I admit it, I love carbs, and it does pain me to write this piece today. I grew up eating so much good pasta (from spaghetti to egg fettuccine) and so many great rice dishes that these types of carbs have become centerpieces of my every week diet. For many years I scoffed at those low carb diets as a dieter's "easy way out" of having to exercise and eat right. But it seems that low carb diets are actually heart healthy.
A study done by Temple University's Center for Obesity Research and Education found that dieters who followed low-carb or low-fat plans for two years along with a lifestyle modification program lost the same amount of weight -- on average about 7% of their body weight or 15 pounds. But throughout the two-year study, low-carbohydrate dieters had significantly increased HDL, or "good," cholesterol levels compared to low-fat dieters. High levels of HDL are positively associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease.
Refined carbohydrates are high in starch and sugars and may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease. However, not all carbs are bad, carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans are staples for a healthy diet and promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.
Saturated fats are another food group that garnered very bad press when it comes to your cholesterol. Saturated fats have been showed time and again to have a negative impact on heart health, but when consumed in a diet low in carbs, saturated fats do not affect the arteries or blood sugar. High levels of blood sugar and insulin (which are carb-driven) cause the storage of excess fat, the higher levels of fat in the bloodstream and the higher chance of arterial inflammation causing cholesterol problems.
Saturated fats have many positive factors and our bodies make significant use of saturated fats. Things like coconut oil have shown to fight viruses and raise HDL; Butter contains vitamins A and D which defends against cancer; and Lard, of all things, is rich in monounsaturated fat that lowers LDL (bad cholesterol). Additionally, minerals can't be properly absorbed or converted into vitamins without saturated fats.
Before I move on to "eat crow" about my early derision of low-carb diets, I want to say that as with everything moderation is key. A balanced diet (and lifestyle) that includes some carbs and fats will help you live a healthier life, and as always, don't forget to consult your doctor or cardiologist before you start any new diet or exercise plan.
Published On: October 13, 2010