Eating the “right” amount of carbohydrates may decrease the risk of premature death, but the quality of the carbohydrates we eat may be more important than the amount.
It seems that every week there is a new study that evaluates whether certain parts of our diet, when you see it, the wine and chocolate researchers, are healthy or not.
While there are some obvious culprits that can limit the length of our life (such as sugar and alcohol), others seem to exist in a gray dietary area.
An obvious contender in that category are carbohydrates or, as mentioned in the modern dietary lexicon, carbohydrates.
A new study published in The Lancet Public Health suggests that neither a carbohydrate-free diet nor a high-carbohydrate diet are ideal if you’re trying to live a long and healthy life.
The study looked at 15,428 people in the United States and found that consumers of “moderate” carbohydrates, which account for 50 to 55 percent of their caloric intake, had the lowest mortality risk.
The researchers confirmed those findings in a meta-analysis of studies that involved more than 432,000 people in 20 countries. He also found that not all low-carb diets offer the same long-term results.
Those who ate more protein of animal origin had a higher risk of mortality compared to people who ate more protein and vegetable fats from foods such as vegetables, legumes and nuts.
“These findings bring together several aspects that have been controversial. “Excess and very little carbohydrates can be harmful, but what counts most is the type of fat, protein and carbohydrates,” said Dr. Walter Willett, co-author of the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the School of Public Health. from Harvard TH Chan. He said in a statement accompanying the investigation.
Experts weigh in
The experts who did not participate in the investigation were not surprised by the findings, and at least one was skeptical of the presumed headlines that accompanied it.
Brian Bender, PhD, a certified nutritionist and co-founder of myintakepro.com, says his initial reaction to the study was that his findings were not particularly surprising.
“Decades of research continue to return to the notion that, at the population level,” moderate “levels of consumption for almost all components of the diet result in the best health outcomes,” he told Healthline. “Extreme diets that focus too much on one or another nutrient rarely produce optimal long-term results.”
Bender says that for very specific individuals, these extreme diets can help, and future tests can provide this level of personalization, but “general moderation seems to prevail.”
Dr. Tro Kalayjian, a physician specializing in nutrition and weight loss based in New York State, said that because the study was a population-based epidemiological nutritional study based on food frequency questionnaires and did not prove a particular diet, is subject to many doubts Factors
“Nobody in that study was given a specific diet to evaluate the results of a particular nutritional approach,” he told Healthline. “In general, look at the population.”
Kalayjian quickly points out that the group with low carbohydrate content of the study had participants with much higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and sedentary behavior.
“In other words, the groups are simply comparing a healthy group with a less healthy group and the diet is simply the result of this difference and not a cause,” he said.
He cautioned that the headlines that proclaimed that low-carb diets had worse results were deceptive.
But, just like summarizing that all carbohydrates are bad or good for everyone, not all carbohydrates are the same. Some can help enhance the vital functions of the body, while others are simply useless.
The best and worst kinds of carbs
Kristin Koskinen, a dietitian registered in the state of Washington, says that when formulating meal plans for her clients, which emphasize whole foods, the carbohydrate load is generally reduced to around 50 to 55 percent.
“Diets that are too high in carbohydrates tend to lead to metabolic diseases,” he said. “Diets that are very low in carbohydrates tend to be deficient in fiber and micronutrients, which compromises long-term health.”
Koskinen says a healthy meal plan focuses on nutrient density, which includes whole-plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, with a lot of fiber, something that says it “lacks the standard American diet.”
“An important point to note is that the fibers that come from eating a wide variety of plant foods feed the healthy bacteria that reside in the intestine,” he said. “The research that emphasizes the importance of the microbiome is extensive and indicates its role not only in intestinal health, but also in obesity, neurological diseases and heart health.”
Rachel Fine, a registered dietitian based in New York State, says that addressing carbohydrates in a person’s diet is quality over quantity.
“Given the widespread use of simple carbohydrates from sources such as highly processed added sugars to packaged foods, it is fair to associate the increase in carbohydrate intake with the health risk,” he told Healthline.
She says that complex carbohydrates, which are high in fiber, are key to controlling blood sugar and weight control, while simple carbohydrates represent a multitude of health risks when consumed in excess. She also recommends eating fats and proteins of vegetable origin, and calls them “nutritional potencies”.
“There are many reasons why this is true, one of them is that when consumed as sources of minimally processed whole foods, these foods contain intact fibers of natural origin and other nutrients that benefit health,” he said.
The most important carbs to avoid
Kalayjian says that the best place to start cutting carbohydrates is pasta, bread and any product with flour. He suggests replacing them with meat, fish, eggs, dairy, berries and non-starchy vegetables (ie, potatoes, etc.). He says making these changes is easier than people realize, but, like learning any new skill or lifestyle change, “you need support and a little training.”
If you are trying to do your best to train yourself, a simple way is to avoid the central aisles in your grocery store, where most packaged foods normally live. Around the outside there are fresh foods, like lean proteins and many products.
Bender recommends eating less packaged foods, as they often contain unhealthy amounts of sugar.
“One of the great sources of sugar is drinks sweetened with sugar,” he said. “Sodas and fruit juices are often very rich in sugar, so eliminating them from your diet will also help you improve the quality of your carbohydrates.”