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In defense of Carbs

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When the Atkins craze finally bit the dust, you couldn’t have found a happier girl than me.  However, all too often I still hear my friends, family members, and fellow bloggers voice a fear of:

The Big, Bad Carbohydrates

Dun dun dun.


(Click for more on the Alfredo Pasta meal above)

Pick up any health magazine, and you have a good chance of seeing a celebrity interview where said celebrity credits her slim physique to:

1. An absolutely-no-bread diet
2. Eschewing all carbs after 7pm
3. Steering clear of pasta at any cost… after all, pasta is Satan in noodle form, right??

This is ridiculous! I would argue that these celebrities are thin thanks to regimented workout routines (hello, personal trainers!), low-calorie diets that do not include very many Mexican-restaurant gorges or Dunkin Doughnut runs (meal delivery service, anyone?), hectic, on-the-go schedules, and industry pressures that motivate and remind them to keep up these practices. It’s not the carbs! I feel sad every time one of my friends admits to a fear of carbs—pasta in particular.

You deserve to eat pasta! Real pasta. There’s a reason carbohydrates exist: protein repairs and rebuilds cells, fats provide hormonal functions for cells, and it’s the job of the carbohydrates to energize cells. Cut out carbs, and you cut out energy. You’re doing your body a major disservice, especially if you’re highly active.  We live in a society that deems any weight loss a good thing. But on low-carb diets, the major source of weight loss is muscle loss (which, in term, slows one’s metabolism) and water loss/dehydration (which presents a problem for one’s kidneys and can cause one’s body to go into a very dangerous state called “ketosis”). So yes, one may initially lose water weight and muscle weight on a low-carb diet; but in the long run, it means a sacrifice of one’s metabolism and muscles.

And a lack of carbs in one’s diet has also been associated with inferior athletic performance and brain function.  Glucose (from carbohydrates) is the favored fuel for one’s muscles, brain, and central nervous system, so a breakdown of glycogen (the storage form of glucose) causes fatigue and confusion, thus inhibiting the desire and ability to exercise.  Part of the reason carbs get a bad rap is that people fill up on highly-refined grains—cookies, white flour, etc.  But restrict whole-grain carbohydrates and you’ll be missing out on fiber, B vitamins, thiamin, niacin, and even protein (surprisingly enough, grains offer quite a bit of protein).

Most of you are probably rolling your eyes at me right now, because how can one little blog post successfully counter a message that’s been drummed into Americans’ minds for years and years and years? But consider the source. While I’m not going to get into specific numbers (the subject of this post is not my weight; if you’re interested in that, please see my FAQ page), I’m nowhere near overweight. I adore carbs. You know this. Carbs fuel my super-active runner lifestyle, fill my body with essential nutrients, and—most importantly—taste delicious.





And yes, pasta too.

CCK Pasta Love:





Pasta Substitutions

One of my friends told me the reason she stays away from pasta is that it’s such a small serving and, for the same amount of calories, she can eat a much bigger serving of say, spaghetti squash.

True, a big bowl of something like my favorite voluminous oatmeal recipe can be much more filling than a small bowl of pasta. But sometimes you don’t want to feel bloated after eating (such as if you have a date that night!). Also, I’d argue that if one tries to fake oneself out with a pasta substitute, he or she subconsciously won’t feel as satisfied after eating because his or her brain knows it’s a substitute and therefore doesn’t register that the food craving was met.  This can thus lead to bingeing as the brain attempts to satisfy the craving for the desired food, so, in the long run, a person can end up taking in way more calories than if he or she had simply indulged in a small amount of the real stuff to begin with.  It’s like those studies that have shown people who use artificial sweeteners actually end up consuming more calories than those who don’t.

This isn’t to say spaghetti squash is not satisfying in its own right; it’s only when such foods become replacements for others that a problem can arise. Although spaghetti squash, zucchini spirals, mushroom pasta, and those Asian shirataki noodles can be super-fun to eat it’s sad when they completely replace pasta in one’s diet. 

This doesn’t mean one should quaff down a quadruple serving of Fettuccine Alfredo every day because “CCK said it’s ok” (especially since the sauce, not the pasta, is filled with unhealthy saturated fat and cholesterol). Everything in moderation. But it’s recommended that the average person take in 6-11 servings of whole grains per day (depending on activity level; athletes obviously need more carbohydrates than sedentary people).

So go ahead and eat those carbs (especially if they’re served to you by a cute boy)! 😉

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 

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  1. THANK YOU!! I love carbs and HATE when people cut them out. They DO serve a purpose!

  2. balancejoyanddelicias says:

    can’t agree more with you girl!!! Carbs are sooooo necessary to our body! 😀

  3. whitneyislettucelove says:

    I totally agree! I never understood the Atikins craze. A healthy diet can’t exclude carbs. Can you image never eating pasta or bread? That would be horrible!

    I am loving your blog and have passed on a Kreativ Blog Award to you! Check it out here

  4. DJ says:

    All I can say is, here-here! We loves carbs at Skint Vegan Towers – how else am I going to keep my little vegan dynamos fuelled? Plus on a cold and miserable day, when you’re alone in the house and feeling down in the dumps, what better mood-enhancer than a big baked potato with watercress pesto and a grating of cheeze? Or baked beans on wholemeal toast? Or a bowl of wholewheat pasta with spicy tomato sauce and loads of nooch? Not much in my book…

  5. peanutbutterfingers says:

    I LOVE CARBS too… they’re just so darn tasty! :o) yummmy. your blog is super cute, too!

