Thursday October 2, 2003

Low carb need not equal faux food

From the San Francisco Chronicle ( Food in the News,, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2003)

Low-carb craze grabs consumers
Onslaught of new products tempts dieters

You'd never buy most of them for their taste -- even some people who sell them admit that. They're generally not low in calories. Nutritionists raise their eyebrows at all the protein and processing they pack. And they're expensive, easily two to four times the cost of their full-carb counterparts.

But, inspired by the Atkins/South Beach/Sugar Busters low-carb weight- loss plans, people are scarfing them down, acting like sea otters at an oyster bar.

Low-carb food specialty stores are proliferating, catering to demands for the likes of cinnamon-fried pork rinds. Trend-savvy Trader Joe's is about to unveil a new Joe's Lows label for its growing low-carb line. Low-carb tortillas, chips and beer are multiplying in markets like Whole Foods, Andronico's and Walgreens.

The fear-of-fat days are officially over. Now, it's all about fear of carbs. Even french fry sales are feeling the pain.

Think about this. The point of "low carb" eating is to reduce your intake of carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes, bread, beer, pizza, candy, and cookies. Most "snack foods" are high in carbs. Many food we eat too much of without thinking are high in carbs.. How many restaurants can you name that put a basket of bread (or chips and salsa) on the table so you can munch while you wait for your dinner? (How many can you name that don't?). But....

At Healthy Lifestyles [low- carb store in Lafayette, CA], the biggest sellers are bread, pizza, cheesecake, ice cream, cereal, pork rinds, candy and margarita mix, according to manager Mike Hare. He sells 300 to 400 brownies in three days, at $3 a pop. One customer buys 12 boxes of crackers at a time -- at $6 a box.
Excuse me but... yich! The point of the low-carb lifestyle, as I see it, is to cut back on bread, pizza, cheesecake, ice cream, and candy. Lo-carb pork rinds?! Lo-carb brownies?!
Low-carb foods won't kill you, [says Nancy Bennett, a registered dietitian in San Francisco]. What's replacing many of the carbohydrates is lots of fiber and fillers like carrageenan and guar gums. "They're not great tasting," but they hold moisture and also can help the body shed cholesterol, she says.
That's partly OK, I guess, at least the part about lowering cholesterol. But personally, I avoid foods full of carrageenan and guar gum; if I want that sort of thing, I prefer jello, not weird imitation sour cream.
The sweeteners, too, are generally considered safe. But if you eat too much of foods loaded with sugar alcohols like maltitol or sorbitol, you're likely to pay with gross intestinal distress. ...
The real concern is protein -- too much of it. All the low-carb products are crammed with protein, and are usually eaten on top of a meat- and egg-based diet already rich in proteins.
All that protein makes the kidneys work much harder and requires drinking plenty of water, Bennett says. Getting rid of all the protein byproducts take a lot of calcium out of the body, and eating a lot of protein is one reason American women are prone to osteoporosis even without the low carb diets.
Double ouch.
Calories are another consideration. Most of the low-carb breads, crackers, cereals, ice creams, chips and pasta have just as many calories as their regular counterparts, according to a Chronicle comparison. Candy, diet soda and the pizza have less.
Can you say "Bad Idea"? Tastes bad, just as filling and no lower in calories. What's the point?
Bennett's version of a low-carb diet would avoid processed foods and rely on whole foods, with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and some lean protein.

But Americans like to eat a lot, and they don't like to be told to cut back, she says. "This is the food manufacturers' answer to the low-carb diet -- they come out with something that has half the carbs so you can eat twice as much."

Rich and I agree with Ms. Bennet (and with William Clower, author of The Fat Fallacy. The proper way to lose weight and be healthy is to eat less food (and get more exercise :) Unfortunately, a lot of people want a "quick fix". They want a magic pill. They want to lose weight and still snack, eat cheesecake and donuts and brownies and pork rinds.
"Most people get most of their nutritional information at cocktail parties."
(Do you have any idea how many "empty" calories are in alcohol? :-)

Low carb need not equal faux food ( in category Special Interests ) - posted at Thu, 02 Oct, 11:24 Pacific | «e»