Diet Advice // Heart Disease

“Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.”  -Michael Pollan.

We the People

What we do to ourselves we shouldn’t do to our enemies.  The concept of digging our graves with our teeth is more true than you know. I was in shock two days ago. I was writing a new article about heart disease and went to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website to find out that the 2009 all cause mortality report had been released. It seems even with everyone on computers and the Internet, it still takes years for these findings to be published. But I was shocked at the huge spike in deaths from heart disease. For the last two years, in speeches and articles, I had been quoting 2008 statistics that 1,100 American die each day on average due to heart disease. In 2009, the number jumped dramatically. The CDC reports that 616,000 Americans died from heart disease. If you do the simple math of dividing 616,000 by 365 days, you get the daily average of 1,687 deaths.  I hate to be the one who has to bring up these statistics but by comparison, you could say that is the 9-11 tragedy every two days throughout the entire year. Of course, it is a slow motion train wreck. We don’t see it up close and personal like we did on 9-11.  

One popular uprising to combat heart disease is to move to veganism  or at least vegetarianism. The former President Bill Clinton has converted from being a Big Mac loving guy to being a near-vegan under the tutelage of Dr. Dean Ornish in the 1990s and more recently Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr and Dr. Colin Campbell.  All three doctors have written books exemplifying the vegetarian and vegan life-style.  You can Google them, find their books and videos. 

I am of the opinion that most people will find it too difficult to embrace veganism in order to complete such a drastic life-style change. For most of us, use Michael Pollan’s quote as a guide. Eat real food, not food-like substances. If the food has a package wrapped around it and the label ingredients are words you can’t pronounce, it probably isn’t real food. It’s just a food-like substance. Just as you can’t understand what those ingredients are, neither can your body. Those man-made molecular entities have no place or purpose in the body. The liver becomes over taxed dealing with so many foreign objects, it can’t properly deal with the natural fats, carbohydrates and protein that it should instead be processing. That creates the modern human dilemma and is one of the chief reasons, we find ourselves with an obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemic. So what should you do? Eat real food. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket where the fresh foods reside. Don’t eat too much. Keep almonds and walnuts handy to snack on, eat raw carrots and celery for snacks. Drink more water especially a half hour before meals. Stop eating before you are full. For some reason, there is a 15 minute gap between stomach and brain indicating fullness. If you eat til your full, you will feel bloated for hours. Stop early. Hydrate.

A big part of the food and food like substances has to do with the cooking oils in use today. These are mainly man made concoctions that preserve shelf life but hurts human life. While Dr. Esselstyn is militantly opposed to all oils, most nutritionist give an A+ rating to Omega-3 fats and point out that the balance between pro inflammatory and anti inflammatory oils are essential. The last statistic I read was a University study that said, on average the consumption of pro-inflammatory Omega-6 is 15.7 times greater than anti-inflammatory Omega-3. Just keep this in mind as you navigate the supermarkets and choose wisely. Check the label on the peanut butter in your cupboard, if it’s got partially hydrogenated oil, throw it away. The easy way to tell: if there is oil in the top of the sealed jar in the store, then it’s natural peanut butter! Stop eating partially hydrogenated oils, you will live longer.  

The consensus from most authority sources is that more water, more exercise, more stress management, more fruits, more vegetables, more dietary fiber, less fat, less cholesterol, less protein, less calcium, less sugar, less processed foods, and less oils is a good strategy for avoiding the common diseases that reduce the quality and length of life. For many years now, we’ve opted to order one entree for two people when dining in restaurants, the portions are just super-sized most places.

Nutrition is really a young science, in its infancy. It is almost impossible to imagine an all encompassing diet or any condition in life where we could safely say that it applies  to 100% of the population. Nature is smart and it has a built in mechanism called bio-diversity that prevents populations from being homogeneous. Homogeneity would be bad because it makes the entire population vulnerable to the same things.

We’ll talk more later.

Have a fun, inspiring and happy Memorial Day with your family.  See what your family wants to hold in remembrance. I would be interested to hear about it. You can leave comments below.

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