impossible it is to make good pasta with whole wheat flour. Buy a good brand of pasta - but regular durum/semolina pasta is fine. So is white rice - it's great with sauteed chicken and vegetables. Potatoes are tough to eat without fat, so they're worth skipping. And avoid bread as much as possible for the same reason. But if you can get your hands on a good loaf, eat it with gusto - dip in olive oil, though - skip the butter. Eat a grilled chiken sandwich at lunch - it's not going to kill you - but the melted cheese might, so skip that.