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Low Carb Foods Not Always Healthy

Low Carb Foods Not Always Healthy

Posted - Feb. 16, 2004 at 3:54 p.m.



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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingHealth experts say Americans, especially women, are getting fatter because they're eating more than ever before and that too many carbs are the culprit.

Charlie Krystofiak from Redwood City, California is scoring big with fewer carbs.

Krystofiak: "In about a four month period, I lost about 21 pounds."

Carbohydrates are found in everything from apples to pizza. But too many carbs - especially those in processed foods - pack on the pounds. A new federal study reveals Americans are eating more calories from carbs and getting fatter.

To fight the battle of his bulge, Charlie has joined tens of millions of Americans now on some version of a low carb diet. The phenomenon can be found everywhere --from supermarkets to restaurants-- turning consumers into low carb connoisseurs.

Krystofiak: "I look at everything that is on a package now. I've never in the past ever looked at packaging from sugar to fiber to carbohydrates and now I do. And I look for things that are low in carbohydrates.”

But dieters who focus just on carbs may be missing the bigger picture. According to the labels, you are getting lower carbs from these products. But buyer beware - you may also be getting more calories. And that's not all.

So here's an example of a regular hot cereal. Jo Ann Hattner of the American Dietetic Association gives us the skinny:

Jo Ann Hattner, American Dietetic Association: “Total calories 120. Total carb 23. Now let's compare it with a low carb cereal one that is being marketed because it is low carb.”

Total carbs drop to fifteen. But the calories jump to a total of one hundred and ninety calories a serving. So what have they done? They've added more fat, they've added more protein, and you've got more calories.

With a popular snack food called booty, we compared the low fat to the low carb version. The low carb booty weighed in with more protein, more fat, and three times the amount of sodium as the regular low fat booty.

With frozen chocolate bars, the low carb treat is lower in carbs, but once again higher in calories, fat and protein. So when it comes to selecting low carb, Hattner has this advice: “I would recommend you spend your carbs in the produce section, particularly those that are high in fiber content, high in water.”

And, when it comes to counting calories or carbs, “I would pay attention to the total calories.”

You may also want to pay attention the price, because low carb foods can be two to four times more expensive as the full carb item.

Here's one final thing to chew on: unlike the organic or low fat labels, the FDA has never approved a label defining what it means to be low carb.

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