February is American Heart Month, a most fitting time to show you the science behind why a lower carb lifestyle like Atkins improves your markers for heart health. In fact, studies continue to show that following a low carb diet helps support healthy triglyceride and cholesterol levels more effectively than a low-fat diet.
And while saturated fat has gotten a bad rap, it turns out that a powerful combination of nutrient-rich whole foods is more important than the level of saturated fat in one particular food. For example, whole-fat dairy, unprocessed red meat and dark chocolate (yay!) are not associated with an increased risk of heart disease according to a 2020 paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
When it comes to reducing your risk of heart disease, the quality of your food is clearly important. If your meals consist of processed and simple carbs like white flour, white rice, sugar and packaged foods like crackers, cookies and chips, you may increase your risk of heart disease, according to the Harvard Nurses Study, which followed almost 120,000 female nurses for eight years.
With Atkins, you’re swapping added sugars and simple carbs for heart-healthy, fiber-rich Foundation Vegetables and low-glycemic fruits. Add in heart-smart fats such as monounsaturated fats; found in nuts, avocados and olive and canola oil and polyunsaturated fats; found in fish, sunflower seeds, soybeans and flaxseeds as well as cottonseed, corn and safflower oils. (Try having at least two servings a week of fatty cold water fish like salmon, halibut and tuna, which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids.) Satisfy your appetite with additional protein sources coming from poultry, red meat, tofu, eggs and more, and round it out with whole-fat dairy.
There’s also good news for women who have insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome because following a low carb diet for just four weeks may support heart health by reducing predictors of heart disease.
As powerful as a low carb diet may be in supporting heart health, breaking a sweat has also been shown to be beneficial, with a new study showing that cases of cardiovascular disease decreased among participants as the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity increased.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also revised its guidelines in December 2020, recommending that adults get 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate to vigorous exercise a week, which is in line with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommendation.
This year make the most of American Heart Month (#HeartMonth) by adding the positive and proven lifestyle changes that come with Atkins’ flexible and sustainable way of low carb eating. And while you’re at it, get moving with some exercise!
*Consult your physician before making any substantial changes to your diet or exercise routine.