I’ve occasionally followed assorted carnivore foodbros and low-carb types on the Internet (where all every piece of information you find is true, clearly) who insist that veggies and fruits and things are bad. Foods from plants are evil and make you fat. Because they have carbohydrates, which make you fat. Obviously. At least, according to these guys and gals. Since I’m an auditor by trade and trained to treat things with a bit of skepticism, I’ve always seen this as just a tad suspect.
Of course, those who rend animal flesh in their teeth aren’t the only ones who do this sort of thing. For example, there are vegetarians who will spend all day reminding us that meat causes impotence. Which isn’t quite right. What’s actually true is that cholesterol can cause impotence. Which is certainly common in meat, but how much cholesterol you get depends on which kind of meat you eat, how much you eat, how much you exercise, and various other things.
Now that I’m tracking my food and vitamins and minerals and so forth, I’ve seen that they’re both wrong. You can eat meat and be healthy and lose weight, and you can eat carbs and be healthy and lose weight. My results at my last three doctor’s appointments prove this. And some of those carbs that the keto types scoff at have plenty of good nutrients. So I ignore both of these food fashions. I’m “based” like that, as the young folks say these days. Which apparently refers to someone who resists the latest fads and just does whatever they want.
Neither one of these dietary philosophies works for me. I’ve noticed that I often feel hungry again shortly after a meal if I don’t eat meat. And the same happens if I don’t eat carbs. If I have both, I feel satisfied and stay that way for some time. This is what diet gurus call “satiety”. Which I think is an asininely pretentious and trendy word. I prefer to say “full”. Saying “I’m full” sends the message clear as day, while saying “I’ve achieved satiety” makes me feel like a part of my soul withered away along with some or all of my man card.
Anyway, this is why I take a hard pass on low-carb or vegetarian diets. And I could talk at great length about the meats I love and all of the ways they are good for you. But that would probably take several posts, so I’ll save that for another time. For now, I’ll go into all of the various things I add to my food that would set a keto/carno acolyte’s hair on fire.
Some of my favorite dishes are served over something carbalicious. Like jambalaya, the sumptuous cajun dish served over rice that pleases taste buds and clears sinuses with bioweapon levels of pepper and spice. Or assorted Italian things that bury noodles in cheese and tomatoes and meat and things. Although I have mentioned before that the cheese can be a problem if you’re not careful. And then there’s always plain old beef stew, a meat and potatoes dish (usually served over rice) that pleases the Irish genes I have. The point is, my meals need to be served over some kind of base, or else I don’t feel full.
Anti-carb fanatics on Twitter would be horrified by anything involving rice, noodles, or potatoes. And I’ve heard all sorts of lectures about how these are bad, which are then challenged by equally fervent insistence from others that this is not the case. I’ve also seen many fanatical keyboard warriors engaged in brutal conflicts around why meat is good or bad. So, as usual, the Internet is a blood-soaked battle ground of warring ideas that seems to get nowhere. Two sides firmly entrenched and barely making any progress. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just confused. So I ignore this stuff and do what works for me.
I’ve mentioned before that some of these diet bros will swear up and down that their way is the One True Diet, and all who fail to conform to their ways will suffer and die. But none of their ideas work for me. And what does work for me has been panned by many of the ecclesiasts of eating healthy, whether they follow the Way of The Meat Eater or are high priests of The Church Of Cruelty-Free Eating.
I’ve heard tell that calorie counting doesn’t work, but tell that to the gut I don’t have any more. I’ve heard that carbs cause you to get fat, but my test results say otherwise. I’ve heard that meat is no good, but my blood pressure and cholesterol and weight are fine. Meat over a based of carbs is getting great results. So let’s dive into why the carbs are not to be feared.
Let’s start with the two fundamental food bases: Rice and pasta. I went over the advantages of rice at great length in a previous post. And as for pasta, a cup of cooked pasta (of almost any kind: spaghetti, angel hair pasta, orzo, etc.) has about 200 calories. It’s also high on folate (vitamin B9), and certain other B vitamins. But those aren’t hard to come by for any decent omnivore or carnivore. The meat we put on top will probably provide more of the vitamin B types than the pasta we put it on. So that, in and of itself, isn’t all that impressive.
