Low Fat Beats Low Carbs for a Healthy Heart
For many people, losing weight is about getting healthy and not just about slipping into a smaller size. When it comes to heart health, a study has been published which tested a low-carb diet against a low-fat one, and found that one diet was more effective in reducing some risk factors for heart disease. "While a low-carbohydrate diet may result in weight loss and improvement in blood pressure, similar to a low-fat diet, the higher fat content is ultimately more detrimental to heart health than is the low-fat diet suggested by the American Heart Association," said Shane Phillips, lead author of the study at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Low-carbohydrate diets were also found to have significantly less daily folic acid than low-fat diets. Folic acid is thought to be helpful in reducing the likeliness of heart disease.
When 10 study participants were put on low-carb diets for a period of six weeks versus 10 on low-fat diets, they had reduced blood flow in the arteries in their arms — an indicator of increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The group on the low-fat diet had improved blood flow in their arms. Both groups experienced lower blood pressure over the six-week period. The higher fat content of a low-carbohydrate diet may put dieters at an increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) because low-carbohydrate diets often reduce protection of the endothelium, the thin layer of cells that line the blood vessels of the circulatory system. Low-carb diets were also found to be deficient in folic acid — a key player in fighting cardiovascular disease.
A low-fat diet is made up primarily of foods that contain carbohydrates and fiber, including whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and dried beans and peas. A low-fat diet should contain fewer foods from animal sources, which decreases saturated fat, or should replace them with foods that are low in fat or nonfat, such as nonfat or low-fat milk and yogurt.
Most vegetables contain little fat. Preparations that use steaming, boiling or roasting instead of frying in ghee--clarified butter--are good choices for a low-fat diet. Some chutneys and condiments like raita--chopped cucumbers and yogurt--feature fresh, raw vegetables. These colorful and healthy accompaniments satisfy the eye as well as the palate. Despite its creamy appearance, raita made with non-fat yogurt contains no fat. Low-fat steamed rice is the base for many Indian meals. It is the classic companion for most dals and curries. Paired with legumes, rice provides a good source of complete protein and is quite filling. Although simple on its own, it is delicious when topped with other flavorful preparations. Best of all, plain rice cooked with water contains no fat.
Many lines of evidence indicate that the type of fat is very important to long-term health. Replacing saturated and trans with natural vegetable oils can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Making good dietary choices does really matter, but it is the type of fat, not the amount, that is most important. And keep in mind that too many calories from both fat and carbohydrate will lead to weight gain, which will increase risks of breast cancer, colon cancer, and heart disease.