It’s never too late to make a New Year’s resolution that may help your heart. And this one comes courtesy of Johns Hopkins University researchers: Lay off carbohydrates tied to white bread and pasta, and replace them with unsaturated fats from olive oil, avocados, and nuts — foods typical of the Mediterranean diet.
In a study prepared for a recent conference, the Johns Hopkins investigators say swapping out certain foods can improve heart health in people at risk for cardiovascular disease — even if the dietary changes aren’t coupled with weight loss.
“The introduction of the right kind of fat into a healthy diet is another tool to reduce the risk of future heart disease,” Meghana Gadgil, a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says in a news release.
Gadgil and her colleagues looked at 164 people with mild hypertension but no diabetes. The researchers studied their ability to regulate blood sugar and maintain healthy insulin levels while on a carb-rich diet, a protein-rich diet and a diet rich in unsaturated fats. People whose bodies fail to effectively use insulin usually develop type 2 diabetes, a major risk factor for heart disease.
The researchers say they found a generally balanced diet higher in unsaturated fats like those in olive oil, avocados, and nuts “improves insulin use significantly more” than a diet high in carbs — especially refined carbs like white bread and pasta.
“A lot of studies have looked at how the body becomes better at using insulin when you lose weight,” Gadgil says. “We kept the weight stable so we could isolate the effects of the macronutrients. What we found is that you can begin to see a beneficial impact on heart health even before weight loss.”
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