If you look at the food pyramid, you’ll see that the bread category makes up the largest percentage of what we should eat. This has long been the belief of nutrition experts, but more recent evidence has revealed that the amount of bread products we actually need is not as large as once thought. In fact, in such large quantities, they might do more harm than good. This has to do with the carbohydrate content. Found in bread products in a number of forms (sugars, fiber), carbohydrates are a type of energy for the body. So why is eating too many carbohydrates bad?
Put simply, excess carbohydrates may put your life at risk. For starters, extra calories are stored by the body as fat. While fat itself isn’t a bad thing, too much fat can lead to obesity, which can cause or worsen serious health issues. When you depend on carbohydrates for a significant number of your calories, this risk seems to grow, according to the research carried out by the PURE study. In that study, researchers discovered that those eating foods with significant carbohydrate levels were more likely to die than those following low-carbohydrate diets.
The difference is staggering: those with the high carbohydrate diets had about a 30% increased risk of dying compared to those on the diets lower in carbohydrates. This difference became especially significant over the seven-year period of the study, as numerous individuals died or experienced heart attacks or strokes. Interestingly enough, while a diet high in carbohydrates was a threat, diets that were high in fat were not quite as dangerous. Participants who received a significant percentage of calories from fat (around one-third or so of their intake) were a little less likely to die or suffer from life-threatening conditions.
Carbohydrates and Heart Disease
The problem with excess carbohydrates has to do with the link between them and fats known as triglycerides. Along with low-density lipoprotein (typically referred to as LDL cholesterol, or simply bad cholesterol), triglycerides end up accumulating in the blood vessels, which can lead to partial blockages, resulting in higher blood pressure as the heart works to overcome this added resistance. Heart attacks and strokes can result from the increased strain, or insufficient resources on account of blockages. For this reason, especially among people with high cholesterol, a high carbohydrate intake is very dangerous.
This news may come as a shock to those interested in living healthier. For the longest time, fat was considered the enemy. This was because of the assumption that consuming excess fat leads to obesity, as well as various heart problems now being linked to carbohydrate intake. While this is certainly true, the relationship between fat and health problems is a little more complicated, and carbohydrates play a role as well. In fact, processed carbohydrates are perhaps the biggest stumbling block when it comes to healthy living. Also, there’s evidence suggesting that low carbohydrate diets have the opposite effect.
Moving Forward to a Healthier Diet
While there is still a lot of research to be done to understand the optimal level of carbohydrates (and other factors) when it comes to living a healthy life, there are some thing we know. Put simply, a healthy diet is not as easy as just scrapping carbohydrates altogether. It’s less about avoiding carbohydrates and more about moderating them, just like fat, protein, and various other nutrients. At this time, it seems that a carbohydrate intake that is neither significantly high (above 60 percent of caloric intake), nor too low (below 50 percent) is best for health.