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Heart Smart: A Low Carb Diet’s Role in Heart Health

Colette-Heimowitz

Written by Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc. on February 15, 2024.

Scientifically reviewed by

Jonathan Clinthorne, PhD Human Nutrition

 

February 15, 2024

Nutrition is the heart of a healthy lifestyle, especially when it comes to the health of your heart. A low carb diet is associated with weight loss and significantly benefits your cardiovascular well-being, and following a low carb diet for just four weeks may reduce predictors for heart disease risk factors. Keep reading for more ways a low carb diet can improve your heart health.

Why A Low Carb Diet is Good for Your Heart

Here are six ways eating low carb can give your heart a boost.

  1. Manage blood sugar. Low carb diets may help maintain stable blood sugar levels, which is key for heart health, as high blood sugar can damage arteries.
  2. Reduce blood pressure. Cutting back on high-glycemic carbs may help lower blood pressure, a significant risk factor for heart disease.
  3. Improve cholesterol levels. A well-constructed low carb diet can improve HDL (good) cholesterol levels and reduce triglycerides, both beneficial for heart health. Studies show that a low carb diet helps support healthy triglyceride and cholesterol levels more effectively than a low-fat diet.  
  4. Lose weight. Low carb diets may help with weight loss, and carrying less weight means less stress on your heart.
  5. Decrease inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, and a low-carb diet may decrease inflammation markers in the body.
  6. Improve diet quality. Many of the foods you eat on a low carb diet—fish, poultry, nuts and seeds, high-fiber vegetables and low-glycemic berries—all have the potential to enhance heart health.

Heart-Smart Low Carb Foods

By eliminating added sugar and focusing on heart-smart carbs like fiber-rich vegetables, you are eliminating those high-glycemic carbs that put you at risk for heart disease. Certain fats are also good for your heart and are an important part of a low carb lifestyle. These fats include:

Monounsaturated fats: Found in nuts, avocados and olive and canola oil.

Polyunsaturated fats: Found in fish, sunflower seeds, soybeans, and flaxseeds as well as cottonseed, corn, and safflower oils.

Saturated fat: Some saturated fat is acceptable on a well-constructed low carb diet. Choose from high-quality sources if possible, such as organic coconut oil, eggs from pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed beef and fatty, cold-water fish like salmon and dairy products from grass-fed cows. Eat at least two servings a week (3.5 ounces) of fatty cold-water fish like salmon, halibut, and tuna, which are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s may decrease triglyceride levels, slow the rate of atherosclerotic plaque and lower blood pressure.

A low carb diet complements the American Heart Association’s suggestions for a heart-healthy diet, which, along with heart-smart carbs and fat, include:

  • A wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy sources of protein (mostly plants such as legumes and nuts; fish and seafood; dairy and lean and unprocessed meat and poultry)
  • Minimize intake of added sugars

Heart Healthy Low Carb Recipes

Get Cooking Low Carb Hearth-Healthy Recipes

Colette-Heimowitz

Author

Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc.

Vice President of Nutrition & Education

Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc. is a former Director of Nutrition at The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City. With 20+ years of experience as a nutrition expert, the NY Times best-selling author is the current Vice President of Nutrition & Education at Simply Good Foods Company.

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