If you have not already read our lead article about Women and Heart Disease, I strongly encourage you to do so because it will explain the reasons for our nutrition recommendations. In our nutrition article today, I am going to get right to the heart of the matter (if you will pardon the expression) regarding nutritional lifestyle changes you can make that your heart will love. Please don’t let this underestimate the value of other lifestyle changes including exercise, the quality of your sleep, how you cope with stress, and the health of your relationships, because all of these things are equally important matters of the heart! We can’t exercise our way out of a bad diet or sleep away our worries. Balance and integration is essential for whole-hearted living and optimal health.
The overall nutrition strategy for the heart is to reduce oxidation, reduce inflammation, and detoxify. It is exactly these strategies we recommend for a healthy diet for life! The human body is wired and designed for a diet rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory foods and plenty of fiber that helps to cleanse and detoxify us. So what are the priorities?
1) A diet rich in vegetables (raw, cooked, juiced or fermented) is mission critical to good health and avoiding heart disease. There is no better food to stamp out oxidation and stop inflammation in its tracks! See if you can get 3-4 cups or more a day. This is the food that should take up most of the space on our plates at every meal.
2) For any matter of ill health or disease, including the heart, it is imperative that all processed and fast foods, especially refined carbohydrates (breads, cereals, wraps, pastries, cakes, cookies etc.), damaged oils/fats (margarine, canola, soybean, corn, cottonseed) and sugar be removed from the diet. When we eat food our body is not naturally wired to eat, we make it mad and confused! It really does not know what the heck it is supposed to do with soybean oil or canola oil-based salad dressing or an FD & C Color dye or nitrate or a load of sugar from any source, including an organic fruit smoothie or a couple of slices of multi grain bread. Foods that have been factory processed, highly milled, heated, treated, colored, preserved, texturized or defatted are no longer food but man-made products. The heart knows it! These products not only cannot be used as nutrition for your cells but they also interrupt processes, rob the body of essential minerals and vitamins, block and clog pathways, get stored as belly fat, increase harmful cholesterols, and elevate triglycerides. An important note about natural sources of sugar including fruit, honey, maple sugar, agave nectar, coconut date or palm tree sugars, turbinado and cane sugar, just to name a few. . sugar is sugar and sugar is an inflammatory, acidic, and destructive food no matter how organic or natural. When we talk about how our body is wired, early man consumed very little sugar in any form. Remember, fruit is seasonal and in some climates non-existent. Bee hives were rare and pretty impenetrable without some pain. Many fruits are very high in fructose which must be processed through the liver, generating a great deal of uric acid which leads to gout and heart disease.[i] Most berries are a safe choice in moderation.
3) Lose the fear of eating healthy, undamaged, natural fats including the incorrectly accused saturated fat! The human body requires the right fats to function optimally. Over the last 60 years, dietary fat intake recommendations have been grossly underestimated at 10% of total daily calories and damaged vegetables oils were recommended as the ideal choice. Simultaneously we were guided to remove all saturated and animal fats. These three errors have played a significant and contributing role to health problems today, including sugar addiction, carbohydrate cravings, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, hormone imbalances and much more. For most people, a healthy range of fat intake is between 40-70% of total caloric intake IF the choices are healthy! Healthy fats are fuel for the heart, resources for production of most of our hormones, enzymes and many neurotransmitters, and an essential component of every cell in the human body. Cholesterol is the building block for hormone production in the body and more than half of the brain is made of cholesterol![ii] Healthy fats also contain potent and powerful antioxidants. Healthy fats must be chosen carefully and examples include:
- Butter – organic ideally and from pasture raised or grass fed cows, raw if possible
- Eggs – from pasture raised chickens fed grass and insects
- Coconut meats and expeller pressed, organic coconut oil (a saturated fat)
- Unheated, organic nut oils such as macadamia nut or walnut oil
- Organic, cold pressed olive oil and olives
- Raw nuts especially pecans, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and almonds as well as seeds such as chia, hemp, sesame and pumpkin
- Grass fed/pasture raised meats
- Small wild caught oily fish such as sardines & anchovies
- Wild, Pacific salmon
So when it comes to matters of the heart, grandma was right when she told us to eat our vegetables, mother nature has proven wiser than the food manufacturing industry when it comes to your health, and yes, go ahead and eat a little more (healthy) fat! Still confused? Schedule your nutrition consult today!