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In defense of Carbs

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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Published on September 30, 2009

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  1. Marissa says


    First off I never said carbs were bad. I said I don’t believe grains are necessarily healthy.

    I don’t believe in diets, and especially do not trust any diet that apparently “went bankrupt” because I also don’t think that “diets” should be businesses. I have also never seen any study that shows that a high intake of whole grains keeps any group of peoples’ weight “in check”, unless you mean it keeps them at a set weight, which is possible…but I am not going to say that it would necessarily be a healthy weight.

    Atkins, by the way is a low carb diet, I do not recommend that at all. I say grains aren’t the best for you, and I can show you studies that show that information to be true. But when it comes down to it studies aren’t really going to tell you much. We can debate all day long about this as there are opposing studies. I can tell you that I lost 150 lbs and the main things I did was to cut the grains and cut the sugar.

    I was 300 lbs, I was fat, and I could tell you all I ate was junk and sugar…but that wasn’t the case. I lived on whole grains, ate who grain pasta, Ezekiel bread, Oatmeal…you name it. And I was still morbidly obese.

    Carb counting DOES work when it comes to weight loss. I don’t believe it is healthiest, but yes…it does work. But let me say it again, I don’t count carbs.

  2. Tricia says

    Ugh, my mom went on a low carb diet once, and IT SUCKED!! Without carbs, i’m like a zombie. I’m one of those people who needs carbs (preferable whole grain). Without them, i won’t be able to run 3-4 miles a day 😛

  3. pixelfairy devnull says

    Carbs are just the new whipping boy for people bad habits. If they were that evil, the fruity people (LFRV) would all be fat, have diabetes and die of heart attacks.

    Its no surprise that cutting out processed junk and exercising will make you healthy. Any change in diet for the purpose of getting healthier usually comes with other changes usually like drinking enough water and getting enough sleep. Those two changes alone make a world of difference and yet people give credit to the twinkies.

    LOVE your yummy healthy blog!

  4. StraightOutTheGardenGirl says

    I agree totally, Katie. People need to realize that it’s calories in and calories out. It’s not what you eat that makes people gain fat, it’s how much. Of course, nutritionally dense foods are better for overall health, but it’s not rocket science to listen to your hunger and thirst signals. GO CARBS!!!

      • trajayjay says

        I know. People love to find a single, simple culprit, but weight loss really isn’t that simple. And I hate it when people demonize a HEALTHY food just because it’s high in calories (can you say, potato, nuts, oats, olive oil), as if we were put on this earth to lose all kinds of weight, and shun calories. If 33% of americans are obese, 67% of us are NOT and can afford to eat these high cal foods

  5. trajayjay says

    I don’t know how anybody could survive a low-carb diet, that’s like cutting out 80% of foods.

    Carbs probably are frowned upon because….

    People only know white pasta, white bread, white rice, cookies, cake and pies, all of which are high in much refined carbs. When they learn other sources of carbs, specifically whole wheat pasta and bread, the carb=unhealthy connection remains.

    Yes, carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy. What is energy measured in? Calories! And thanks for the very nice people in the media, we all know that calories are these little monsters that sneak into your belly and give you obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and athersclerosis.

    Would you like to be called doughy? Probably not, and think of what dough consists of carbs. People might fear that if they eat carbs, they’ll become doughy.

    When we cut out carbs, we lose weight exponentially, and it has been funneled into our heads that the more weight you lose the better. Even if you look like a 2 month old sapling. Carbs are getting in the way of getting that sexy anorexic figure!

    Go to any chinese restaurant, you’ll get a bin bigger than your head half full of white rice. Go to olive garden: unlimited breadsticks, a mixing bowl full of spaghetti. People consider these portions one serving. In reality they can be 4+ servings. People blame it’s the carbs but if they’d moderate the amount they’d eat (1/2 c of cooked grains, 1/8 of a 9 in cake) they’d find the fat not stick to them.

    Carbs are either simple carbs or complex carbs. Simple carbs are used for energy upon digestion. Complex carbs consist of simple carbs bonded together. By digesting these complex carbs, the body breaks the bonds and converts them into simple carbs. A simple carb is sugar. And we all know that sugar is bad. (Fruit isn’t bad because it has fiber and vitamins).

    Protein builds muscle, which carbs aren’t famous for, so they probably just turn into fat.

