Food Is Not Your Enemy


The Real Cause of Heart Disease

For years, dietary cholesterol was thought to raise our risk of cardiovascular disease. We were told to limit such high-cholesterol foods as red meat, butter, eggs, and shrimp because there was an assumption that the cholesterol in these foods would increase our blood serum cholesterol levels—and high LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. But in a report released in February 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) of the United States government stated, “Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day. The 2015 DGAC will not bring forward this recommendation because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum (blood) cholesterol, consistent with the AHA/ACC (American Heart Association / American College of Cardiology) report. Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Yes, this means what you think it means—you can eat omelets without worry! Shrimp cocktail? Yes, please! It turns out that only 15% of circulating cholesterol in the blood comes from what we eat, according to Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who was interviewed by CNN.com after the government’s report was published.

The newer theory about what leads to increased risk of heart disease, according to a report from Harvard Medical School, is chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a necessary immune response to infection or trauma, and is a good thing when it occurs in connection to problems like sprained ankles or if we eat a contaminated food and become sick. But stress, lack of exercise, and eating unhealthy foods on a regular basis–foods that contain chemicals, additives, damaging fats, and refined sugar, for instance–can lead to chronic low-level inflammation in our bodies, which results in slowly damaged organs, poor functioning of our organ systems, rapid aging, and heart disease. Inflamed arteries cause cholesterol in the blood to “stick” and gunk up the works, and this can eventually lead to a heart attack.

The key culprits in the American diet that lead to inflammation? Sugar, refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, and low-quality fats that are too high in omega-6 fatty acids, like soybean, corn, and “vegetable” oil. Choose whole grains rather than white stuff; and get your fats from olive oil, seeds, nuts, fish, and avocados (which are all high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids) rather than from the omega-6 oils that are used often for commercial deep frying and in processed foods.

You’ll be doing your heart a huge favor.

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Relax to Lose Weight
June 2, 2015, 9:29 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , , , ,

New Yorkers work hard. We love to be busy and talk about how busy we are, and then we grouse about how stressed out we feel. If advice is offered to some of us type As about how to scale back and find a little time for ourselves, we will explain why we simply can’t do that, that it’s not possible to change anything, and that we just have to continue on and somehow survive on five hours of sleep and takeout Pad Thai.

And then we wonder why we can’t drop the 20 pounds we’ve put on in the past two years.

The fact is, stress makes us fat. And actively releasing that stress and relaxing can help us lose weight, in a way that all the steamed broccoli and skinless chicken breast in the world can’t.

Stress activates a biological response that makes us feel hungry (which is why so many of us stress eat). Carbs and sugar are particularly appealing when we’re stressed. And stress leads to increased storage of belly fat.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to counteract these forces conspiring to make us fat is to practice deep breathing. If you take a deep breath, you stimulate your vagus nerve, a nerve connected to your fat cells, stem cells and all the organs and tissues in your body. Stimulating this nerve turns on the production of hormones that calm your nervous system, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, kick start your metabolism, and regulate your appetite, according to Dr. Mark Hyman, a leader in the field of functional medicine. The simple act of taking deep breaths essentially leads to an increased level of fat burning.

So make some time on a regular basis to meditate, do yoga, or simply sit and breathe, without distraction. Even five minutes a day can make a difference. And who doesn’t have time for that?