By Dr. Jonny Bowden
Experts aren’t sure why people are more likely to have a heart attack during the winter than any other time of year. If following a heart-healthy diet is one of your 2020 resolutions, here’s big news. A new 12-month human clinical study involving 577 participants conducted in Malaysia reveals we aren’t doing our hearts any favors by eating a high-carb diet. And while that high-carb diet was associated with increased heart disease risk factors, fat intake didn’t move the needle one way or the other.
I’ve been saying for years that fat has been wrongly demonized. If anything, it’s sugar – not fat – that’s causing us to go off the metabolic rails. In this study, low-carb diets performed considerably better than high-carb diets.
The study found that healthy adults who ate higher proportions of carbohydrates (compared with the amount of proteins or fat they consumed) tended to develop several elevated risk factors for cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure and more plaque-promoting small LDL cholesterol particles. Higher proportions of dietary fat intake were not associated with elevating these risk factors.
A hormone called insulin and a condition called insulin resistance are at the core of pre-diabetes, and are turning out to be early warning signs for heart disease. And the results of this study showed that insulin measures were considerably better when people ate diets with a lower amount of carbs, and that was true regardless of the amount of fat consumed.
Easy, no-fail heart-healthy eating resolutions
Most New Year’s resolutions fail by February because the changes are too big and unmanageable. This year, instead of resolving to completely overhaul your diet, try making a few small changes.
First, remove these items from your kitchen:
- Corn oil and canola oil. These seed oils are filled with omega-6 which is very pro-inflammatory.
- Sugar. Let’s be realistic. I know you’re probably not going to give up your favorite sweets entirely. But be kind to your heart by restricting those goodies to just a few days a month.
- Canned soups, salad dressings and pasta sauces. These are often loaded with hidden sugars and a ton of sodium. Instead of relying on these cooking shortcuts, do an internet search for simple recipes you can make from scratch.
- White flour and white rice. These are heavily processed and raise your blood sugar almost as much as pure sugar.
Then, add these items to your panty:
- Palm oil. You can find this online and in specialty markets. Millions of people around the world use it as their everyday cooking oil. Malaysian certified palm oil is rich in nutrients such as brain- and heart-healthy vitamin E tocotrienols.
- Stevia and monk fruit. These are natural sweeteners that have no effect on your blood sugar.
- Nuts: People who eat more nuts have lower BMIs. Their diets are higher in magnesium, higher in fiber, higher in poly- and monounsaturated fats, all of which can have a profound effect on your health.
- Dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa on the label): Chocolate contains cocoa flavanols; beneficial plant-based phytonutrients that support cardiovascular health.
This year, you can finally make heart-healthy dietary resolutions that are easy to achieve. These tips will help you take better care of your heart throughout the winter and may become heart-healthy habits you’ll want to follow all year long.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, also known as “The Nutrition Myth Buster” ™ is a nationally known board-certified nutritionist and expert on diet and weight loss. He has appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS as an expert on nutrition.