    But carbs are only bad if they’re overconsumed and refined: oh wait, that’s all foods

  6. Anonymous says

    Carbs aren’t bad, grains are. Fruits, veggies, soaked beans and nuts are awesome. Grains contain phytates which blocks the absorption of minerals. They also contain lectins, and some contain gluten, which is also bad for you. Also, carbs aren’t actually necessary, you can live off of fat and protein just fine.Traditional Inuit peoples did it. For a more detailed explanation on why grains are bad:
    Enjoy your veggies, but don’t dismiss all anti-grain diet ideas.

    • trajayjay says

      If you believed everything you heard about the healthiness/unhealthiness of food, you’d just be eating spinach,, egg whites, and water.

  7. trajayjay says

    I find it interesting that you pointed out that this society deems any weight loss a good thing. So when they find out that you can lose weight fast on a low-carb diet, they assume they’re healthy. Well, you could also get leukemia and lose weight, but does that mean you’re healthy, NO. I’d honestly rather get all my nutrients than lose weight, but our society is so weightloss-centric

  8. trajayjay says

    I also find it weird that people only point out pasta or bread for being high in carbs. It’s like if you said the word carbs, only pasta would come to mind, not oats, or quinoa, or beans, or fruit. It’s as if pasta was the only food that had any real carbs.

  9. Laura says

    I’m so glad I found this article. Several years ago (10 or so) I tried Atkins and I was miserable the entire time, low energy, no weight-loss. Now, my paleo naturopath has put me on a grain-free diet. I eat a mostly vegan diet now, so all I’ve been eating for weeks is lots of fruit & veg (which is good) and beans and nuts.. I’ve GAINED 5 lbs (and I’m already overweight), and like before, I feel like CRAP and I have NO energy. The only good thing I’ve gotten from all this is how to incorporate more veg/fruit into my diet, which I will continue to do.. but bring on the quinoa, oats, rice, and spelt!

  10. Sophia S. says

    Wow..if carbs made people fat then don’t you think China would be the fattest nation in the world? I also grew up in China and for school lunch everyone’s lunchboxes were at least 2/3 filled with rice. Only those who could afford dairy and meat products were on the chubby side.

  11. Kay says

    I realize that for some people, carbohydrates do not pose a problem, and I’ve heard that runners and other athletes need more carbs for their bodies to function optimally. However, there have been scientific studies that show that carbs, not fat, are the thing to minimize in order to lose or maintain weight, as well as to prevent diabetes and other health problems. As much as I enjoy looking at your blog (I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet because we don’t have some of the ingredients, and I’m a bit lazy), it is a major pet peeve of mine when people defend carbs as an essential nutrient. They are good for athletes and growing children, and you are right about choosing whole grains over refined stuff. However, the majority of carb intake for anyone who wants to lose weight, as well as for many people who simply want to maintain their weight and be healthy, should come from vegetables (which are rich in fiber) and some fruit (not bananas, which is sad considering it would make going low-carb a lot easier if I could eat bananas) rather than whole-grain bread or pasta. Anyway, my point is that you don’t have to eat all meat (as in the Atkins diet) and there’s nothing wrong with being a vegetarian or vegan, but carbs are not all that good for you. And let me reiterate that by carbs I do not mean complex carbohydrates such as those found in broccoli and carrots, but I do mean the ones in bread, pasta and potatoes. It’s totally counter-intuitive, but many people would be better off eating stir-fried veggies, or an apple with peanut butter, or even bacon and eggs (for the omnivores out there) for breakfast, rather than oatmeal or granola. When I say “many people” I am NOT pointing at you specifically, as you seem to be staying healthy eating carbs, as some people can.
    Okay, I’m done. I do not mean any of this in an offensive way. I am simply interested in health and nutrition, as it is obvious that you are, and I like to share my knowledge with those who might be interested. Thank you. And I’m hoping to try some of your desserts sometime…I do love chocolate and I am not against desserts in moderation 🙂

    • Kay says

      P.S. In case I wasn’t clear, I am not only talking about weight when I talk about health. One can be at a healthy weight and be prediabetic or even diabetic (not saying you are, but just clarifying what I meant by “health”). I guess I’m just saying be careful with carbs, that’s all. Nothing to see as big, bad, and scary, but rather another reason to pile your plate high with veggies and peanut butter (okay, maybe not on the same plate). And of course, plain ol’ bakers’ chocolate (I think you mentioned in another post that you like it)…yum!

