Some people are giving up bread, potatoes, and pasta in
pursuit of better health. Should you?
The Low-Carb Craze
If you ask a dozen people, including medical professionals, to de;ne a low- carb diet, you’ll likely hear 12 different
answers. For some, it’s an eating plan that
swaps re;ned grain products (such as white
pasta) with their whole-grain cousins (such
as whole-wheat pasta). Others say such
a diet demands that you give up cereal,
bread, potatoes—and other carbohydrate-
On the surface, it seems that a diet
lower in carbohydrate—the nutrient that
has the biggest effect on blood glucose
levels—would bene;t people with diabetes, who need to manage
those levels for optimal health. Cutting carbohydrate, particularly
when it comes from sugar and re;ned grains, can help people
with diabetes manage weight and their blood glucose. But the
notion of a low-carb diet is poorly de;ned and commonly
“When people tell me they are following a low-carb diet, they are
usually still eating fruit, dairy, beans, and even whole grains—in
other words, not low carb at all,” says Lori Zanini, RD, a registered
dietitian based in Manhattan Beach, California, and a
spokeswoman for the Association of;Nutrition and Dietetics. To
give you an idea of how carbs add up, consider that a medium apple
has 25;grams of carbohydrate, a serving of cannellini beans (½;cup)
has 18;grams, a serving of canned corn (½;cup) has 9;grams, and a
small slice of whole-wheat bread has 15 grams.
“For people with diabetes, I de;ne low carb as less than
120;grams a day,” says Jessica Crandall, RD, the wellness director at
food-service company Sodexo in Denver. That number isn’t
arbitrary; Crandall says this recommendation has been established
through research as well as her own experience with adult clients.
She says that 120;grams of carb per day provides adequate glucose
to fuel your brain.
But your brain doesn’t need to get it all from carb sources,
says William Yancy, MD, associate professor of medicine and
director of the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center in
Durham, North Carolina. On a strict lower-carb eating plan—say,
somewhere around 20 or 50;grams per day—the brain will get
glucose from alternate sources, such as through the breakdown
of protein and fat.