*[Image Goes Here]* If you’ve been watching TV lately you’ve probably seen commercials advertising new food products that are low in carbohydrates (carbs). This new carb-conscious marketing campaign is designed to help low carb diet devotees to “Lose the carbs. Not the taste,” according to a Michelob Ultra Low Carbohydrate Beer billboard campaign.
New food products include low-carb beer, pasta, bread, candy and even ice cream now available in stores.
So will trading your favourite beer or ice cream brand for a low carb version help you lose weight? Sorry, but no.
When low carb products were compared with their regular counterparts they were found to have similar amounts of calories per serving, despite the higher price tag. So from a weight loss perspective you haven’t done yourself any favours, especially if you think high calorie foods like beer, candy and ice cream are suddenly healthier because they contain less carbs.
If normally high carb foods now contain less carbs, what did the manufacturer do to the products? Since carbohydrates are important elements for flavour and texture, they had to replace them with something says Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Main.
In the case of breads and pasta, manufacturers took out whole grains and added extra protein or a type of highly processed starch that is hard to digest in order to add extra bulk. It’s similar to dietary fibre which is a good thing because most people aren’t getting enough fibre in their diet anyway, but it’s a bad thing because low-carb dieters may be missing out on nutritional benefits, such as the natural antioxidants and phytochemicals found in whole grains.
For low-carb candy, ice creams and other sweets, the manufacturer took out sugar and added more fat and/or sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, maltitol and lactitol. These have a very similar chemical structure to sugar but they have alcohol attached to it (regular sugar doesn’t). The drawback is that the alcohol attracts water. If you eat too much, those alcohols pull water into your gut because they’re not digested and then you end up with diarrhea.
On a side note, for people with Diabetes some low carb products may be a treat. Talk to your Dietitian about how to incorporate small amounts of these products into your diet safely as some are more appropriate than others.
As long as obesity is a problem, people will turn to fad diets to try and lose the weight. This new carb-conscious advertising campaign is successful in being misleading. Losing excess weight is not about replacing one source of empty calories, such as beer, with another lower carbohydrate version says Registered Dietitian Samantha Heller. It’s about making healthy lifestyle changes. Your body would be a lot happier if you tried to reach and maintain and healthy weight by eating healthy food & getting more physical activity. A low-carb approach to weight loss is not the answer to a healthy diet.
Adapted from “The Low Down on Low-Carb Products” by Jennifer Warner a WebMD feature.
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