We’ve gone over this one time and time again. When someone says the word “carbs,” what do you instantly think of? Cake, candy, and cookies, right? Unfortunately, the blanket statement “carbs are bad” comes from a wrongful generalization of an entire food group.
Demonizing carbohydrates dates back to the 19th century when an Englishman named William Banting lost a significant amount of weight by heeding the advice of his physician, an ENT named William Harvey. Harvey instructed Banting to eliminate his consumption of certain foods including bread, milk, butter, beer, and potatoes, and replace them with fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish. After allegedly dropping nearly 50 lbs over the course of the following year, Banting went on to publish a piece titled “A Letter on Corpulence” to share with the world his secret to achieving a healthy body weight-- which was essentially a low-carbohydrate diet.
Since Banting’s experience went public, there have been countless resurfacings of “low-carb” diets-- the Inuit diet, the Atkins diet, the cabbage soup diet, the Paleo diet, the South Beach diet, and the ketogenic diet, just to name a few. Reiterations of these extreme diets continue to be pushed on consumers every single day, often with a salesman-like approach and promises to “drop pounds faster” and “look better naked.”
What these diet proponents fail to tell you is that there is recent evidence suggesting that a low-carb diet is not more effective than a low-fat diet in terms of achieving weight loss over the course of a year (DIETFITS study, 2018).
If we think critically about what low-carb diets have in common, the reduction in carbohydrate consumption likely leads to an overall reduction in calorie intake, resulting in a degree of caloric deficit that contributes to weight loss over time.
The extremist attitude of “all carbs are evil” is misleading at best. Yes, excessive intake of highly processed, calorically dense foods that are high in sugar can lead to weight gain if a caloric surplus ensues. However, we must not forget that fruits, vegetables, and minimally processed grains also fall into the category of carbohydrates, and that they can play a significant role in a satiating, balanced diet.