When the Atkins diet craze was in full swing some vegetables (potatoes) got a bad rap for having such a high carbohydrate level. As a result, some people stopped eating them altogether. Then people began to realize that there are unpleasant side effects, such as exhaustion, hair loss and bad breath, from consuming too few carbohydrates. Now most people understand the need to watch the carb count of their foods without completely eliminating them from their diets. So, which vegetables are high in carbohydrates and which are low?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s low-carbohydrate diets were sweeping the nation. An estimated 18% of Americans were on a low-carbohydrate diet during the height of the low-carb craze. The most well known of those diets is the one created by Dr. Robert Atkins. The Atkins diet calls for an “induction” phase during which dieters are on a severely limited amount of carbohydrates and a pronounced increase in protein consumption to kick start the diet.
The main complaint against the original Atkins diet was that Dr. Atkins’s premise was based on hearsay evidence and not scientific research. Subsequent studies returned contradictory results. In 2008 there was a review of controlled studies that compared weight-loss results from both a low-carbohydrate diet versus low-fat/calorie diets. This review concluded that low-carbohydrate diets were at least as effective if not more so than low-fat/calorie diets at creating weight loss for up to one year. However, more long-term research is still pending.
The following carbohydrate counts are based on 1/2-cup portions of chopped vegetables:
- Broccoli – 2 grams
- Cauliflower – 1.5 grams
- Red Peppers – 3 grams
- Onions – 6 grams
- Tomatoes – 2.5 grams
- Potato (medium) – 35 grams
- Potato (large) – 60 grams
- Peas (1/2 cup cooked) – 8 grams
- Corn (large ear) – 27 grams
- Corn kernels (1/2 cup canned) – 14 grams
Since our bodies use carbohydrates to create energy, some critics complain that a diet with very restrictive carbohydrate levels can cause fatigue. There have been instances of people who have stayed in the induction phase of the Atkins diet beyond the recommended two weeks and have had side effects ranging from bad breath to hair loss. Debate still rages because low-carbohydrate diets have not been around long enough to know their success rate over the long term. However, it is generally accepted wisdom that low-carbohydrate diets are both effective and safe as long as dieters do not stay in the most restrictive phase longer than the diets recommend.
Some people think that if cutting back on high-carbohydrate vegetables is good, then cutting them out of their diet completely is better. Since carbohydrates are so vital to our bodies, remember that eliminating any vegetable completely from your diet is neither necessary nor wise.