Low-carb craze threatens normalcy of eating

In January 2004, Americans officially went mad. Immediately after the new year rang in, a new marketing plan for anything edible went into effect. Advertisements screamed, “Try our new low-carb diet! Same great taste, but fewer carbs! Try one of our new Atkins-friendly entrees!” Because of this meal and menu makeover, food will never be the same. Publix’s deli is now advertising their new low-carb options. Subway, Outback and even Burger King’s menus now come equipped with low-carb selections. But I knew it was madness when I came across a new low-carb orange juice the other day in the grocery store. Unbelievable. Even orange juice, simply healthy and freshly squeezed, somehow is not as healthy as it should be and is a threat to our low-carb needs.

Obviously, the South Beach and Atkins diets have taken all of us by storm, and we will never look at a bagel, bowl of pasta or slice of bread the same. It’s funny how, for years, Americans have lived a life of low-fat salad dressings and skim milk in fear of fat, fighting to keep those extra pounds off. But suddenly, fat is deemed friendly, and carbohydrates have crossed over enemy lines. Now the fat-friendly and carb-fearing craze has weight watchers under a spell and I am not sure what it will take for consumers to snap out of it.

As much as I hate to type these next few words for fear that more will convert to a low-carb lifestyle, I must tell it like it is — low-carb diets do lead to weight-loss. Yes, by severely cutting your carbohydrate intake you will lose weight, but before you go ordering that burger-without-the-bun, look at exactly what you are going to lose and gain with a low-carbohydrate diet.

Obviously, weight is lost. This is the sole reason people go on a low-carb diet. In general, carbohydrates tend to be a major food source in diets, so when those calories are restricted, weight is lost. Water weight, not fat, is the initial weight loss with low-carb diets. Unfortunately, loss of muscle is a huge factor as well. When carbohydrates are restricted, muscle is often compromised for energy use. Losing muscle, even if it isn’t much, is not a good thing and can be avoided easily by simply restricting your overall caloric intake instead of just restricting your carbohydrate intake.

Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates don’t make you fat, excess calories do. Bread, beef, candy or corn, it makes no difference. The fact is, a calorie is a calorie, and consuming too many calories leads to weight gain. From a performance stance, studies show that when carbohydrates are restricted, athletic performance is compromised. Performance in the classroom also becomes an issue, considering the brain runs on carbohydrates. Therefore, brain function is disturbed when carbs are restricted. Fatigue, dizziness and even bad breath are common side effects of low-carb diets.

Increased risk of heart disease, blood pressure and cancer also accompany low-carbohydrate diets. A diet rich in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, low-carb veggies, butter and oil, and should be known as the “how to bring on a heart attack fast” diet. There is no way to escape the cholesterol and saturated fat found in these foods. To have them in such excess is nothing short of dangerous. In regards to cancer, the National Cancer Institute recommends, based on the bulk of scientific research, that you should eat a plant-based diet that is high in fiber and low in fat for optimum health.

Though the convenient new menus make it tempting and the quick weight-loss promises make it seem easy, don’t let yourself fall under this low-carb spell. It isn’t worth the damage done to your heart, brain and strength. A good diet promotes health and weight management it doesn’t come with a warning label!