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May 2004 Issue
Should You Buy Foods Labeled and Marketed as "Low-Carb"?
by Michael Fick
Table of Contents | Single-page view

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This is too easy. Just ask Google about low-carb foods, ignore the sites that sell them, and concentrate on the sites that rely on science rather than PayPal. Skip the sites displaying credit card logos and focus on the sites from hospitals, consumer protection agencies, news services, universities, and health agencies. Now start reading.

There are no surprises: the low-carb diet is still the same unscientific, over-hyped, crock it has been for decades. The only change is that now food manufacturers are taking advantage of your gullibility by manufacturing and hyping - notice the quote marks - "low-carb" foods in markets and restaurants. Warning: these low-carb foods are prepared and marketed in the same crock as low-carb diets.

Let's start with a brief rehash of the myths and facts of low-carb diets in general, then move into the fallacies of commercial low-carb foods.

  • Fallacy: Eating or avoiding any single ingredient or combination of foods can magically melt off pounds.
  • Fact: Weight control is still about calories in (food) vs calories out (exercise).

  • Fallacy: The ketosis induced by very low carbohydrate intake (or starvation) melts off excess weight.
  • Fact: Ketosis is the incomplete metabolization of body fat due to inadequate carbohydrate consumption. It makes our bodies consume and eliminate important proteins such as muscle, heart tissue, and other organs. Additional quick weight loss occurs when carbohydrate deprivation strips our muscles of their stored primary energy source and the water required to store it. Those losses are weight, alright, but certainly not excess weight.

  • Fallacy: Ketosis suppresses our appetite.
  • Fact: Yes, but as soon as we drop the diet because we hate it or hit our target weight, both the weight and the appetite quickly return, like a yo-yo. We've also weakened our organs and muscles and quickened our tempers.

  • Fallacy: Carbs bad, grease and protein good.
  • Fact: Bull!

  • Fallacy: Science aside, low-carb diets do work because carbs are fattening.
  • Fact: If it works for some dieters, it's because they ate fewer calories. Fortunately, because the diet restrictions get old fast, many low-carbers dump the diet before it harms them and some even eat fewer calories and actually lose weight. No food is inherently fattening.

  • Fallacy: Low-carb diets and foods are healthy, so we may as well eat them even if our weight is fine.
  • Fact: The diet is killing us and many low-carb foods are rip-offs. Keep reading.

  • Fallacy: Healthy or not, many successful dieters follow Atkins.
  • Fact: It's been around for three decades, yet fewer than 1% of successful dieters did it the low-carb way.

  • Fallacy: Recent tests show low-carb diets are safe and effective.
  • Fact: Recent warnings re-emphasize their hazards and fallacies. Dr. Atkins' heart conditions were a perfect example, and even The Atkins Machine now recommends less sat fat.

  • Fallacy: Carbs => blood sugar spikes => insulin => fat storage => obesity.
  • Fact: Unless you have diabetes, it's just bogus fear-mongering. Eat. Enjoy. Play. To lose weight, expend more calories than you consume.
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