Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I am NOT the anti-carb!

On a messageboard far, far away I was told:-

"While cakes and biscuits might be regarded primarily as treats, bread and pasta are staple foods, which form an important part of the diet of growing children, who are recommended by experts to get a fairly high proportion of their calories from carbohydrates, including wheat flour.

It is normal and healthy for children to have sandwiches and pasta as part of their meals, and pizza and pastry in moderation are perfectly appropriate. As are occasional treats.

I don’t suppose that I am the only person who is tired of your ceaseless evangelising on behalf of your own diet. But it is one thing to feed yourself as you please, and to talk about it if you wish, it is quite another to suggest that there is good reason for people to adopt your personal principles and ignore the advice of paediatricians, dieticians, and properly constituted advisory bodies when feeding children."


"I'm sorry Nigel, but you do give the impression of being on a one man crusade against wheat in our diets. You are also making the assumption that we all eat refined wheat. What about wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals, wholemeal pasta? You are also assuming that we all buy sliced white bread. I make most of my bread in my bread machine, using organic flour. I know what goes into my bread, and it tastes so much better than supermarket bread.

Pasta need not be made from wheat, for example rice noodles and rice and corn pasta for coeliacs.

So many cuisines have wheat products in their diets. Obviously there are the different breads - nan, pitta, flatbread, tortilla wraps etc; a huge array of pastas, cous-cous; bulgar wheat. Wheat is also used in so many religious/celebratory foods - the bread at holy communion, Christmas/simnel/birthday cakes etc. I could go on."


"Most widespread cultures have one or two staple carbohydrates, predominantly grains, that are the basis of the normal healthy diet.

In Europe and Northern American those staples are wheat and potatoes. It is hence making a rod for your own back, and entirely unnecessary, to try to feed a child without both of these unless they have specific issues such as Coeliac disease - ask the parent of such a child just how difficult it is. Your argument that the eating of wheat is what makes westerners fat is entirely specious, as few of the more lean members of the culture have eschewed wheat, and your suggestion that the recommendations based on the food pyramid have failed at the population has got more obese since the pyramid was devised is a twisting of the facts – all the relaible evidence shows that the people who stick to the recommendations are just fine, it’s those that don’t follow the guidelines who become obese. The guidance in no way is a cause of the obesity epidemic.

In most of Asia the staple is rice (which, as eaten, is a refined grain incidentally, I don't know why you think it isn't)."

The above raises so many points that it's hard to know where to start. The beginning is probably the best place. WARNING! The following contains some irony.

"Experts" tell us what we should and shouldn't eat. That's worked so well, hasn't it? It's easy to blame people for not following the very guidelines that make them over-eat. It's their own stupid fault! "Experts" scoffed at Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis. He was more right than wrong though and modern medicine now uses sterile practices. "Experts" scoffed at James Lind and it took 42 years before the British navy adopted lemons or limes as standard issue at sea. So we know where "experts" can shove their dietary advice ... somewhere where the sun doesn't synthesise Vitamin D.

I don't try to get everybody on a low-carb diet. Jeez! Firstly, we are not all the same. Everyone has a different requirement for carbohydrate. As I wrote in Carbohydrates: Dogs' Doodads or Spawn of Satan?, "Right carbs, right amounts, right times." People don't do this, though. They eat the wrong carbs (powdered grains, mashed potato & other over-refined carbs like fruit juice) in the wrong amounts (way too much, as per "expert" advice) at the wrong times (virtually every meal, whether active or sedentary). Some random musings...

WHEATFLOUR: I guess it must be the lack of wheatflour that's pushed Orientals to the verge of extinction. Oh, wait...

LONGEVITY: Turn the clock back to a time before modern medicine and we wheatflour eaters had long average lifespans. Oh, wait...

BREAD: The vast majority of bread bought today is muck, mass-produced by the Chorleywood Bread Process. Even home-made bread is made from grain dust. See The problem with "Whole Grain" cereal etc. I don't consider white rice to be a refined grain as it still looks like a grain.

