A short post on carbs

Carbohydrates appear to be the new evil.  Low fat foods as a dieting mechanism is so last year and references to high protein-low carbohydrate eating, whether dressed up in the language of the flat belly or of the optimum gut flora, abound in the media.  I've read a bit about paleo eating over the last year and I guess some people would see paleo eaters as leaders in the anti-carb field.  I've seen wheat described as a poison which, before I got into all this nutritional discourse stuff, used to be a word reserved for insecticides, paint stripper and other people's medicine which you shouldn't touch.

But before we get too carried away with the idea that grains, and particularly wheat, have contributed to the downfall of human civilisation (like hell they have; Carluccio's foccaccia is still one of my favourite taste sensations in my whole world), I think it's worth thinking about the contribution of food which fills and fattens us up easily to our choices as human beings.

A while ago I got all excited about Sarah Hrdy, an anthropologist who found that in pre-settled agriculture times, given that a child needed 13 million calories to achieve adulthood, women employed a range of strategies to support each other and to make choices around how many babies they attempted to raise. (e.g. here)  It seems to me, that the incorporation of grains into a communal diet must have offered so many gains for women, and for the entire society, as it allowed for time in a day which wasn't entirely devoted to gathering sustenance.  Maybe grains did for those women what electric washing machines did for our mothers, and the internet has done for our generation.  It opened windows of time, and in the case of the internet, it offers windows of knowledge that were previously inaccessible to people on a limited budget with financial priorities around raising children.

Down at our local New World, I see they are advertising skinnier bread as having 40% fewer carbohydrates.  No one advertises small size apples as having 40% less fibre, yet that is the parallel logic (or lack thereof). 

Despite an awareness of the partly problematic nature of bread for promoting candida and weight gain in my particular body, an awareness I've gained by my own observation rather than blind assumptions from books, magazines or websites, I'm still eating bread sometimes.  I had toast with butter and hummous for breakfast today.  It was fantastic.  I made it at home (the toast and the hummous, not the actual bread and butter) so it was cheap.  I ate it at home, in snatched bites as I finished the school lunches, and so I could get on with my paid job as soon as I got to work.  The taste pleased me and the time convenience made the difference between eating breakfast and having to go without.

There's no poison in my bread.


Isa Ritchie said…
I agree with you about the demonisation of carbs. I love carbs - but the refined variety don't love me very much. I suffer from severe blood sugar fluctuations so I'm better off avoiding most simple sugars and starches. Oats and potato both make my blood sugar peak and then I start to feel a bit crazy and emotional as it drops. I also have trouble digesting a lot of grains. Wheat, corn both give me a tummy ache, unless it's sourdough bread, which is (fortunately) especially delicious.

Grains have pretty much built our current civilisation - or been a major building block anyway. But wheat has only been consumed in such high proportion for a few hundred years and it's no wonder some people are struggling to adapt to it.

Right now my favorite grain is brown rice served with butter.

"Wheat is poison" is also a line in this episode of Black Books.

Sorry for such a disjointed comment!
Isa Ritchie said…
This is the episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNxaxlktIto
applepip said…
Interesting thoughts. It is fun watching the fringe ideas become more mainstream. I have to admit that I do feel better after cutting down the bread, but out is impossible! I do an omelet for brekkie now instead of toast and I reckon it's quicker, and fills me for much longer, although it's more $$.

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