      • Gina says

        You are correct.

        I was steadily gaining weight when I was cooking the “CKK way”; I would consider it insidious weight gain, because I am an incredibly active individual (hot yoga, ashtanga, HIIT, and weight lifting every week) that could not keep the weight-gain at bay unless I maintained highly-consistent activity levels.

        I also experienced incredible shifts in mood/energy with a disastrous mid-day crash and early-evening coma-like energy depletion.

        My GERD also came back with a vengeance (due to Katie’s proclivity to put legumes in her desserts) and I could not unravel the mystery until I worked backwards and analyzed my food intake in the MyFitnessPal app.

        With CCK’s desserts (all very high carb per serving) I realized my daily caloric intake was about 45 – 60% carbohydrates; and my fats took a nose-dive, and my protein was sub-par.

        At 5’4, I went from 112 – 117 lbs in about 3 weeks with Katie’s carb-laden treats. No one’s fault but my own, I realize; but I, too, was seduced by the promise of ‘healthy’ desserts, completely disregarding the carb content.

        Now, that I restrict my carbohydrates to less than 100g per day (which severely limits the recipes I can play with on this website) I realized just how carb-intensive her recipes are; some of her SINGLE-SERVING desserts smash through the DAILY QUOTA of my carbohydrate allotment. No wonder I was gaining weight!

        Now I am incredibly discriminating with which recipes I make here. I love the chocolate ones, and a few that eschew high carb counts. By doing this not only have I lost the insidious weight gain, but I’ve normalized my leptin/ghrelin and energy levels, and no longer suffer the mid-day or post-day crash.

        And my GERD cleared up.

        So, needless to say I’d be overjoyed if she made a low-carb index for recipes (;

  12. Anonymous says

    I just found myself looking through all this comments…
    Yup, I guess I’m the one who is a little scared of carbs. But to be honest, when nobody knows who I am, I can tell you I’m scared of a lot of things – and is diagnosed right now with an eating disorder. And I’m totally confused know, because IS carbs good or not? Can we all agree on, that you need to be careful with carbs, but not avoid them totally?
    Just asking:)

  13. Kaela says

    Just to be devils advocate here, I have been low carbing for a few weeks. I have failed miserably on every diet and/or lifestyle change I have ever tried to do. Low carbing is the only thing I have stuck to, that I was able to stick to, that makes me feel great and have lots of energy. I DO eat carbs… I just dont get them from refined flour pasta. I get them from veggies and healthy ‘from the earth’ foods.
    I am not a celebrity, and I dont have a personal trainer either 😉 In fact, the only ‘working out’ I do is walking with my friend, for about an hour, 3 times a week.
    I have lost 15 pounds in a short amount of time, and have ever felt better!
    Google ‘ketogenic diet’ for anyone who is interested. Doctors put patients on it all the time.

  14. Kathy says

    As a lifelong carbivore who loves the rawest, darkest, most ancient grains available along with chocolate in the 80-100% range, I was flabbergasted when I got my blood test results two years ago: prediabetic. Really? I’ve never had sugar highs or lows; my energy level is very steady; I’m never hungry. I can’t blame genetics (no one in my family is diabetic), my weight (130 at 5’6” at the time), or a sedentary lifestyle (I dance, work out, and/or speed-walk 2 miles daily). My doctor said it was age (mid-50s) and/or diet and said to go low-carb. I immediately started retooling my diet, and the weight just fell off. I continue to eat 1200 calories a day and have the same exercise regimen; I just changed what I was eating. My energy level is just as high as ever, but I’m 15 pounds lighter, and my blood pressure and cholesterol are much lower.

    I miss all the bread and pasta I used to live on. I now compromise with one grain item and about 2 ounces of high-quality dark chocolate per day. Please know that some of us haven’t just drunk the low-carb Kool-aid—it’s a medical necessity. Low-carb chocolate recipes are especially appreciated!

  15. Lauren says

    Carbs are not evil BUT most Americans eat entirely too many!! 100 carbs a day is plenty enough to fuel the body, but most ppl eat way more and ppl who don’t food journal have no idea how many they are eating.

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