Despite the ongoing low-carb craze in the United States, America continues to be the fattest nation in the world, and the obesity problem is affecting more people at a younger age than ever before. If low carb eating is the answer to this growing problem, then why are people in countries whose diet revolves around carbs not suffering the same fate?
"Look at Italy, China and France," says Gail Davis of Grainaissance, a natural foods company that has a line of beverages and snacks made from organic brown rice. "People there enjoy a diet that includes significant amounts of pasta, rice and bread, yet obesity is not a national crisis in any of these countries the way it is in the United States."
More than half of adult Americans (about 65 percent) are considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In the early 70s, it was 47 percent. And 15 percent of children and adolescents are obese. This doubles the rate of childhood obesity since the late '70s. Obesity is linked to a number of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
However, cutting carbs is not the magic solution to obesity that some people believe. A very low-carbohydrate diet, especially if it includes large amounts of saturated fat, is not a healthy long-term way to eat. "Carbohydrates are an important nutritional element for your body," says registered dietician Cheryl Craig. "But you need to eat the right kind of carbohydrates -- complex, whole grain carbohydrates." Grainaissance features two products made with organic whole grain brown rice, one of the "good" carbohydrates. Amazake, a dairy-free shake, and Mochi (moh-chee) bake and serve rice puffs, make great snacks or meals on the run.
Your body breaks down all carbohydrates into single sugar molecules. However, some carbohydrates take longer to digest than others. White bread, for example, is digested almost immediately, causing blood sugar to spike rapidly. Complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, by comparison, are digested more slowly, causing a lower and more gradual change in blood sugar.
"Most people pay more attention to the type of fuel they put in their car's gas tank than to the fuel they put into their own bodies," says Davis. But working healthy carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet doesn't mean you have to sacrifice convenience or flavor.
There is no quick, easy solution to the problem of obesity in America. But there are steps you can take to live a healthier lifestyle. Choosing the right foods to fuel your body in appropriate portion sizes and increasing your activity level are great ways to start.