The Low-Carb Craze Continues
Are low-carbohydrate products worth the high price tag?
Low-carbohydrate foods are the hot trend in the food industry.
Manufacturers, restaurants, and grocery stores have raced to keep pace with
consumer demand, offering everything from beer and ice cream to breads and
chocolates. For example, Albertson's grocery store used to carry just a few
low-carbohydrate items; today, they offer more than 200 low-carb products.
So what does this proliferation of low-carb foods mean? Can these products
really help you lose weight and get healthier? Read on, and we'll help you
answer these questions and sort out the confusion surrounding our national
obsession to lose weight the low-carbohydrate way.
First of all, if you buy a food labeled "low carb," there's no
guarantee that it's much lower in carbohydrates than foods that don't carry
such a label. Since there are no nutrition labeling guidelines or legal
definitions for low-carbohydrate foods, it's totally up to the
It makes little sense to pay more for a so-called ultra-low-carbohydrate
light beer containing 2.6 grams of carbohydrate and 95 calories, when a basic
light beer has 3.2 grams of carbohydrate and 96 calories! So buyer beware: Read
that label before you hit the checkout line. After all, most foods with the
low-carb label are certainly not lower in price than their regular
But the bigger question in all this is: Should you be cutting carbs at
In some circles, carbohydrates have been declared the new dietary villain.
But most dietitians don't agree -- and even research has shown mixed results.
It's also important to keep in mind that not all carbohydrates are alike.
So Simple, Yet So Complex
Carbohydrates are your body's preferred form of fuel. You need them every
day to give you energy. The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine
recommends that 45%-65% of your total calories come from carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates basically come in two forms: Simple carbohydrates are found in
fruits, non-starchy vegetables, sugars, and dairy products; and complex carbs
in grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn.
The carbs that tend to be the culprits in weight gain are mostly refined,
like white flour (a complex carb) and sugars (a simple carb). Americans have a
passion for sweets and refined foods, which often contain added fats and lots
of extra calories. These are the carbohydrates to limit in your
But don't just eliminate those carbs. Replace them with the healthier carbs:
fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and legumes. Along with their
calories, these carbs have fiber, vitamins, and minerals to give you energy
while helping you feel satisfied.
Research Weighs In
Its not the carbs but the calories that cause folks on diets like Atkins to
lose weight: That was the headline generated last spring from a study published
in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Many nutritionists
rejoiced as their predictions were confirmed by this study that demonstrated
people lose weight on low-carb diets because they eat fewer calories.
The bottom line for weight loss is that you must burn more calories than you
consume, regardless of where those calories come from -- or so we thought.