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Think shunning carbohydrates means leaving cookies and bread behind? Think again. A new crop of low-carb foods is putting cookies and more -- pretzels, ice cream, even beer -- back on the menu for the carb-conscious. But are these carb-free snacks really better for you than their full-carb counterparts? Not if you're replacing healthy foods with low-carb junk food, says Julie Walsh, American Dietetic Association spokesperson.
She also warns that though Atkins-sanctioned snacks may be low in carbs, they can also be high in saturated fat, which contributes to high cholesterol. But how do manufacturers get the carbs out? The secret lies in the ingredients. Rather than using white flour, which quickly breaks down to sugars in the body, low-carb snacks are made with soy, rye, or almond flour. These alternative flours do contain carbohydrates, but in the form of resistance starches. These starches act like fiber, passing through the body undigested and only minimally affecting blood sugar levels, says Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine, in Orono.
Before loading up on these munchies, know that there are drawbacks. Altering ingredients often means altering taste and texture. Also, resistance starches aren't easily digested, so eating too much may cause bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort, says Dr. Camire. She suggests introducing these foods into your diet slowly.