low-carb diets

  1. Red meat for healthy hearts

    Heart health may be as simple as "take two steaks--and call me in the morning."

    In a big victory for the low-carb crowd, Indian researchers have found that vegetarians have a dramatically higher risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

    Since some 40 percent of the country is vegetarian--and less then a third eat meat regularly--they know a little something about the meat-free lifestyle over there. And while greens and beans are loaded with some fantastic nutrients, they're missing a few of the most critical ones –-like heart-friendly vitamin B12.

    And it shows.

    The researchers say they examined 300 vegetarians at a Mumbai hospital, and found nearly all of them to be deficient in B12. That, in turn, caused high levels of the inflammation marker homocysteine, which has been linked to coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and atherosclerosis.

    Put it all together, and you've got patients at serious risk of clots, heart attacks and strokes. It's not a theoretical risk, either--the researchers say nearly 70 percent of the patients were already suffering from cardiac disease, or were at high risk of a heart attack in the immediate future.

    What's more, the researchers said at the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders in Los Angeles that their vegetarian patients had such low levels of B12 that they needed injections, not supplements.

    The study didn't look at other B vitamins, but there are actually three of them that can help keep homocysteine levels in check: B12, B6 and folate. And while vegetarians can get folate from beans, peas and spinach, B6 is like B12 –-its best natural sources are meat.

    And that's just one of the reasons why low-carb diets are so heart healthy.

    Low-carb diets rich in natural meats can also help you lose weight, bring your blood pressure down to normal levels and even keep your cholesterol levels in check--all of which adds up to a lower risk of heart problems.

    Vegetarians miss out on all that--but they can gain some ground by enjoying extra dairy products like milk, eggs and cheese and working a good supplement into their regimen.

    Vegans have a much tougher road--most of them have to rely on supplements and protein powders to stay healthy.

    And since the B vitamins have also been linked to mood, memory and energy in addition to cardiovascular health, make sure you're getting enough of them--no matter what kind of lifestyle you live.

  2. A simple way to improve your cholesterol

    Total cholesterol control is within your reach--and a new study proves that you don't need meds... just a good diet.

    Call it one more reason to kick the sugar habit, because researchers say low-carb diets top low-fat ones when it comes to boosting good cholesterol levels.

    In the newest study, researchers assigned 307 non-diabetic obese people with an average age of 45.5 to either a low- fat or low-carb diet. The low-carb dieters were allowed 20 grams of carbs per day for three months, and then gradually got to increase that limit by 5 grams a day each week.

    The low-fat dieters were limited to between 1,200 and 1,800 calories a day, with less than 30 percent of those calories coming from fat. I'm guessing that led to a lot of rumbling tummies, because it's hard to eat well within those limits.

    At the end of two years, both sets of dieters lost roughly the same amount of weight: 15 pounds.

    Both sets of dieters had better cholesterol overall. Both groups had higher levels of HDL "good" cholesterol and lower levels of the bad stuff, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

    But the low-carb dieters came out on top. They got a bigger boost in good cholesterol, raising their HDL levels by an average of 23 percent--versus just 12 percent among the low-fat dieters, according to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

    The researchers say the improvement seen in the low-carb dieters is in line with what some people get from meds.

    And that means you can wave goodbye to those prescription co-pays and drug side effects if you're just willing to make a little adjustment in your eating habits.

    So if you're looking for a good diet, skip low-fat and all the unhealthy and unfulfilling processed foods that are considered an acceptable part of that diet, and go low-carb instead. Studies have found that it's one of the best ways to lose weight and keep it off.

    Low-carb diets can also lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease, and even boost your energy levels. Since it's low in sugar, it's great for your teeth, too.

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