The Weatherhead PET Imaging Center

Food and Heart Disease

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates consist of starches and sugar that provide calories to the body for energy. In excess they cause weight gain and fat accumulation. Because of the great individual variability in the amount of carbohydrate needed to achieve and maintain lean body build, a target number of grams of carbohydrate is not useful. On low fat food, the best guide to volume of carbohydrate is weight. For overweight people, the first step is to eliminate entirely the large bulk sources of carbohydrate until reaching desired weight reflecting lean body habitus. These large bulk sources of carbohydrate include rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, cereal, candy, pastries, alcohol, sugary fruit juices and bananas. While vegetables, dairy products and other low fat foods may contain some carbohydrates, the amount is low enough that weight will fall if the large bulk sources are eliminated. The optimal rate of weight loss is an average of 1 to 2 lbs per week. Substitute protein, vegetables and up to three fruits per day for the fat and carbohydrate eliminated from food. After reaching lean body habitus, then increase these carbohydrates just enough to maintain weight.

The elimination of excess carbohydrate is a major departure from most vegetarian or semi-vegetarian foods. However, reduction of carbohydrates is important since individuals with low HDL and high triglycerides may demonstrate marked increase in triglycerides and fall in HDL on low fat, high carbohydrate vegetarian food. If grains, beans and rice are the only source of adequate protein, carbohydrate intake and calories may be high enough to prevent reaching lean body habitus and optimal cholesterol lowering with adverse effects on HDL and triglycerides in some people. The modified semi-vegetarian food with good protein sources described here usually keeps HDL high and triglycerides low.