The vilification of whole grains (and other healthy complex carbohydrates) has gained a lot of steam the past few years with the more popular recent diets, particularly the “PALEO”, and “The Whole 30,” diets.
What’s wrong with the vilification of whole grains and other complex carbohydrates?
Where to start..
Perhaps most importantly, the “health” information coming from these books is rarely rooted in science or even quality evidence, but instead is often hand picked, usually from questionable sources, not to mention the authors of these books are rarely, if ever experts in the field of nutrition.
Their “evidence” usually goes something like this; “I cut out (fill in the blank) and I feel so much better!” Not exactly empirical evidence, but sadly it’s enough to sell legions of followers to the latest diet fad.
You might ask, why do people just blindly read and believe the information these books are touting, rather than spending a few minutes online looking towards reputable sources, (who have spents years studying the subject of nutrition,) like a university or dietitian to see if the material is true?
It’s not like were living in caves and don’t have access to quality information.
Yet that seems to be the one shared trait of cavemen of long ago, and PALEO and Whole 30 followers of today-not a similar diet, but a shared gullibility in belief without good evidence. Instead of serpents lurking unseen, or the Earth being flat and ending in a waterfall, the modern day monster (at least for now, before the next diet fad comes and goes) is carbohydrates.
As mentioned in, “Why all diets work temporarily,” the reason all diets work is that they vilify one member of a food group, and thus overall calories are reduced, and weight is temporarily lost.
With whole grains and carbohydrates in particular, this is an especially errant decision to make as carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for the body and brain.
You’ll find opinions disputing that biological truth online, but a quick check of their credentials (that would qualify a validation of the opinion) is always lacking, and their “evidence” is suspiciously thin-and easily discarded when compared against reputable sources.
Let’s go over the most common low carb myth’s being parroted today, and then look at the reality.
1. The most common reasoning for going towards a low carb diet is that our ancient ancestors, the cavemen ate a diet that consisted largely of meat.
This is completely bunk information. It’s almost as if the creator of the PALEO diet had an image of a caveman spearing a wooly mammoth, and assumed that was the common meal, and then wrote a diet book about it. An examination of the reality is the complete opposite.
In fact, you were to go by the experts who actually study the diet of our ancient ancestors, you would find that “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians.”
Furthermore, the reasoning is often that grains are relatively new to the human diet, being only 10,000 years old (at least,) while meat has always been a part of the human diet. That’s not close to true either, as chickens were only first domesticated 10,000 years ago, cattle 8,000-10,000 years ago, whereas there’s evidence neanderthals ate grains at least 44,000 years ago.
2. Here is another common myth touted by the anti carbohydrate establishment; “carbs make you fat.”
Simply put, excess calories of any kind lead to weight gain, and it doesn’t matter if it comes from carbs, fats, or proteins; if you consume more calories than you expend, then weight will be gained.
Last point to make is though there is a definite excess when it comes to simple carbohydrate consumption for most people (flour, corn, and sugar being the worst offenders,) to lump healthy complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, etc. into the same category is a nutritional crime.
Also, just on a common sense functional level, if fat and protein could be used for fuel to the same degree that carbohydrates are, then you would have seen athletes long ago, particularly Olympic speed and endurance athletes, practicing a low carb diet, and touting the benefits. They would know more than anyone, as there is no substitute for application. Yet, looking at the opinion, (and research) on the Team U.S.A. Website, from, ahem, registered dietitian Nancy Clark, those who engage in low carb consumption have diminished performance as a result.
So what diet should one be one? None. They’re all fad diets that will come and then go, unsustainable long term, so the best course of action is a diet with a wide variety of healthy, whole foods consumed, with a consistently healthy caloric balance, and an allowance for some unhealthy foods. It’s the overconsumption of any one food that is unsustainable in the long run.