How We Can Change Healthcare Through The Food We Eat
Healthcare is a hot topic of choice these days and Dr. Oz, on the Today Show this morning, stated that, according to a new study on foods which affect our health, if Americans would just add 6 foods to our diets and eliminate 4, we can actually reduce heart disease and diabetes by 50%! I thought this was a great topic since March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
So let’s begin with the the “best foods” we can add to our diet each day:
- Fats including one serving fatty fish (wild salmon, sardines)
- one handful of nuts (not peanuts but tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds, etc.)
- oils such as flaxseed, canola (Dr. Oz included olive oil although it was not on list)
- green leafy vegetables
- healthy carbs which include whole wheat bread and cereal.
The “worst foods” to avoid each day:
- sugar sweetened beverages
- processed meats
- red meat. (Dr. Oz mentioned that one serving of red meat a week would be a great start) I would make sure my choice would be grass-fed beef. I also avoid all processed meats but do occasionally pick up bacon without nitrates or nitrites.
- Dr. Oz believes that this latest study could change health care in America if Americans would really follow these guidelines.
A book I just picked up by Hyla Cass, M.D., Supplement Your Prescription ~ What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition, seems to be going along with the study Dr. Oz is currently recommending. In it she describes one of our nation’s biggest problems ~ the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the fact that it is a pro-inflammatory diet. We all know that saturated fats and trans fats are two of the things that accelerate and magnify the inflammatory process ~think chili-drenched hot dog ~ a food that doesn’t just add to your LDL cholesterol but also stimulates your genes to produce more inflammatory proteins to make the tissue irritation a whole lot worse.
In the journal Circulation a study out of Harvard University linked processed meat to higher heart disease risk. Processed meat was defined as meat preserved by salting, smoking, curing, or adding chemical preservatives. which encompass that chili hot dog, bacon, salami, sausages and processed deli meat. They found that for each 50-gram (1.8 ounces) daily serving of processed meat (such as 1-2 slices of deli meat or 1 hot dog), there was a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19% increased risk of developing diabetes.
Dr. Cass states that evidence strongly suggests that high cholesterol is a result of excess inflammation in the body and that excess inflammation seems to be a more likely root cause of dangerous changes in the cardiovascular system. Her answer to preventing heart disease? Think: reduce inflammation, not lower cholesterol. She describes inflammation in the body as the immune system’s response to injury, sending a “repair crew” to the point of injury, breaking down injured and dead tissue, killing bacteria and making way for the healing response. This process happens anywhere in the body and of course has a great impact on the health of the blood vessels that feed the heart muscle (these are the vessels that cause a heart attack when blocked by plaques).
“When I spot someone with obvious signs of metabolic syndrome ~ usually a middle-aged person with a big stomach ~ I know that a lot of inflammation is going on in the person’s body, and that he or she is at high risk of heart disease and high blood pressure,” states Dr. Cass. She goes on to describe visceral fat, which are fat cells in the belly and create a lot of inflammation, which, in turn, creates plaques in the twists and turns of the blood vessels that feed the muscular walls of the heart, thus increasing one’s risk of having a heart attack.
Since we are celebrating “National Nutrition Month” and focusing on the importance of making good food choices, I would like to suggest some of Dr. Cass’s ideas for eliminating these inflammatory foods. Knowing that the fats that we eat are directly transformed into chemicals in our body and some of those chemicals promote inflammation; others calm it – it is important to be educated about which ones help us and which ones are hurting us.
Eating refined flour and sugar pushes more of the omega-6 fats into the making of those inflammatory chemicals. Also, if you are eating lots of margarine and food fried in corn oil, you are increasing the inflammation in your body. We want Omega-3 oils, found plentifully in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Vegetables and algae also contain some Omega-3s. The factory-farmed cattle eat grain, which causes the fats in their meat and milk to accumulate more inflammatory omega-6 fats. Choose real, unprocessed, wild-caught or grass-grazed food from nature.
Dr. Oz, in his book, YOU: Staying Young, recommends the following to help minimize the inflammatory process:
- Fruits and vegetables, specifically red grapes, cranberries, tomatoes, onions, and tomato juice
- Garlic ~ a clove a day that help to thin the blood and lower your blood pressure (if you have trouble eating garlic try this natural supplement)
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish or the plants fish eat, like certain algae ~ aim for 3 portions of fish per week and the best choices are wild, line-caught salmon, mahi-mahi, catfish, flounder, tilapia, and whitefish. (Although I try for adding this amount of fish to my diet each week, I also add an ultra-pure, pharmaceutical-grade omega-3 fatty acids supplement to make sure to cover this)
- Olive Oil ~ the extra virgin kind which contains lots of healthy phytonutrients as well as monounsaturated fats, which help raise your good HDL cholesterol
- Alcohol (if you do not have a problem with it but only one 4 oz serving a night and preferably red wine, because it also contains antioxidants). Personally, I do not drink but I do take a liquid dietary supplement, a phytonutrient blend which harnesses the powerful antioxidant properties of rare muscadine grapes and has been shown to be 10X more powerful than resveratrol alone in slowing a key mechanism of cellular aging.
- Food with Magnesium ~ Includes 100% whole-grain breads and cereals, soybeans, lima beans, avocado, beets, and raisins which all help to lower blood pressure and reduce arrhythmias by dilating (expanding) the arteries. Dr. Oz recommends 400 milligrams per day ~ 1/2 cup spinach contains 80 milligrams, 12 cashews = 50 milligrams, etc. 4 caplets of my calcium supplement provides the 400 milligrams Dr. Oz. recommends
- Foods with Soy Protein ~ Getting 25 grams a day of soy protein in foods like tofu and other soybean products decreases your bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. I take a shake each morning that provides me with 24 grams of non-GMO soy protein per serving as well as 6 gr. of fiber
- Stanols and sterols ~ good plant cholesterol in foods like the spread Benecol and Take Control helps your arterial health by displacing the lousy cholesterol in your arteries. Rather than taking a statin drug, my husband chose to take a natural supplement made with a powerful blend of sterols and stanols, which are found naturally in plants, fruits, vegetables, and grains.
- Dark chocolate ~ Loved this one! Recent studies show that eating dark chocolate may lower blood pressure as effectively as the most common antihypertensive medications and may increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
We cannot leave this discussion without mentioning exercise ~ Dr. Oz tells us that cardiovascular activity lowers both the top systolic (the pressure being exerted when your heart contracts) and the bottom diastolic (the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest) numbers of your blood pressure, and is helpful because it makes your blood vessels more elastic by forcing them to dilate. He suggests 30 minutes of daily walking and a minimum of 60 minutes a week of cardiovascular or sweating activity (ideally in 3 20-minute sessions) ~ in which you raise your heart rate to 80% or more of its age-adjusted maximum (220 minus your age) for an extended period of time.
So there you have it! This discussion pretty much describes the mission statement of the National Nutrition Month ~ Bon appetit and keep moving!