Simple Carbs & Your Complex Heart

by | May 31, 2016 | Diet & nutrition

broken heart crackerWhen it comes to our most common chronic health problems – heart disease, obesity, diabetes – science continues to make it clear: Dietary fats are not the bad guy. Carbs are.

Not all of them, of course. Some important foods – vegetables, legumes, whole grains – can be downright carbalicious. But they’re also nutritional powerhouses, delivering vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that lower your risk for a whole host of health problems. (Yes, though you mostly hear about the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables, important ones are found in legumes and whole grains, too!)

Unfortunately, these aren’t the kinds of carbs that Americans tend to devour. Most come from products made of refined flour, hyper-processed grains, and potatoes. Many of those products include lots of sugars, as well. Such simple carbs are digested very quickly, sending glucose into the blood. Eaten routinely in large quantities, these become fuel for chronic inflammation – a state in which the body’s first line defense mechanism is kept on red alert.

Those three conditions listed above? Inflammatory conditions all.

Which brings us to some new research out of Vanderbilt University, which looked at the effects of carb-loading on the heart. They weren’t pretty.

A team of researchers from Vanderbilt and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) studied 33 individuals who were given an acute carbohydrate load in the form of a 264-kilocalorie shake. They studied the subjects’ blood levels for six hours looking for a number of things, chief among them whether this acute metabolic challenge could alter the heart’s production of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP). ANP is a hormone that helps the body get rid of excess salt and reduces blood pressure.

In fact, carb-loading lowered ANP production considerably – by 25% over several hours.

This isn’t just a problem for heart function, either. Low ANP production is also associated with obesity.

But I looooooooooooooooooove carbs! you may be thinking.

And that’s fine. No one is saying you have to give all of them all up forever and ever, amen. It’s when simple carbs dominate the diet that problems arise.

For Radiant Health, most of your carbs should come from vegetables, legumes, and fruits, and small amounts of whole grains if you so choose.

Need to find interesting ways to prepare them? Browse recipes online. Not sure how to prepare them at all? Take cooking classes. Need to widen your vegetable palate? Explore farmer’s markets, where you can taste foods and ask sellers for recommendations and preparation tips. (Other shoppers may jump in with suggestions of their own, too.)

There’s an incredible bounty of flavors that’s out there, just waiting for you to discover them.

Give yourself the tools you need to take your healthy eating to the next level – the level where cabbages (and all their garden-y friends) really are kings.

Image by SimonQ錫濛譙, via Flickr

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