PASTA: When I was a lad, the only pasta we had was Heinz Spaghetti & Ravioli in tomato sauce. Now, pasta is a staple food in the UK? We all know how slim middle-aged Italians are. Oh, wait...

EXERCISE: When I was a lad, I used to run around in the street & playground like other kids. I was still fat. Exercise cannot compensate for poor diet (I ate lots of chocolate, cake & drank sugary Corona lemonade).

Why do we have to eat what farmers grow? Maybe if more people ate less powdered wheat products and more old-fashioned sourdough rye bread, farmers might start growing something else. There are plenty of carbohydrates that don't seriously disturb blood glucose levels, such as rice, rye, barley, quinoa, sorghum, millet, maize, sago, tubers, root veggies, bulbs, legumes & fresh whole fruits.

Nah, it'll never happen! Not while a) crap foods are dirt cheap and b) people keep following the dietary advice of "experts" like sheep ... or should that be lemmings?

See also Anthony Colpo's The Whole Grain Scam.


lightcan said...

Just because culturally speaking in Europe wheat has become the staple, read 'the food of the poor people' it doesn't mean it is optimal for your health. I'm sick of 'experts' invoking cultural arguments and traditions for nutritional advice. It has become a tradition to give children loads of Easter egg crap chocolate so it must be good for them, or is it?
Some people get diabetes or other degenerative diseases some people don't. What should we do? Just wait and see or try to avoid it?

lightcan said...

How many people eat bread made at home with organic flour like her? Not that her bread is supposed to be metabolically speaking much better. Yes, the majority eats white sliced bread full of additives and preservatives. With jam or margarine after they had a breakfast of cereal with skim milk. It's surprising that they're healthy after all.
How many people I've heard, as a mother of two, that say that their child only wants to eat pasta and pizza or chips and have coke with their dinner, and with nothing added not even sauce on their pasta. I've had one in my house. I wanted to put grated cheese on her food and she said no. Now that's scary. Others don't eat meat. At the age of 5! I also had kids for a birthday party and I put meatballs, grapes, cheese cubes and cherry tomatoes in separate bowls. They were left untouched, only my kids ate from them.

Nigel Kinbrum said...

See how many biases you can spot from the List of cognitive biases that are used to justify that bread & pasta are staple foods for kids (or anyone else for that matter).

Nigel Kinbrum said...

It's going to be a long, hard struggle to turn people's diets around. Jamie Oliver is doing his bit. We bloggers are doing our bit by chipping away at the status quo.

We can lead by example. If people see that we're healthier than they are and ask what our secret is, tell them!

ET said...

Growing up in Oklahoma, USA taught me how not to eat. Oklahoma has the second highest death rate from heart disease, cancer, and strokes combined.

Cheap carbs were plentiful and were included in every meal, from french fries (chips), ketchup, white bread, mashed potatoes, candy, and endless sodas. The only fresh vegetable I ever ate was corn.

I weighed 60 lbs (>4 stones) at 2 years of age because my grandmother would bring a bag of cookies over and watch me eat the whole bag at a single setting. Although most kids were skinny back then (60s), the majority of folks there are now overweight.

Now, when I matter-of-factly tell people I don't eat bread, juices, desserts, etc. they look at me like I'm from another world. A co-worker of mine was commenting this morning that she frequently gets very intense hunger pains and she gets rid of them by drinking something sugary. Since I've substituted fats for carbs, I can't remember the last time I experienced hunger pains.

I try not to proselytize about my food choices. Everyone is free to eat what they think is best. As you suggest, the best method is to be an example. As the saying goes "if you want want I have, do as I do".

Nigel Kinbrum said...

Hi ET.

As a young child, I was "fattened-up" on a diet of cakes & sugary lemonade on regular order. That stuff was cheap compared to meat & veg. It still is.

Proselytizing at people just turns them off. The next time your co-worker complains of intense hunger pains, have you considered murmuring "ah, rebound hypoglycaemia". If you show her that you have a plausible theory as to what's causing her problem, she might ask you how to get rid of it. Thanks for reading.