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Carb crossfire: Paltrow under attack for feeding family healthy food

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CRITICS are quick to crucify Gwyneth Paltrow for what she feeds her children.

She "lets her kids go hungry," exclaims a headline on Tribute.ca. A photo caption on the Daily Mail website reads "Happy hungry family: Gwyneth Paltrow has admitted that she starves her children of carbohydrates."

What has triggered the supposed scandal? It’s her new cookbook, It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great.

In her book, the tall, blond and slender Oscar-winning actress — known for following a macrobiotic diet— reportedly writes that she tries to avoid feeding her family refined carbohydrates.

And occasionally her kids and husband — Apple, 8, Moses, 6, and Coldplay singer Chris Martin — are left wanting more.

"Sometimes when my family is not eating pasta, bread or processed grains like white rice, we’re left with that specific hunger that comes with avoiding carbs," web sources cite her as saying.

News reports are blowing her statement about carbohydrates out of proportion.

Paltrow does feed her kids carbs. (Carbohydrates — with the exception of fibre — are foods that turn into glucose/ sugar when digested). Carbs provide energy for the brain and body.

The "hunger" she talks about is probably the withdrawal that many people get with they cut bagels, cookies and sugar from their diets. Scientists say fast-acting, unhealthy carbs trigger the brain to release dopamine and serotonin — the same hormones released when a druguser gets his fix of cocaine or heroin. The critics are missing the point that vegetables, fruits, brown rice and beans, reported staples in the Paltrow-Martin kitchen, are, indeed, carbohydrates. They’re just the healthy kind — the kind that isn’t processed in a factory their until their nutrients are stripped away. The carbs that Paltrow favours are released slowly into the bloodstream and don’t spike bloodsugar levels as quickly as their processed counterparts. Generally, these slow-acting carbs don’t use up as much insulin. Insulin, while a necessary hormone, helps the body store fat around the belly when released in excess. The news about Paltrow’s diet quirks should have us thinking about how most parents feed their kids. A fitting headline about that subject would read something like this: "Obese kids face early death; millions of parents deny blame as they force high-fat, high-sugar, high-chemical diet on children."

It’s easy to pick on Paltrow. She’s exceptionally beautiful — and her long, lean body is not what you’d see on the typical North American, a continent with a 25 to 35 per cent obesity rate, according to Statistics Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

But Paltrow’s stunningly svelte physique doesn’t mean that she’s starving her kids.

It’s fair to question why she sees fit to take gluten out of their diets, as she says her doctor recommended. (Gluten is a protein found in wheat flour that certain people can’t digest).

But the bigger picture? Her "controversial" macrobiotic diet that she reportedly followed for years is nothing outrageous. It’s just a healthy plant-based diet, one that most heart experts would recommend as heart-preserving.

So-called macrobiotic foods include whole grains, veggies, seaweed, beans, fish, nuts and seeds — all nutrientdense foods. That’s a diet full of carbs, healthy, non-animalbased fats and protein.

Kids fed such a diet would be well-nourished and a long way from starving.

Kids consistently fed Kraft Dinner, white bread, Chicken McNuggets, sugary drinks, pancakes, french fries, candy and Lunchables are the ones who are deprived. Even if they do overeat, they’re actually starving of the nutrients that help them grow and ward off sickness.

Earlier this month, Dr. Sharon Mulvagh, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Women’s Heart Clinic spoke at a Winnipeg conference on heart health.

She made it clear that refined carbs — the kind Paltrow avoids feeding her family — contribute to heart disease, possibly as much as saturated fat. (Apparently glucose restricts blood flow reserves to the heart).

What does this have to do with kids?

Winnipeg pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Heather Dean first noticed Type 2 diabetes in children in the 1980s. Her findings shocked the medical community. They were used to seeing kids get Type 1 diabetes, a non-preventable and possibly auto-immune condition.

Type 2 diabetes was an adult disease, metabolic chaos often brought on by a diet high in refined carbs and a lack of exercise, she has told the Free Press on more than one occasion.

Dean says her young Type 2 diabetes patients face "adult" diabetes complications such as kidney failure and lower limb amputation. These are devastating consequences often due to a diet high in refined carbs (which lead to high blood sugars).

Aside from avoiding white bread, Paltrow has reportedly decided to steer clear of certain starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, explaining that they aren’t full of the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals found in other foods.

This might seem questionable to some people.

As someone with Type 1 diabetes, I understand. Potatoes raise my blood-sugar levels through the roof and require me to take extra insulin. The proof is in the blood-sugar test I take after eating them.

And since when can’t you get the nutrients found in potatoes elsewhere?

Why are parents who feed their kids beans, vegetables and fruit more worthy of criticism than parents who think it’s safe to fill their kitchens with Lucky Charms, chips and TV dinners?

 

Have a interesting story idea you’d like Shamona to write about? Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca.

 

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