Weighing in on carb cuisine

Danielle Toth

Some low-carb diets can actually lead to an increase in pounds

Lunch! A juicy burger or a nice piece of lettuce, which one is better

this week?

Stomach growling and mouth watering, you reach into the Burger King bag that your roommate left behind to find a burger without the bun.

That’s right — the low-carb craze has even hit the fast food chains. Burger King now offers two low-carb, bun-less burgers on its menu, the Angus Steak Burger and the Angus Bacon and Cheese Steak Burger, according to their Web site www.bk.com.

Other fast food chains and restaurants, including Subway, Pizza Hut, Bob Evans and Friday’s, offer low-carb alternatives on their menus.

Advocates of these low-carb diets list their benefits — quick weight loss, large portion sizes, decreased fatigue — but there are also many dangers to them.

“The population is misinformed,” said Kayla Scherf, a junior nutrition major and wellness education team leader at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. “Not all carbs are bad. What’s bad are the choices we make and the portion sizes we choose. There is not one bad food group or food. Diets should include variety and balance.”

Eliminating carbohydrates from your diet can cause bingeing and long-term health effects, including high cholesterol, heart problems, frequent urination, muscle-mass breakdown and weakness, Scherf said.

“Whole grains, milk, fruits and vegetables all have carbs, and all have health benefits as well,” nutrition counselor Juanita Weaver said. “If we cut them out, we won’t benefit from the vitamins, minerals and fiber they provide.”

The creators of these diets say they are safe, but the American Heart Association states on its Web site that it does not endorse any fad diets.

The association says that its diet plan includes eating reasonable portions of all food groups and does not eliminate or choose specific foods.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the guidelines the Food Guide Pyramid is based on, changed its recommendations early this year to include multivitamins, daily exercise and weight control.

This change occurred because diet and inactivity were linked to more calories being consumed than used, which led to higher obesity in children according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines.

Previously, the pyramid recommended nine servings of grains, four of vegetables, three of fruit, three of milk and six ounces of lean meat, Weaver said. The dietary guidelines now recommend seven servings of whole grains, six of vegetables, four of fruit, three of milk and six ounces of lean meat.

Enriched grains moved from the base of the pyramid to the top to be consumed sparingly.

“The 2005 Dietary Guidelines provide the number of servings recommended from each food group for calorie levels from 1,000 to 3,200 calories per day. It is thought that the new (Food Guide) Pyramid will make this info available as well.

“This way, you know exactly how many servings are recommended for a certain calorie level, rather than just having a range of servings recommended.”

When choosing to go low carb, it is still important to eat a variety of foods and be physically active, Weaver said.

“Keep in mind low-carb foods can be high in fat and calories,” she said. “In terms of weight loss, it’s still calories that count. In my opinion, it still comes down to the same old traditional recommendations for weight management. It may produce slower results, but it’s still the best way to improved health and lasting weight loss.”

To view the 2005 Dietary Guidelines visit www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines and download the PDF.

Contact features reporter Danielle Toth at [email protected].