Fortunately, that’s not the whole story. Pasta also brings with it a decent chunk of copper, iron, manganese, and about two thirds of the daily selenium requirements. These not only help me feel full, but they’re not empty calories at all. Pasta isn’t bad for you at all, no matter what the Dark Lords of Adkins tell you.
And if you’re inclined for the all-natural, less processed stuff that’s popular amongst people who wear love beads and bathe infrequently, that’s actually even better. Whole wheat is always better than white, whether it be pasta, bread, or whatever. And whole wheat pasta has the same stuff as regular pasta, just moreso. In addition, a cup will have 18% of my daily magnesium requirements (which is relatively hard to come by, as I’ve noted before) and 17% of the zinc I need. And this shouldn’t come as a surprised. One thing the assorted diet bros and snooty vegetarians do have a point of rare agreement on is that overly processed food isn’t so great. So the less processed whole wheat stuff is way better.
And then there’s ramen noodles, the go to of poor college students or the culinarily hopeless who can’t cook anything else. They’re not so great, though. Nutrition wise, they have the same stuff as white pasta, but less. Except for sodium. They have way more sodium. It’s a wonder the Japanese aren’t constantly dropping dead from heart attacks. For those of us who don’t care for high blood pressure and can afford to pay more that 25 cents or so for a serving of noodles, we should avoid ramen noodles and have some other kind.
And there’s always the fancy super food loved by highfaluting people who think a latte counts as coffee and that mimosas count as alcoholic beverages. And that is quinoa, the South American grain (Yes, I know it isn’t really a grain) that is currently in vogue with people who shop too often at Trader Joe’s. Quinoa has 220 calories or so and a smattering of B vitamins, much like rice and pasta. Except vitamin B12. You can’t get B12 without being a murderer under vegan law. Unless, as I’ve noted before, you eat the seaweed Japanese wrap sushi in. Or take a supplement. But taking supplements is cheating.
I digress, though. Quinoa also has about 40% of my daily copper allowance, a third of the iron I need, a quarter of the magnesium, half of the manganese, and 40% of the phosphorus RDA. Brief diversity and inclusion interlude here, though. The RDA I use applies to a man who is…of a certain age, of average height, and weighs about 195 pounds. Your own requirements may vary based on sex, height, weight, age, etc.. I suggest using an app like Cronometer to figure that out. But my main point is quinoa is pretty good, even if it is pretentious as hell.
But if you are a vegan who is also of the low-carb variety, you need not despair. There is a way to have based food without murder or carbs. And that is, spaghetti squash. When you tear the guts out of this living thing (which is totally not murder, I guess) the innards come out in spaghetti-like strings. Hence the name. This adds some bulk that makes you feel full (or makes you “achieve satiety” if you’re feeling overly ostentatious), but isn’t overwhelmingly nutritious. It has a little bit of everything, usually in the 5-10% range. Except there’s no D and B12, since it contains no fish fat or dead animals or sunlight. On the other hand, it only has 40 calories. So overall the nutrients you get for the price you pay in calories are a bargain.
And there’s another grain that I was always quite familiar with, but only in liquid form. Which contributed significantly to my weight gain. And that is barley. A steamed cup of this has 193 calories, the usual assortment of B vitamins, maybe 40% of my daily selenium, one sixth of the phosphorus and iron I need, about 10% of my magnesium requirements, and a quarter of the copper I need. So that’s not bad at all. The only downside is that every time I eat it, I realize I prevented beer from happening. So the shame makes it almost not worth it.
And for people who think that Pabst Blue Ribbon (the only beer for which steamed barley is a preferable substitute) counts as beer (I.E. weirdo hipsters, not to be redundant) there’s the grain known as farro. Much loved amongst virtue signallers of the world who like to find ways to remind everyone of their superiority. But despite it’s absurd grandiosity, farro isn’t bad. For a price of only 170 calories, I’ll get 90% of my manganese RDA, a sixth of my magnesium, 20% of my iron, two-thirds of my selenium, about a quarter of my copper needs, and the usual trace bits of B vitamins. Except B12. You’ll need a dead animal on top for that. Or the aforementioned Japanese nori.
One thing my wife introduced me to recently was sadza. Which is cornmeal. Where she’s from, they steam the stuff and serve it with meat and veggies. Then they’ll grab a hunk of the cornmeal, shape it into a cup, and dig up the meat and veggies with it. When I want to annoy her (which is often) I call it “African nachos”. Which is more or less what it is. The only difference is that in Zimbabwe they steam the cornmeal instead of frying it. The manner of eating is the same. And so is the overall messiness.