  6. *Andrea* says:

    i love your pasta stirfry! i can never quite recreate it as beautifully 😉

    i used to ‘fear’ carbs during my latter high school years… i wouldn’t eat any bread or pasta and ended up feeling deprived 🙁 i agree that when i eat my carbs (COMPLEX carbs – whole grain not white) i am HAPPIER and can run FASTER 🙂

  7. Maggie says:

    I love carbs! Well, I actually don’t like pasta or rice… but I love bread, and oatmeal, and oat bran, and most other grains. Have you ever tried cooking oatmeal in the rice cooker? I just did that for the first time yesterday and it totally rocked. I’ll post my method soon 🙂

  8. jcd says:

    Yay for Katie! I never understood the no-carbs craze either. Carbs are good for you, they are incredibly tasty (homemade pasta, anyone?), and keep you fueled up and full longer than a plate of salad ever will.

    On another note, whole grain carbs (like brown rice) are better than processed carbs (like white bread), so maybe that’s how things got out of hand. Someone could have thought white bread is ‘bad’, so maybe whole grain breads, other whole grains, and thus all carbs must be ‘bad’ too. Or, because people eat a mountain of spaghetti and think it is one serving when it’s actually five or six, and thus blame carbs for being overweight and unhealthy. That’s overeating + under-active in general, not those carbs you just ate. I don’t know. Society has issues.

    If people stopped labelling food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ the world (at least North America) would be much better off. Even full-fat double chocolate sundaes with chocolate chunks, chocolate sauce, and chocolate sprinkles is absolutely fine to eat once in a while! (Unless you’re diabetic.) Everything in moderation people…

  9. brandi says:

    I hear ya. Give me carbs or I will be crabby. I could not live without oats, ww pasta, brown rice, whole grains…not worth doing 🙂

  10. Janna says:

    I love love loveeee pasta. And most carbs in general. And I never shy away from them.

    I think the problem is with the “white” carbohydrates.

    I don’t eat those because I know they are “bad” for you.
    I tend to choose whole grain bread, brown rice, ancient grains like quinoa, oatmeal and whole wheat, soba or brown rice pasta.

    I also do the “fake” pasta sometimes like zucchini or spaghetti squash.

    But truthfully, sometimes I just want a big ‘ole plate of white spaghetti and tomato sauce 🙂

  11. janetha says:

    there is nothing better than a big plate of carbs! in fact my favorite foods are bread and cereal.. i could never survive on a low carb diet. PLUS we need carbs for energy! great post 🙂

  12. Amen sistah friend!! I hate it when people tell me they won’t eat carbs after a certain time…really they aren’t evil, but clearly we all know that it is probably better to have some whole grains than a cookie. Yet…my cookie isn’t going to kill me either.

  13. star says:

    Well put Katie. A low carb runner?….count me out!!! Eating a post run porridge creation right this minute 😉 Take Care x

  14. Hear, hear! I actually have a tee-shirt that says “I Love Carbs!” And I do. I steer away from white pasta and white flour, unless I’m eating out or at someone else’s house. And then, it’s game on. At home, I eat tons of whole wheat pasta, whole grain breads, oats, brown rice, quinoa, all that yummy stuff. People who cut out carbs are trying to find an easy way to lose a few pounds without getting off their lazy asses … and that just ain’t healthy.

  15. Amen, I feel like I wrote this post. When I was like 15, I tried the Atkins diet and ended up gaining weight on it because I would ultimately give in and eat carbs. A diet that banned fruits and veggies? WHAT!? Still, I agree that though the no-carb diet phase is sort of over, I know a lot of people who either swear off carbs or feel guilty when they eat them. I’m personally not a huge pasta girl–and I prefer the veggie and tofu replacements. But, do not get me started on rice. It’s my carb of choice (you know we all have a #1), and I can’t get enough. And couscous, ahhh. I would never deny myself something I love just because it is “calorically dense.” I truly believe that no food should ever be off limits in a diet–even for someone trying to lose weight. There’s always a way to fit in what you love with a little will power and moderation…

    Ah I’m ranting but seriously great post. I love that you love yo carbs!

  16. ellie says:

    I never understood the low-carb phase. I bought into the fat-free hype big time, but carbs…never seemed fear-inducing to me. Though I have never been attacked by a potato so maybe I am just living a sheltered life. Weight issues aside, if my diet is lacking in grains, my mood plummets- I need serotonin at frequent intervals. BRING ON THE BREAD!

  17. I’ve tried life without carbs, and it just wasn’t a life worth living. I’ll admit, pasta and bagels still frighten me, but give me a big bowl (and I mean BIG) of grains, and I am a happy girl. 🙂

    Love you Katie…oh, and guess who just bought some ripe bananas this morning? Guess what I’ll be making very soon??????

  18. Angelina says:

    I was also glad when the Atkins craze dwindled. I never really understood why it emphasized consuming lots of animal protein and deemed nutritous foods such as whole grains and fruit as fattening.
    I am a big fan of whole grain carbs and I have them at most meals. I eat brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oats, and whole grain breads most often. Sometimes I have bulgur, quinoa, amaranth, ect. I don’t have access to a health food store so I don’t get to eat more exotic grains as often as I’d like.

    1. trajayjay says:

      The atkins diet may have dwindled but it’s ashes still remain. I find people on the internet who still shun carbs, particularly pasta, bread, bananas, bagels, and potatoes

      1. trajayjay says:

        oh, just two days ago at walmart i saw an ATKINS frozen meal, so it’s still breathing

  19. anon says:

    i’m sorry katie, but it doesn’t count if it’s 90% veggies and like 4 noodles

    1. laura says:

      somebody got bit by the jealousy Bee

  20. mihl says:

    Bring on the carbs!

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