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Benefits of carbos & proteins in a heart healthy diet
We’ve been avoiding fats for years. Now the popular heart healthy diets are telling us to avoid carbohydrates, too. What’s left to eat? Confusion is nothing new in the diet world. Dietary fads come and go and come back again. A kernel of scientific fact, often taken out of context and blown out of proportion, helps these fad diets sound reasonable to the average reader, especially the chronic dieter desperate for new advice.
Do pasta and other carbohydrates really make you fat?
Obesity results from the combined influence of genetic, metabolic, environmental, behavioural and cultural factors. All of these factors can affect your energy balance, the balance between the calories you eat and drink versus the calories you burn. When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores the extra calories as fat. Therefore, too much of any foods, even carbohydrates, can make you fat. To lose weight, you must increase your energy expenditure (exercise is best for this) and eat less.
Health and fitness professionals have been urging North Americans to reduce fat intake to prevent chronic health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity. Their basic message continues to be worthwhile: Eat fewer foods high in fat, salt and sugar; eat more fruits, vegetables and grains. Unfortunately, many people have interpreted this message to mean that as long as food has little or no fat, you can eat all you want.
When this theory is applied to a plate of steamed vegetables it is almost true. After all, how many vegetables can you eat (without butter or high-fat dressings)? Most people naturally stop eating after a reasonable number of calories because high-fiber foods fill you up. But what about a box of fat-free cookies? They go down pretty easily, don’t take up much room in your stomach, and deliver a lot of calories. The bottom line is fat-free foods are not a license for overindulgence.
But I’ve read that carbohydrates can stimulate high insulin levels, which cause you to manufacture fat
Many of the new diets advocating a reduction in carbohydrate intake cast insulin as the bad guy. But insulin is not to blame; extra calories are. Here is how insulin works. As you digest a meal, nutrients are released into the bloodstream to be used as needed. When glucose, the basic building block of carbohydrates, and the “sugar” in blood sugar, enters the bloodstream, the pancreas releases insulin. Insulin, in turn, signals the cells of the body to take up glucose from the bloodstream to produce energy and manufacture glycogen, a storage form of carbohydrate that can be used to make energy when blood sugar declines.
Yes, insulin also tells fat cells to store extra glucose as fat. It is for this reason that some people have blamed insulin for the creation of excess body fat. But blaming insulin for fat stores is like blaming the people who work at the landfill for an excessive amount of garbage. Just as the workers don’t create the garbage, insulin does not create the energy excess. The landfill workers and insulin are simply doing their jobs.
Are high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets good for weight loss?
Any heart healthy diet that limits caloric intake can produce a short-term weight loss. The short-term weight loss that occurs with high-protein diets, however, is mostly water loss. Remember that pounds lost quickly are more likely to return quickly as well. Slow, steady weight loss produced by lifestyle changes you can live with is still the way to go.
Meals should include low-fat sources of protein and carbohydrate. Eat a variety of foods you enjoy, and focus on heart-healthy changes that work for you and your lifestyle. And remember the most important component of a weight-loss program or heart-healthy lifestyle: regular physical activity, and lots of it.