Let’s All Stop Freaking Out About Carbs

CeleryWhen I was at the PaleoFX conference, we were given mostly meat to eat. I was grateful for the food, but I really like vegetables and fruit. So I went to a co-op and got some celery. I was chomping on the celery stalk as I walked through the conference hall and someone actually said to me, “Whoa, vegetables!” as if I’d committed some Paleo crime.

There was such a vibe of carbs-are-the-devil at the conference that Dr. Emily Deans was actually sticking her proverbial neck out on stage when she “admitted” to having eaten a banana at breakfast.

I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous.
If you want to be “fat-adapted” and burn fat as opposed to carbs most of the time, you can still do that whilst eating LOTS of veggies and a couple pieces of fruit a day. For instance, along with lots of fat in your diet, you could eat 2 cups of green peppers, 2 cups of kale, 2 cups of cabbage, 1 cup of carrots, a cup of blackberries and a medium banana and still only be at 90 grams of carbs. Which is not a lot for most people, even for most people who are trying to lose weight, and especially for active people. In fact, 90 grams of carbs is still within the marksdailyapple.com effortless weight loss threshold. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions to this rule, but in general it seems to be the case that you can eat some carbs and still be very healthy. By the way, it would take 30 cups of raw celery to get you to 90 grams of carbs… (Info below is from myfitnesspal.com)

veggies and fruit nutritional info

Yes, Jack Kruse dislikes carbs and Ron Rosedale has research indicating that mice may reduce their lifespans with every insulin-inducing gram of carbohydrate they consume. However…

Jeanne CalmentJeanne Calment lived until she was 122 years old on a French diet (that I don’t doubt included some carbohydrates), and swore by her 2 pounds of chocolate a week, her port wine, and olive oil. So… I think longevity may have to do with a little bit more than just carbohydrate intake. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem as if Ms. Calment ever worked a day in her life, so maybe we should just all stop working and we’ll live to be supercentenarians, too.

So can we please quit freaking out about carbs? And can I please never be chastised again for eating celery of all things? It’s mostly WATER anyway.


  1. “Yes, Jack Kruse dislikes carbs and Ron Rosedale has research indicating that mice may reduce their lifespans with every insulin-inducing gram of carbohydrate they consume.”
    I still don’t understand why they still believe insulin spikes are only caused by carbs. Protein, especially from whey which has many health benefits, jacks up you insulin as much as many carboydrates. Hell, the dairy that many of these people thrive on is very insulin inducing.

  2. Well said. Of all of the diets out there… the common denominator is veggies… I say eat as many as you can! There is much to be said about variety in a diet. I suspect that it’s all about the communities that we’ve set up and are farming in our guts… they will change over time and require us to feed them differently. We should always think critically about what passes our lips, experiment with foods because we’re probably chasing a moving target in terms of what’s optimal for us individually – but most of all, take individual responsibility for our nutrition rather than being brainwashed by the masses. Do what works for you!

  3. thank god, so nice to read this. the carbphobic crew in the ancestral health community is getting whackier and whackier. i eat fruit every day. i eat sweet potatoes or some starchy vegetable every day. about 100 grams of carbs… and i’ve not keeled over, gotten fat, become metabolically deranged, or succumbed to fructose poisoning.

    it’s getting pretty nuts out there, this was a refreshing read. were you able to catch paul jaminet’s talk at the conference? i follow the perfect health diet, but don’t do the white rice.

  4. Thank you for taking a balanced approach…I find that I have to (and want to!) have vegetables and fruits in my diet. Good grief I think my digestive system would completely seize up if all I ate was meat. Seems like things are getting bit radical which I think can lead to unhealthy obsessive/compulsive behaviors in some people! This is why I love Paleo Plan…balanced, healthy and very un-disordered!

  5. Amen! I recently wrote why I hate low carb, Atkins paleo etc. just eat real food, nothing processed who can argue with that? Meat, veggies, fruit, nuts etc. carbs are not the enemy… Processed crap is! Great job

  6. Thank you Thank you Thank you for being a voice of reason. I follow what most would call a Paleo diet, but I think people make a mistake by pigeon-holing themselves with a diet label. It induces fanaticism that is unnecessary and at times unhealthy. I understand the science behind it all, however for every study proving one thing, another study can be found refuting it and nutrition is an ever-changing science.
    The key to wellness is whole, unadultered foods. What those exact foods are will be different for different people.

  7. Well said and THANK YOU for voiceing your opinion. Ever since the Paleo FX Conference we have been flooded with every Paleo “super star” that is now changing their opinion of what is right and what is wrong in the Paleo eating plan. I am so tired of all the emails and facebook posts that are suggesting what was right last week is no longer appropiate for the plan Just use some common sense, eat whole, simple, organic foods and we will all be on the road to wellness. Maybe all the Paleo “super stars” that have been given the opportunity to write cookbooks need another avenue to make more money selling yet another cookbook written by amatures.

  8. For people wanting to lose weight, there is EVERY reason to freak out about carbs. There are many people (me being one of them) who can’t lose weight on 90 carbs per day. I think the debate could be solved by doing “n=1” experiments a la Jimmy Moore. Eat fruit with your meal, then measure your blood sugar 2 hours afterwards. If you’re fine, then you can safely not freak out.

    I am one of those people with PCOS/insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, and I did not lose weight while subscribing to your Paleo Plan diet. I was eating the dried fruit and nuts and fresh fruit for snacks and some breakfasts that the PaleoPlan.com called for, and that is definitely why. I was not born with the skinny gene, and I have a lot of weight to lose, so no carbs for me.

