What's funny about this whole discussion is how nutrition experts are closer to Gary's ideas than they want to admit.
When people talk about Americans eating more processed foods, no one seems to want to make the connection that these processed foods are entirely high-carb. (go to a vending machine or fast food restaurant and find more than 1 item that is low-carb)
So, by saying Americans should eat fewer processed foods is to argue for a lower-carb diet.
Based upon reading this book I chose to stop eating simple carbohydrates (anything with white flour and white sugar).
I replaced this with copious amounts of green vegetables, eggs, cheese, and meat. I quickly dropped 20 pounds without exercising or EVER feeling hunger or thinking about portion control.
Via the blog
Gary Taubes' controversial views help certainly get discussion going, which I am absolutely thrilled about.
Yes, there is a small area in which conventional nutrition advice and Gary Taubes' views intermingle.
That being said, I ultimately consider his conclusions to stem from faulty logic.
It is indeed true that most processed (or "junk") foods consist of nutritionally void refined carbohydrates (mainly overly processed grains and sugar).
The bottom line, though, is that these processed foods are ultimately adding extra calories to people's diets.
A lot of these same processed foods (donuts, cookies, brownies, etc.) are also high in saturated fat and sodium.
They are not pure carbohydrates. So why isn't Mr. Taubes placing the blame on those two nutrients? Why just carbohydrates?
Allow me to present an analogy.
Imagine that I decide to study the health effects of strawberries.
For ten years, I have a group of people eat two cups of strawberries every day. The control group, meanwhile, doesn't eat any strawberries.
A decade later, I analyze the results and see that the strawberry eaters clearly had higher rates of cancer than the non-strawberry eaters.
Based on those statistics alone, a researcher might conclude, "strawberries increase your risk of developing certain cancers!"
Except it's not that simple.
What if it wasn't the strawberries themselves that had harmful health effects, but the fact that these strawberries had incredibly high levels of pesticides on them?
That is how I interpret Taubes' beliefs. I feel he is coming to a conclusion without considering all the information.
Mind you, the issue here is not "refined carbohydrates are chock full of nutrition" vs. Gary Taubes.
Dietitians are not saying -- and have never recommended -- "eat as much white flour, sugar, and processed food as you want!"
Glance through my blog and you will see numerous recommendations for whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and other high-fiber foods.
I distinctly say that nutrition isn't solely about calories, but also about nutrients. I also, though, think that sugar and white flour have a place in the diet as long as they are an exception to the rule and not the bulk of anyone's eating pattern.
That being said, keep in mind that many of the foods I suggest people consume often (chickpeas, kidney beans, oatmeal) are not low-carb; Gary Taubes believes they make you fat!
I also do not agree that calling for a diet "low in processed foods" is advocating a low-carb lifestyle. Legumes, fruits, vegetables, sprouted grains, and whole grains are not considered processed foods and are certainly not low in carbohydrates.
My main concern about refined carbohydrates is that, because they are low in fiber and protein, they do not satiate as well. The result? It takes more CALORIES to make you feel full.
Eating 400 calories of white rice, soda, and white bread for lunch will leave you feeling hungry, whereas 400 calories of steak will not have you raiding the pantry for a snack an hour later.
Ultimately, though, it comes down to calories. The 400 "empty carb" calories do not satiate you, so you end up eating more (consuming more calories).
There are two particular statements Gary Taubes make that raise my blood pressure, though.
The first is including potatoes in the same category as "processed foods."
As I have explained before, when cooked a certain way (ie: baked, with the skin on), a potato is highly nutritious. It is not junk food.
Second, his belief that fiber is overhyped tremendously weakens his stance for me. How anyone can ignore the health benefits of fiber is truly beyond me.