Most fad diets piss me off. Maybe it’s a waitress thing, maybe I’ve heard too many people say that they need to eat gluten free, what they really mean is that they don’t want bread on their sandwich. That’s fine, say “I don’t want bread,” because when you say you can’t eat gluten I assume you have Celiac’s Disease and run back to the chefs and demand that they hide the flour and wash their hands four times before touching your food. I think the whole gluten free movement has stemmed from a phobia that erupted about the time of the Atkins diet; it is the fear of carbohydrates. This bothers me on three fronts: the health level, the biological level, and the foodie level. Let’s start with the health level. Not all carbohydrates are bad for you. In fact none are bad for you in moderation. Are refined sugars a super food? No. Are they going to kill you? No, not as long as you aren’t guzzling a two liter of Mountain Dew or eating a bag of that half-priced candy you got the day after Halloween on a daily basis. And what about all of the foods that are both carbohydrates and toted as being healthy? What do you think fruit is? With the possible exception of avocado, it’s 100% carbs. Vegetables? Possibly a little protein in there, but mostly carbs. Which is fine, which is healthy and beautiful and fine. And what about those whole grains Dr. Oz keeps preaching about? Brown rice and quinoa may have more protein than their refined counterparts, but they’re carbohydrates in macromolecule and culinary terms. Which is ok. There’s nothing unhealthy about eating a few carbs or even a lot of carbs.
Which brings me to the second justification I have of my opposition to carbphobia: the biological level, which is namely that you need carbohydrates to survive. Our bodies make energy by breaking down the carbohydrates that we eat in a process called metabolism. Yes you can break down fat and even protein for the same purpose, but the easiest way for your body to get energy is through carbohydrates. Which is why the general consensus is that fifty-five percent of the calories you consume should come from carbohydrates. You need carbs; it’s not a sign of untamed cravings, its purely biological.
This brings me to my final defense of carbohydrates, which is culinary. Carbs are good. They taste good and they make you feel good. What is life without carbs? What is PB&J without bread? What is Thanksgiving without stuffing and potatoes? What is your favorite Italian dish without pasta? What is your midnight Chinese takeout without the side order of sticky white rice? What are Saturday morning cartoons without a big bowl of cereal? If we are honest with ourselves, we all like carbs.They are the epitome of comfort food and eating them makes you feel warm and happy. Which is a good sign that you’re giving your body what it needs because your body DOES need carbs. So when you want that big bowl of pasta or half a bag of cereal or entire baguette, “giving in” is not a bad thing. You need carbs, so don’t hate them- love them, eat them, and while you’re at it, pass the breadbasket.