Food Is Not Your Enemy


The Fat Balancing Act
April 30, 2018, 2:15 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, nuts, Oils | Tags: , ,

There was a time when Americans feared eating practically any fat. Low-fat diets were all the rage in the 1980s and 90s—who remembers Snackwells, those non-fat cookies everyone thought they could eat to help them lose weight, even though they were loaded with sugar and calories?

Today we know better—fats are a critical macronutrient we need for both good physical and mental health, and some trendy diets are even pushing people to eat a high-fat diet to lose weight.

We hear a lot about how important omega-3 fats are, how they are an anti-inflammatory and can lower risk of depression. But what’s lesser known is that when it comes to our omega intake, there’s a careful balancing act between omega-3s and omega-6 fats of which we need to be aware.

Omega-3s are found primarily in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as nuts and seeds. Omega-6s are present in vegetable oils such as corn oil and soybean oil (and the processed foods often cooked in them), and factory-farmed corn-fed beef. Ideally, we should be consuming omega-3 and omega-6 fats in a 1:1 ratio, according to Psychology Today. The problem is that most Americans end up consuming about 20 times more omega-6s than omega-3s. And this imbalance can lead to inflammation in the body, which contributes to everything from heart disease to diabetes to depression.

What to do? Eat fish a few times a week if you enjoy it, seek out a handful of nuts or seeds for a snack, and switch from corn-fed to grass-fed beef. Use olive oil as your default oil at home rather than corn or another vegetable oil, and limit your intake of processed foods cooked in those oils (chips, fries and the like).

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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.



How to Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

You’ve probably heard something in the past couple of years about “inflammation.” About how this mysterious force can somehow lead to such health problems as cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, digestive problems such as IBS, and other ills. So what is it exactly, and how can we avoid it?

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, and rapid aging.

In addition to exercising regularly and better controlling our response to stress, the best way to prevent chronic inflammation is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. In broad strokes, here are the main tenets to follow:

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Make these foods the largest percentage of your food intake each day. The more colorful, the better. And lots of berries!

Replace refined white flour with whole grains.

Eat beans instead of meat at least some of the time.

Eat healthier fats. Olive oil, fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados are all excellent.

Drink tea. Green, black, and white tea are all good. Snapple doesn’t count.

Use herbs and spices. There is no reason that healthy foods need to be bland. Such common flavor enhancers as garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon are great for cooling inflammation.

Realize that chronic digestive problems might indicate a food sensitivity. If you regularly eat foods that your body cannot tolerate, your body will be inflamed.

And as always, if you need help in making these types of recommendations a part of your day-to-day reality (because having information does not always translate into change in our lives), you can always contact me to set up a free consultation, and we will discuss how I can support you in transforming your health and your life.