Carb alert! Go for the good ones — in moderation.

The age-old health maxim "everything in moderation" does not, in fact, hold true for everything. Smoking, for instance. And Twinkies. Some things you're better off avoiding altogether. But for the food category that's been a source of controversy in recent years — we're talking about carbohydrates — moderation may indeed be best for most people.

A new population study found that adults who consumed a moderate amount of carbohydrates had a lower than average risk of early death, while those eating either a low-carb or a high-carb diet had an increased risk. What's more, for people on lower-carb diets, the source of protein and fat mattered. With so many of today's popular weight-loss diets replacing carbs with protein or fat, this is important news.

Those people on lower-carb diets who consumed more plant sources of protein and fat (such as beans, lentils, and nuts) had a lower risk of early death, while those who ate more animal sources (such as meat and cheese) had a higher risk. Like all population studies, this research shows a correlation but doesn't prove cause and effect. It does, however, add to the already abundant research on the power of plant foods, which tend to offer an array of nutrients and health benefits. (We're talking whole plant foods — juice and processed plant foods like chips don't count!) Lentils and beans, for instance, are a fantastic source of not only protein and carbohydrate but also fiber, which is essential for good health. Fruits and vegetables contain not just vitamins and minerals, but also phytonutrients, whose benefits we're just beginning to understand. Rather than adopting an unusual diet, aim for balance and focus on the quality of the foods you eat.

Cleveland Clinic Wellness


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