How did the bagel become the enemy? When did my beloved French fries get political? And what about the rice on my sushi that I now scrape off into an abandoned pile? I can no longer eat my taco with a flour tortilla; it must be a low fat, low carb, whole grain look alike. That’s not a taco; that’s an impostor! Diet centers now tell their clients not to eat carrots because the sugar content of the carrot has too many points. Too many points?! That’s like telling me I have too many shoes! Impossible! You can only have too many points on your driving record, never in a carrot.
The early 90’s brought the ten year anniversary of the pasta dinner and low fat emerged its skinny tasteless head as the new leader of “alternative foods”. Personally, I don’t like food or music that is “alternative”. Give me classical jazz, and aged cheese and make it real!
Our poor brother pasta took the hit when we jumped from low fat to no carbs. Once honored as the main event at the dinner table, brother pasta was relegated to side dish status or removed altogether. There was a collective sigh heard all over the foodie community at the loss of what was once the simple pleasure of noodles, cream and cheese, and a glistening glass of Bordeaux.
I nearly succumbed to the seduction of reduced calories in exchange for the promise of great taste and ease. I began feeling a bit guilty about my monthly dinners I held in my home for a small group of friends. Our gathering would commence with grilled shitake and brie on toasted olive bread followed by a simple salad of organic greens and herb vinaigrette and then moved seamlessly to the main event… pasta. Al dente noodles dancing in cream, baby artichokes, pancetta and roasted garlic served with bread, of course. The crescendo of the evening — dessert! Chocolate covered almonds while we waited for the pears to poach in Merlot, topped with real vanilla ice cream, shaved dark chocolate and a bit of biscotti and candies ginger on the side. Ahhhh… We sat back in our chairs, satiated with the pleasure of laughter and stories and an evening well eaten. All without guilt and filled with delight.
We now meet once a month and claim victory over the infiltration of tasteless foods. Refusing to let go of our butter dish, staying clutched to our bottles of extra virgin olive oil and armed with a healthy portion of carrots, we simmer as we wait for the return of real cuisine and the abolishment of fat free…we are still waiting.
So, what is a carb and what carbs CAN I eat?” This is a question I am asked daily by clients. My answer – ALL carbs, with a few exceptions. The truth is, it is how much you are eating and how little you are moving that is packing on those pounds, to the tune of two pounds a year after the age of 50. Is there one carb that is better than the other? You bet! Whole wheat bread is going to be a better choice than white bread. Carbs from fresh vegetables are going to be a better choice than canned vegetable and raw is even better.
It all comes down to this, how fast your body breaks down the carbs. The more fiber in the carb, the longer it will take to break down in your body and the less byproduct will be left for storage. After a carb is broken down, or assimilated, the body stores the unused carbohydrate as fat. You can see how important it becomes to eat smaller meals, so more of what you eat is used.
White foods, such as white rice, white bread and white flour are smooth, leaving little surface area for the enzymes in your body to “grab”. The food “slides” through the body and is absorbed more quickly. Conversely, dense grainy foods such as whole wheat pastas and breads, vegetables and leafy greens, have texture and more fiber. This makes it difficult for the enzymes to grab a large surface area, forcing the enzymes to grab over and over, until the food is broken down enough to be absorbed.
Regardless of what you’ve read or heard about the dangers of carbohydrates, they are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with the fuel it needs for physical activity and for proper organ function.
So, as we enter this new era, one filled with no fat, low fat and no carbs, remember to stay close to Mother Nature. Choose foods that are natural, not processed and keep your portions down and the frequency of eating small meals up. And don’t throw out your pasta dishes just yet, good eats come in small portions and pasta is mighty good. Relax and let the yolk back into your omelets and make a place on your table for an occasional slice of crusty bread, a nibble of imported cheese and a hearty glass of Bordeaux… And don’t forget to eat you vegetables.
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