Obesity has unfortunately become one of the major causes of heart disease especially among the younger generation. The average age of experiencing the first heart attack is continuously reducing, all thanks to obesity, stress, bad eating habits, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. So, what is the solution? Conventional wisdom says stay away from fatty food and all should be good. But, new studies show that this might not be the ideal solution. A recent study found out that reducing your carbohydrate intake is more beneficial for your health and heart than just staying away from fatty food.
What is carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are sugars which breakdown in the body to provide energy to our organs, muscles and other cells, in the form of glucose. A healthy body produces insulin and glucagon to regulate this glucose level and keep our blood sugar level in check. Unlike protein and fat, our body does not essentially require carbohydrates. Glucose can also be manufactured from protein and fat, carbohydrates are just an easier way of getting it done.
Do you know the different types of carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are of three kinds. However, not all carbohydrates are bad; some are definitely more beneficial than the others.
The three kinds of carbohydrates are:
- Starch (also known as complex carbohydrate)
Foods that contain starch are:
- Vegetables like peas, potatoes and corn.
- Dried legumes and lentils like kidney beans, split beans, black eyed peas, etc.
- Grains such as oats, barley and rice.
Sugar is available in two forms:
- Naturally occurring sugar in fruits, milk, etc.
- Added sugars such as those used in processed canned foods and preserves.
Fiber is derived only from plant sources. Fiber contributes to our digestive health. Foods rich in fiber are:
- Fruits and vegetables especially those with edible seeds and skin.
- Whole grains and any products made of whole grains such as pasta, bread and cereals.
- Nuts – groundnuts/ peanuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc.
How much carbohydrate do we need?
This is definitely not a simple question to answer. Different individuals need different quantities – it’s not a one size fits all. Heck, even, different doctors will have different answers! The dietary guideline for Americans recommends an amount between 225 and 325 grams a day.
The general consensus is that we should eat fewer carbohydrates but ensure that the amount we eat comes from high-quality sources such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.
How is a low carb diet helpful?
Carbs are great for spiking our energy level but isn’t good for our waistline. When we eat a lot of carbs, our body is forced to produce more insulin to regulate the glucose level. When this happens, our body starts storing this extra fuel for future use, which leads to the extra pounds! So, if we need to reduce weight and help our heart, we need to cut down on the amount of carbs we eat. We need to be careful about the amount and type of carbs we eat. A low carb diet of essential carbohydrates lowers our sugar and starch intake, however a low carb, high protein and fat diet is also not a good option.
According to Dr. T Jared Bunch, MD, a low carb diet essentially helps us in the following way:
- A low carb diet is better than a low-fat diet, if you want to lose more weight and reduce your waist circumference.
- If you have heart disease in your family, a low carb diet is likely a better choice as it can reduce risk over time. The low fat diets alone do not appear to reduce risk.
- If you have elevated markers of inflammation in your blood tests, diet choices may help reduce these.
Ultimately, it’s all about your diet – too much or too little of anything is bad for our health and heart. The idea is to eat what is good for us in moderate proportions and exercise daily to maintain a healthy heart.