We don't eat carbs. We eat food.
Updated: Oct 25, 2019
Within the “Diet Wars” debate, the various dietary camps are making a critical, and sometimes disingenuous, error that is confusing the lay public and setting us back nutritionally. The conversation about what we should and should not be eating is becoming more reductionist and the language is becoming more ‘scientific’. The few of us who are nutritionally literate try our best to understand the various arguments and definitions. But the vast majority of people don’t understand or don’t have the time to. The way we label what a person should eat has morphed into descriptions of component parts; carbs, fats and proteins, instead of describing actual foods items we buy from a grocery store. And this has lead to confusion in the lay public and pointless bickering among those passionate about diet and health.
The way diets are described these days is by their macronutrients; in other words, where are the calories coming from? The 2 that I will describe in this article that are in the metaphorical crosshairs these days are Low-Carb High Fat (LCHF) and High Carb Low Fat (HCLF). Given these definitions, what are we supposed to eat? Well, you're supposed to eat a lot of fat, and carbs are the devil! No, you're supposed to eat a lot of carbs, stay away from fats. It certainly leave a lot open for interpretation. The ideal diets of these 2 philosophies may get lost in translation because of the vague nature of these definitions.
When those who hear positive health claims from high carb low fat and start eating more white pasta, pizza and refined sugar, that’s high carb, right? Similarly, low carb high fat could be misconstrued to mean margarine, oils and processed meats. That’s low carb, right? This also plays out, in my opinion, in a somewhat disingenuous way, when those who argue against a particular way of eating assume that the other side advocates for the universally recognized unhealthy foods, for example i.e refined sugars, plant-oils etc.
Some people may take these definitions of macronutrients and get it right, but many get it wrong and it’s a lose lose. It causes the person to sink deeper into poor health and provides fodder for the other side of the nutritional debate. Unproductive all the way around. This is why we need to start describing what we should and should not be eating based on real foods. Because when that happens, we would both be able to create a more clear picture of what people should be eating to promote health and find common ground regarding foods and nutritional philosophies. We don’t expect to see eye to eye on everything, but we would be able to agree on the reduction or elimination of key foods that would make people healthier.
Battles on social media between respective dietary camps are unproductive. Describing food as their component parts is equally unproductive. I, for one, despise social media conflicts. I stay away from them in favor of asking questions, listening to what educated and collegial experts have to say, and asking more questions in order to dig down to the truth.
Carbs aren’t the enemy and fats aren’t the enemy either. I argue that naming specific foods to eat is the way we move forward. I am also in favor of having thoughtful, civil discussions as the way we understand each other and establish common ground, boundaries and working definitions. Although all parties won’t agree on everything, we agree on some things and that is a step forward, a step towards a healthier society and is what both sides want.