Anyway corn meal (or sadza, or whatever) has about 220 calories in a cup. It includes about 20% of my daily magnesium and phosphorus, about a quarter of my iron needs, and the usual panoply of B vitamins. Except B12, obviously. You’ll need to commit vegan murder for that. So overall, not bad.
In response to my wife’s sharing of sadza, I chose to share the southerner’s equivalent of sadza; grits. Thankfully, she didn’t divorce me. Yet. I keep having to explain that grits are supposed to be slightly runny and…not have flavor. Grits are not something you eat for flavor, they’re something you add flavor to. Like eggs and bacon and cheese and hot sauce and sausage and peppers and onions and bacon and more bacon. Sadly, my wife still doesn’t understand this, no matter how much extra bacon I add. So, I’ve concluded that she must simply hate America.
Anyway, grits brings about a third of my daily folate requirements, roughly half of the thiamine I need (that’s vitamin B1 for the great unwashed and uninitiated), 15% of the selenium RDA, one sixth of the iron and most other B vitamins come in at 5-15%. Not bad for 180 calories.
One brief pro-tip here with the grains. These are the nutrient counts for one cup of cooked stuff. The way these work is you add water and steam them, and they grow in volume. I used to make myself a full cup of raw rice, add water, and end up with two cups of cooked rice. I thought I was eating 200 calories or so, when it was more like 400 to 600. This was back when I was a bachelor, and as I’ve noted before, I had stupid habits back then. But you should pay careful attention to the portions. One half (or even one third) a cup of dry grain can result in a much greater volume of cooked grain.
Anyway, there’s one last thing to cover. The staple food of the diet that some of my distant ancestors ate regularly. Not the ones who ate haggis and threw telephone poles around. I’m talking about the ones who drank too much whiskey and routinely engaged in fratricidal civil wars and have a disproportionately high number of soulless people (Read: Gingers) among them.
I’m talking about the Irish, of course. And potatoes, obviously. Potatoes, in diced, mashed, or otherwise form, make a good base for anything. A cup of this carries a chunk of various B vitamins (noticing a pattern here?), including a big chunk (30% or so) of vitamin B6. This much also has a sixth of my copper and iron requirements, not quite 10% of the magnesium, just over 10% of the manganese and phosphorus I need, and maybe 20% of the potassium. All for just over 100 calories. Overall, pretty healthy. Although there’s a downside if you fry them in oil or mash and douse them in butter, though, as I’ve noted before.
So anyway, those are the bases I use in my food which would drive an anti-carb activist up a wall. Now, I don’t think the keto types are crazy, since I know many people have cured or treated various diseases and conditions with it. After all, the keto diet was designed to treat epilepsy. So it’s always useful as a medical treatment. But I just can’t do low carb myself, and don’t think anyone should feel obligated to avoid these things. If I don’t get some carbs with my meat and veggies, I’ll just want to eat again.
I’ve been told I’m “based” for eschewing the diet trends, but I have no choice. Because my food has to be based to keep me satisfied. Based on rice, noodles, potatoes, or some other things that would cause an anti-carb bro to quake in abject fear or rage. My food is based. Based as f*ck. So apologies to my low-carb, keto, carnivore pals. Rice and potatoes and noodles will continue to be a part of my diet.
And to my vegan and vegetarian pals, I’ll continue to have meat on top of the carbs. Because that makes me full too. I know you have all sorts of data about how terrible meat is. It’s not, though. And I know there’s all sorts of reasons that killing woodland creatures is terrible. I’ve seen you tweet endlessly about them. But I come from a long, proud tradition of omnivorism (not sure that’s a word), and I’m perfectly comfortable with my position at the top of the food chain.
But that’s beside the point. The point is, we should not be afraid to eat carbs. Let’s be clear. I am by no means pushing a high carb diet. But there’s no need for a low carb diet. I’ve always pushed for broadly low calorie, high nutrient diets, because that’s what works, and tends to be what’s supported by mainstream science. And we can all do that with a diet that includes rice, pasta, and potatoes. So for those of us that just want to lose weight and be healthy and don’t want gimmicks, make sure your diet is based like mine.
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