There’s been a lot of news that low-carb diets are bad for your heart, because of the protein and fat content. But that’s largely due to the way people misinterpret the mandate to reduce carbs and shift to proteins.
Protein does not mean steaks every night. There are many healthy sources of protein, and if you look at the low-carb menus that the nutritionists prepare, these advocate the same kinds of foods that cardiologists would recommend to their patients.
Take the South Beach diet. In the first two weeks, you can’t eat bread, fruit, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugar, alcohol, and baked goods. What doctor wouldn’t stand up and applaud if you said no to chocolate cake and heavy servings of lasagna? Instead, you take lean protein, vegetables, nuts, and cheese. These proteins include chicken breasts, tofu, extra-lean ground beef, canned tuna, and fresh fish. It even encourages the intake of beans, one of the highest sources of proteins with just one cup containing 25% of your daily required intake. As for fats, you’re encouraged to avoid the type that clogs your arteries and substitute the two known the healthiest oils: olive oil and canola oil. In fact, studies of South Beach Diet users show a marked improvement in cholesterol levels.
And by lowering your total body weight, the South Beach Diet and other low-carb diets remove the extra strain on your heart, which has to work extra hard to support your body systems and carry the extra pounds. There is a strong link between obesity and heart attacks, and for many who have struggled with recurring weight gain, the South Beach diet has been one of the most effective ways of losing the pounds and keeping them off. That’s because low-carb diets remove the body’s quickest source of energy, forcing it to burn the fat rather than live off a steady stream of carbohydrates.
The South Beach Diet also solves one problem that cardiologists often warn us about: high sugar levels. Carbohydrates are processed by the body into sugars, which give a quick burst of energy but can also cause diabetes. There has been an increased incidence of people developing diabetes in their thirties because of an unhealthy diet of junk food and processed carbs. Cardiologists are then forced to ask the patient to go on a low-carb and low-fat diet, but the South Beach program takes those principles to prevent late-onset diabetes from even developing.
The most important thing to remember is to follow the South Beach diet as it is designed by professional nutritionists, without taking the principle of embracing protein as an excuse to eat thick slabs of fried meat. It is also important to watch the sources of fat, avoiding those that contain trans-fatty acids. What cardiologists are bothered by is simply the belief that a low-carb means high fat and high protein. That isn’t necessarily true. While some low-carb programs do take it to the extreme, going so far as to say that it’s okay to load up on the butter and take the second serving of chicken wings, sensible diets promote good, commonsensical moderation. Exactly what the doctor would’ve told you.