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Take the Load Off Your Heart

The type of carbs we eat matters for heart health.

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Carbs and heart health

There is no reason to demonize carbohydrates, but we need to keep an eye on where they come from. Using information amassed from dietary questionnaires filled out by 338,325 people enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, a team of researchers discovered that a diet with a higher glycemic load (an estimate of how much what someone eats will raise a person’s blood glucose levels) correlated with a greater risk for coronary heart disease. This association was stronger for those with a higher body mass index and did not differ statistically for men and women.

Greater intakes of sugar were also bad news for the ticker. Elevated levels of insulin, the hormone that deals with spikes in blood sugar, and of blood triglycerides, a type of fat that can increase in response to eating too many refined sugary carbs, may play a role in the link between glycemic load and heart heath. Glycemic load can be lowered by eating a balanced diet that focuses on fiber-rich carbohydrates, including whole grains and vegetables; lean proteins, including fish and legumes; and a necessary amount of healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts.

See also: Plant-Based Diets Can Help Reduce Heart Failure Risk


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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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