Heart : Eat Away Metabolic Syndrome

Food can be the source of metabolic problems or the solution. The most important thing to know is that diets high in refined, starchy, or sugary foods, and drinks with added sugars such as sodas, promote high fast¬ing blood sugar and lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Not surprisingly, the amount of food you eat on a daily basis is another key factor. However, simply trying to eat less usually doesn’t work, because going hungry isn’t a sustainable way to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

The good news is, the same types of foods that keep blood sugar stable and prevent insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome also work best to satisfy your appetite. And, if you focus on controlling weight with a healthy diet that can realistically be maintained, you’ll be on the right path.

The Sugar Yo-Yo Cycle

Insulin resistance, as described in the last chapter, is provoked by eating too many refined, sugary, and starchy carbohydrates that send blood sugar soaring. The same mechanism also makes it difficult to control appetite. This is why:
• When blood sugar soars, insulin is released and quickly drives levels down. The higher the upward spike in blood sugar, the lower the dip that follows.
• When blood sugar dives low, it triggers cravings—your body wants even more sugary and starchy carbohydrates.
• Low blood sugar leaves you feeling energy starved and that can make it difficult to think clearly. The craving for a “quick fix” of carbohydrates is a natural response. It’s the feeling you get mid-morning after eating donuts for breakfast.
• Getting a sugary or starchy carbohydrate “fix” prompts another spike and crash in blood sugar, provoking a repeat of cravings.
• This becomes a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle that makes appetite con¬trol impossible and leads to weight gain, as well as insulin resistance.

Why a Low-Carb Diet Improves Symptoms

Studies show that a healthy low-carb diet is the most beneficial. It produces the greatest overall weight loss, reduction in waist size, and improvements in blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycer¬ides—all the aspects of metabolic syndrome. However, this isn’t a diet of all-you-can-eat fat or red meat but one that is naturally low in fat, and veg¬etables and fresh fruits are important components. This type of low-carb diet works because it provides a steady stream of energy, keeping blood sugar stable. By doing so, it brings blood pressure and blood fats into healthier ranges. And, it satisfies appetite with nutritious foods, making weight loss more realistic and sustainable.

Diet Myths

Excess weight is a key risk factor for metabolic syndrome. This is why many doctors recommend dieting to help bring weight and other risk factors down into a healthier level. Traditional diets that aim to lower blood pres¬sure or cholesterol typically restrict animal protein and fats. Such diets, often endorsed by conventional doctors, promote eating more whole grains and beans, both of which are high in fiber as well as carbohydrates. However, a number of studies have shown that rather than preventing or reversing meta¬bolic syndrome, this traditional approach may contribute to the condition.

Studies have found that a low-carbohydrate diet is most effective for reducing weight and other aspects of metabolic syndrome. As an example, a study of 83 overweight women, published in Nutrition Journal, tested two diets. From a scientific perspective, both were considered relatively low in fat but one contained significantly fewer carbohydrates and more protein—30 percent of total calories from protein. The other emphasized high-fiber grains and beans, with only 20 percent protein. Both diets contained the same number of calories. During eight weeks, those on the high-protein diet lost more overall weight, more body fat, and more inches around the waist. They also experienced greater reductions in blood pressure than those eating more carbohydrates, as well as improvement in all the other aspects of metabolic syndrome.

Choose Whole Foods

If you often eat take-out food or restaurant meals, or rely on packaged foods at home, a healthy low-carb diet will require a new perspective. The fact is, much of the food in typical American meals is extremely high in refined carbohydrates. Enormous bread sticks with pizza is one example; white rice and pasta are others. Here is an easy way to improve your diet and health: Instead of eating food that comes in packages, choose whole foods as they occur in nature. For example, eat a piece of grilled fish rather than a packaged version of breaded and fried fish, or a lean piece of meat instead of a fast-food burger. For side dishes, choose a variety of non-starchy vegetables. To complete a meal, try a small scoop of whole grains, such as brown rice, or a small baked potato with salsa or plain yogurt instead of butter and sour cream.
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