All that glitters is not gold. (Yes, yes, English majors, I know it's really "glisters.") Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. Surely there's some other hoary old cliche for the inside not matching the outside? Oh, yeah: Don't judge a book by its cover.

There it was at the Goodwill the other day: A pretty, shiny hardcover book, complete with dust jacket and bright pretty pictures, with the title splashed across the front: The Low-Carb Bible. For $1.98, I had to pick it up.

What a disappointment. Beyond that: What a crock.

The cover claims "Your all-in-one guide to successful low-carb dieting," "Reviews of popular low-carb diets, including: Atkins, South Beach, Sugar Busters! and more," and "Tools to help you design a low-carb diet that suits you best." Not to mention "More than 150 scrumptious low-carb recipes." Sounds great, huh?

What we find inside, however, looks as if it were written to put people off low carb diets, not to encourage them to succeed at them. A selection of quotes follows:

"There are thousands of diets to help you lose fat. What works best? The National Weight Control Registry is a research project that has identified nearly 4000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept them off for at least a year. How do they do it? About half of them loast weight on their onw, while the other half used a formal weight loss program or onsulted a healthy professional for guidance. No matter what their method for initial weight-loss, participants continue to follow a low calorie, low fat diet to keep the pounds off."

"Even the less extreme of the low-carb plans may be unsafe because they restrict certain foods that help fight disease."

"... forgoing whole grains may increase your chances of developing diabetes and heart disease."

"Diets high in red meat and low in fiber may also increase cancer risk. Additionally, a low carb diet may be missing many of the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals."

"Myth: It's possible to live off of foods such as steak, eggs, butter, and cream and maintain good health. Reality: Most animal foods pack saturated fat and cholesterol, which contribute to clogged arteries."

"Fortified grains (Dana's note: by this they mean refined, enriched crap) provide folic acid, a B vitamin linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke."

This "bible" specifically warns that diabetics should not eat a low carb diet, which is damned near genocidal. It insists that low carbers should eat 2-3 servings of whole grains daily, because they "promote a feeling of fullness." It also recommends 5 servings of fruit per day -- pushing all this fructose while also recommending that gout-sufferers not eat a low carb diet. Since the evidence is that it is fructose, not meat, that increases uric acid levels in gout sufferers, they should avoid this version of a "low carb" diet, at least!

Some of the food substitutions recommended by this "low-carb bible?" Instead of Rice Chex, eat Wheat Chex. Instead of a bagel, have oat bran bread. Instead of instant oatmeal, have quick-cooking oatmeal. Like any of this lowers carb count. Oh, and for some reason they recommend you swap out your bottled Italian dressing for balsamic vinegar and oil; I have no idea what that's about.

But it's the recipes that really take my breath away, not to mention my appetite. Omelets with margarine, low fat cottage cheese, and Egg Beaters. A brunch frittata with frozen hash browns in it, along with those fake eggs again. Soup with ramen noodles. Salad with packaged croutons. Barbecued salmon with sugary KC Masterpiece Barbecue Sauce. Pasta meatball soup, with breadcrumbs in the meatballs, and regular white flour pasta. Blackened chicken salad with 2 cups of cubed French or sourdough bread in just four servings. It goes on and on and on.

Fat free and fat-reduced products are recommended -- low fat cheese, fat free broth and the like -- while other recipes specify whipping cream. Go figure.

The brand names come thick and fast -- not just Egg Beaters and KC Masterpiece, but Fleischman's Margarine, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Contadina canned tomatoes, Guiltless Gourmet Roasted Red Pepper Salsa, Butterball Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Fillets (like it matters what brand of chicken breast you use), Bird's Eye frozen vegetable blends. It's hard to believe that this book was not financed by the food processing industry in an attempt to cash in on the low carb trend, while simultaneously steering people away from it. I find it telling that it came out in 2003, just as interest in low carb was at its zenith, and the major food processors were scrambling to adjust. It's easy to imagine that books of this nature were part of why a year later we were hearing "Low carb is dead."

It's very difficult to imagine how this book could be any worse. Thank heaven I only paid $1.98.

I'm going to go coat some non-Butterball boneless, skinless chicken in almond meal, fry it in butter, and serve it in a cheese-and-cream sauce. How about you?

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low-carb blasphamy

Wasn't that the most awful book? Bible my bulbous butt! I'm just glad I only paid 25 cents for it at a garage sale. When I saw flour & sugar in so many recipes, I had to recheck the front cover.

To my shame, I did pass it on to a thrift store instead of chucking it where it belonged.

A well intentioned friend

A well intentioned friend gave me this book one year for Christmas. I gave it to Goodwill. Do you suppose they ship stuff out to different states to sell?

Two of the most enlightening

Two of the most enlightening and edifying exposes I've ever read about, concerning the American diet are "The History of Alloxan" and "The Dark Side of Wheat". If ever there was a reason to Hold the Toast, especially if it's made from Wheat or Rye based breads these top the list, IMO.


I did the same thing, with the same book- only it was $5 at a school book fair- on the clearance rack! It is so off, especially after having been educated by yourself on the matter- but the pictures are pretty and it could be a healthy exercise to put it in your bathroom and when you have "extra time" decide how one could actually make the recipes low-carb. Am I weird? It's fun for me, the pictures are pretty, and I don't read so often when I am about that kind of business that the novelty of it wears off. :)

Rewriting the recipes

Since quite a lot of what I do is take other people's recipes and figure out ways to cut out the carbs, yeah, I could, and likely will, do that with some of the recipes in this book.

Indeed, I find non-low-carb cookbooks more useful than low carb cookbooks for my purposes. I mean, I'm not going to just steal someone else's low carb recipe. Recipes that have to be changed to be okay for us are raw material for me.

Still, I shudder to think of the people who picked up this book hoping it would teach them to low carb for weight loss and improved health. I have the sinking feeling that many of them are among the people who now say, "Yeah, I tried a low carb diet; it didn't work for me." Atkins wept.

It's all so familiar...

This reminds me of a booklet I got at the grocery store many years ago. Looking back at my blog, it was 2004, and the booklet was from Kraft -- the title was, “Counting Carbs? Count on Kraft.”

Inside were such gems as:

“Carbohydrate fuels our brain and muscles; 130g a day is the minimum required for brain function (aim for 45-65% of calories).”

“Health experts also raise concerns over nutritional inadequacies and potential long-term negative health effects, such as kidney problems and bone loss, if carbs are severely limited.”

The recipes involved lots of potatoes, rice, grains, beans, and other carblicious items, as well as low-fat dairy and margarine.

books full of bologna

Now and then I get a turkey of a book like that, too. I really love books and I love to pass them on to someone else when I am finished with them, and I also like to support my library's thrift store. But really awful books that like that one, with such dreadful information that can actually worsen someone's health (when they are trying to improve their health) belong in the trash bin. "Bible" or not, I hope you bin that awful book instead of recycling it back to Goodwill.