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Cut Carbs—Not Fat—to Save Your Heart

While we’ve long been told to lay off the fat, new studies support growing evidence that too many carbohydrates pose the real threat to heart health.

Scientists have known for hundreds of years the heart is the engine of the body, but they’re still learning just how deadly the wrong fuel can be.

Heart disease remains the number-one killer in the world, and two recent studies examined how eating the wrong types of food fuels those deaths. They both found that a poor diet contributes to nearly half of all deaths in America from heart and blood vessel diseases.

The first study, published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, discovered that poor nutrition lead to more than 318,000 deaths from heart disease in 2012. The second study, presented last year at an American Heart Association conference, came to a similar conclusion: Diet was linked to more than 400,000 deaths from heart and blood vessel diseases in 2015.

Those are scary numbers, huh? As we continue to celebrate American Heart Month this February, let’s take a closer look at how diet can either help or hurt the heart.

Eliminate the Fat on Your Body, Not Your Plate

Low-carb eating appears to help people lose nearly twice as much “heart fat” than a low-fat diet. “Heart fat” is known to doctors as pericardial fat—something that puts you at great risk for heart disease. These studies also show that cutting carbs, more than cutting fat, can increase HDL (good) cholesterol and help reduce the fat around the waistline.

A good way to go low carb is with the Mediterranean Diet. With just a few easy changes to your food choices, you could drastically improve your heart health and lower the number on your scale:

  • Steer clear of added sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup found in most processed foods.
  • Cut refined carbs like white bread, pasta, and white rice.
  • Get your carbs from whole grains and beans.
  • Eat loads of colorful vegetables, especially green, leafy ones to load up on vitamin K2.
  • Stick to one or two servings of low-sugar fruit per day, like berries, apples, or pears.
  • Pack in the protein. Quality is key, though—avoid processed meats, and choose fresh local, organic and/or grass-fed meats instead.
  • Fill up on healthy fats, including full-fat dairy products, nuts, avocados, and healthy oils like olive and coconut oil.

As always, you should talk with your doctor before making any changes in your diet.

Listen to Your Body

The number of grams of carbohydrates you should be consuming differs greatly depending on the article you’re reading, so it’s critical to pay attention to what your body is telling you.

If you notice side effects like fatigue, cramps, moodiness, muscle weakness, or trouble sleeping, you may want to consider adding in more carbs to see if symptoms subside. Simply adding an additional 20 to 30 grams of carbs each day (one piece of fruit or a starchy vegetable) may make a big difference in how you feel. Additionally, make sure you’re not under-eating calories in general—this can cause all sorts of unfavorable reactions in your body.

The bottom line: Each person will react differently to a low-carb diet. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and listen to what your body’s telling you to make any dietary adjustments necessary.

For more information on keeping your heart healthy or to schedule an appointment to discuss any heart concerns you may have, contact the caring providers of CCHC Heart and Vascular Specialists at 252-63-HEART (634-3278).

(Sources: Popular Science; The Dallas Morning News; American Heart Association; Journal of the American Medical Association; U.S. News and World Report; and Easy Health Digest.)