Carbohydrates deserve a lot of love as they are very
important for our overall health and serve many beneficial roles in the body.
Currently, carbs are getting demonized and many people are avoiding some of the
most nutrient- and vitamin-packed foods because of misconceptions and fear.
During American Heart Month when the focus is usually on sodium and dietary
fat, let’s explore how superstar carbohydrates can positively influence heart
Fiber is the winning component to the important health
benefits of carbohydrates. A fiber-rich eating plan – with high-fiber whole
grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, and nuts –has been linked to
a lower risk for obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
Eating high-fiber carbohydrates has been proven to help you proven to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight,
which is extremely important for heart health. Excess weight puts added strain
on the heart, and raises cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels. Fruits
and vegetables are high in both fiber and water content, which helps fill up
your stomach to help you feel more satisfied with a smaller amount of calories
than higher calorie food with less filling power. Did you know that fiber is
not digested? This means that it provides very few calories to the body. The
combination of filling-power and high fiber content makes high-fiber carbs a
great addition to help you get to a weight that is best for your heart.
Healthy carbs are also linked to improving cholesterol and
blood pressure numbers. Research suggests that 12-33 grams of fiber per day
from food may provide these benefits, it is hard to reach those numbers on a
low carbohydrate diet. Beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber found in barley,
oats, and whole grains, has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease by
lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Two ways that soluble fiber improves heart
health include binding cholesterol so it can’t be absorbed and also forming
short-chain fatty acids which inhibits the production of cholesterol in the
liver. Win-win for your ticker!!!
Chronic inflammation and high levels of C-reactive protein
are both linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Many healthy carbs
such as colorful fruits and vegetables can protect against inflammation. These
foods are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols which are protective
against inflammation. The Mediterranean diet has been promoted as an
anti-inflammatory diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole
Unrefined, whole carbohydrates are naturally low in sodium,
saturated fat, and cholesterol. When you are planning meals and snacks, it’s
important to choose carbs that are the least processed….so think a whole piece
of fruit rather than juice and whole grains instead of unrefined grains.
Choosing these types of carbohydrates instead of refined carbs, fried foods,
and boxed and processed carbohydrate mixes (such as biscuit mix, seasoned rice,
or stuffing mixes) will help eliminate a lot of sodium, fat, and cholesterol
from your diet.
The American Heart Association recommends that at least half
of the grains you eat are whole grains with an emphasis on whole-grain
products, fruits, vegetables, beans, and peas. The goal is to get 14 grams of
fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume. These recommendations come from
years of research and have stood the test of time. Our meals at Seattle
Sutton’s Healthy Eating meet these guidelines providing adequate fiber on each
calorie level; whole, fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and low
amounts of sodium, fat, and cholesterol.
So show your heart some love during American Heart Month by
including healthful carbs and avoiding gimmicky programs that cut nutrient-dense
foods from your diet.