Want a Healthy Heart? Ditch the Sugar and Carbs

American Heart Health Month was established 57 years ago, with President Lyndon Johnson urging “the people of the United States to give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases, and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.”1 But nearly six decades later, we haven’t reached a solution, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one killer of both sexes and most all races and ethnicities in the U.S.2 Dietary guidelines born from that era that tell us to eat a low-fat diet to reduce the risk of CVD have completely missed the mark, while the real perpetrators have been steadily entrenching themselves into our diets for decades:

Healthy Heart


Refined Grain-Based Carbohydrates and Sugar

America has a refined carb and sugar problem—we eat way too much of the stuff. The average American eats 77 grams of sugar and between 350 and 600 grams of carbs every day (to maintain healthy blood sugar balance, you should aim to eat no more than 150 grams of carbs daily; when it comes to added sugar, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 37 grams for men and no more than 25 grams for women per day).3 4 5 Refined grain-based carbohydrates and added sugars have become the base of the Standard American Diet, and it’s terrible for blood sugar balance, overall health, and heart health.


When our diets are built on a foundation of refined carbohydrates and sugar, it leads to chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels, which damage proteins in the body and leads to chronic inflammation and oxidative damage, key drivers of cardiovascular disease.vi vii Sugar and refined carbohydrates are also known to increase LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while decreasing HDL cholesterol, considered to be the healthier form of cholesterol.8 9 Indeed, most types of metabolic dysfunction (obesity, metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, and diabetes) lead to an increased risk of CVD, and all have an underpinning of chronically elevated blood sugar.10 11


Balancing blood sugar is crucial for a healthy cardiovascular system (and overall health). The good news is that because blood sugar is directly related to what you eat, by making some simple changes and swaps, you will be on your way to stabilizing your blood sugar, for the long term. Start by making a serious commitment to cutting back on sugar and refined grain-based carbohydrates in your daily life. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 50 percent of the added sugar we consume comes from sugary drinks.12There are many low- to no-sugar drinks available these days that taste delicious, making this an easy category to start with. Make it a habit to read food labels to look for added sugar (you might be surprised where it’s hidden) and focus on eating a lower carb diet built around an abundance of low-starch vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. And finally, make daily movement a priority—daily walks, especially right after you eat, have been found to significantly improve glycemic control.13

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)

This potent antioxidant helps protect tissues from the oxidative damage caused by chronically high glucose levels. It has also been shown to decrease fasting glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance, and improve long-term blood sugar levels. Additionally, it can reduce both triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.14 15


Black Seed Oil

A review of 13 clinical trials on the blood sugar lowering-effect of black seed oil found that its use decreased fasting blood sugar, insulin levels, and insulin resistance. This antioxidant-rich oil has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and to neutralize the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (oxidized LDL is a major step toward developing atherosclerosis).16 17 18 19



This mineral plays a crucial role in insulin function, and research has shown that supplementation improves insulin sensitivity and maintains healthy blood sugar levels over the long term.20



Supplementation with this important mineral improves fasting and post-prandial (post-meal) glucose levels and insulin sensitivity and decreases markers of inflammation. Magnesium is also a superstar when it comes to cardiovascular health, supporting healthy blood pressure, normal heart rhythm and energy production in the heart, and a healthy balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol. It is estimated that at least half of all Americans don’t get enough magnesium through diet, making supplementation necessary.21 22 23


Gymnema Sylvestre

The Hindi name for this herb translates to “destroyer of sugar.” Research is just beginning to catch up to gymnema's long history of use for blood sugar balance, but it appears to work in part by increasing the efficiency of insulin and slowing the absorption of glucose in the blood. It can also reduce sugar cravings!24


References Available Upon Request