    Have you read “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It”? It is a seriously brilliant book.

    1. Hi Natalie – I agree with you that not everyone can afford to eat a lot of carbs. In this post I said, “In fact, 90 grams of carbs is still within the marksdailyapple.com effortless weight loss threshold. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions to this rule, but in general it seems to be the case that you can eat some carbs and still be very healthy.” And I meant that. I know that some people can not even eat 50 grams of carbs without seeing a decline in their weight loss – or even some weight gain – but the majority of people are NOT diabetic like yourself. The majority of people CAN eat some carbs while still seeing weight loss and maintaining their athletic performance. That was my only point – that most people don’t need to subscribe to a ketogenic, über low carb way of eating and that this whole thing is getting blown out of proportion in my opinion. We’re not Atkins – we’re Paleo – and that means there’s a lot of variation possible in the macronutrient ratios of our diets. I meant no offense to you or anyone like you. I hope you can understand that.

  9. I started eating a diet based on real food back in January. Since then, I’ve lost around 40 pounds eating plenty of meat, eggs, starchy root veggies, and *gasp* fruit. The exaggerated fear of a macro-nutrient we’ve consumed our entire evolutionary history is just ridiculous, whether that fear is based on fat or carbs. Low carb can and does work for some, but people need to stop using dogma and pseudo-science to try to spin it as the optimal diet for everyone, because that’s simply not the case. You can say that we’d all benefit from eating real and natural foods and avoiding processed junk, but when people start saying that ketogenic or LC diets are the gold standard for everyone, I have to call bullshit.

  10. Sorry Natalie, but the “I can’t lose weight on 90g carbs a day” is hogwash. If you increase your carb content you obviously have to cut back on some protein and fat so that your calories were in range to create a deficit. That’s why you didn’t lose weight.

  11. Thanks for this post. I know that the paleo diet is the best way for me to eat, but I agree that the community seems to be focused on meat and fat but I prefer to make plants the bulk of my diet.

  12. As a pharmacist who focuses entirely on food as the source of medicine – and with a 75 pound weightloss to show for it – the thought of counting the carbs in vegetables seems absurd to me. I don’t count any carbs or any calories. I simply make vegetables the bulk of every meal and try to use meat in the traditional way of eastern/asian culutre – as a flavor, not a focus. I can say with great certainty that the benefits of eating mostly plants will greatly outweigh any harmful effects of the carbs they contain (with the exception of high starch low vitamin foods like potatoes). Meat isn’t exactly jam-packed full of phytonutrients and antioxidants in the way that plants are, and if you’re talking total health – you need those too. And don’t forget all the hydration and fiber that we need!

  13. I too am struggling with weight-loss on Paleo. I have PCOS too, but not pre diabetic according to my blood-work… to be honest.. my blood-work according to my Endocrinologist is showing I’m in PERFECT health. Hmmm, then why can I not get the fat percentage to budge ? I did Atkins before I was pregnant and it worked, they have bars and shakes to rely upon , but I think I can tweak Atkins to be more Paleo and find a way , there just is not a place for people like us who are trying to loose weight. (YET!) I’m very hopeful however that once I get to a weight I can deal with ( tear tear.. I’m still floating around 195 pounds, I miss being 140 SOO MUCH) that Paleo can help me MAINTAIN and not gain. But for now…. I’m tring to LOOSE weight and still stay conscious of health as I am responsible for my child’s eating habits and health.
    I hope for all with PCOS that you find something that works for you and you can find your way to fit into society, I’m still struggling , so if you do , please let me know. I know how devastating it is to be working so hard and wishing and hoping to have amazing transformations ( or pregnancies) . to just see the scale stay the same or our clothes fit only a tad bit better when other people are posting there before and after pictures and turning into their dreams for the same amount of work.

  14. Hannah,

    I am a dietitian and also working on my PhD in nutrition and I have PCOS as well. Paleo is the only thing that keeps my weight off. I am currently doing my dissertation on the effects of paleo on women that suffer from PCOS and putting them on my version of a paleo diet for 8 weeks. They are doing extremely well (losing 15lbs in one month with ABSOLUTELY NO exercise and some have also started their period naturally and on time which is a miracle). Keep at it with paleo, it is the ONLY thing that works longterm for PCOS. However, do not get sucked in to the notion that carbohydrates from non-starch vegetables are treated in any way the same as grains/beans/sugar/dairy. Eat as many vegetables (non starch) that you can fit in your stomach (aim for at least 1-2lbs per day) and cook them in butter or coconut oil (avoid bacon it has too many nitrates/sodium unless you get the low sodium no nitrate kind), add some meat, max 2pcs fruit a day. I actually let them eat up to 1oz of aged cheese and 6oz RED wine per day (not sweet wine). They are ALL having fantastic results when no other plan has ever worked. I know having PCOS is almost the worst thing in the world to possibly have, but don’t give up.

  15. So absurd! Thank you. I’ve mostly left “the paleo community” now because of this extreme-ness and ridiculous. It is not helpful to tell Americans they can only eat one or two things. We need to just be focusing on quality foods, nutrient dense foods, if we want to have an impact on the future of our country. Plus most of us really need a good amount of starch! I got cranky and emaciated trying to cut starch…nothankyou. I only follow Paul Jaminet now- I eat potatoes, white rice- and I have NOT gained weight and feel better than ever. No more cravings. I also believe people are sometimes afraid to really figure out what works and what doesn’t work for THEMSELVES too…because they’re constantly worrying about what “is and isn’t PALEO” instead of what “is and isn’t HEALTHFUL.” it’s absurd and it’s not helping the problem.

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