The Real Heart Healthy Diet

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This topic is particularly important to me, as I think there is so much misinformation out there regarding heart health, and an optimal diet for heart health. Heart disease is one of the most wrongly treated diseases. Outdated recommendations are still being made by “authority” organizations and medical Doctors are still advising for eating nutrient void foods, avoiding healthy fats, as well as increasing grain consumption (which actually increases inflammation and decreases mineral absorption). In the past, I worked as an exercise physiologist in a cardiac rehabilitation clinic. I talked to patients all about the importance of avoiding saturated fats and cooking with polyunsaturated fats (PUFA oils) like canola oil, as well as eating a low-fat or fat-free diet. I use to make a canola oil pie crust and bring the patients homemade apple pie with this crust. This was the nutrition paradigm I was taught in school. Sadly, even though proven to be wrong in study after study, this information is still out there, and is still being presented as a “heart healthy” diet.

So what is the real way to help your heart function optimally through diet? Heart disease is known to be caused by inflammation. To protect your heart, you want to try to keep your body in an uninflamed state.

Let’s Learn a Little About Inflammation…

The body needs to be able to be both inflamed and uniflamed and this is done through the formation of prostoglandins. Prostoglandins are hormone-like substances that are made from essential fatty acids (EFA’s). Prostoglandin formation from omega 3 fatty acids, saturated fats, and omega 6 fatty acids help to keep the inflammation in the body balanced.

The difference between good and bad fats is not what you have been taught it to be.

Saturated fats are not “bad fats” and they are not the cause of heart disease. I think I may need to repeat this…Saturated.fats.are.not.bad.fats.

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This study done in 2009 pooled together data from 21 unique studies that included almost 350,000 people, about 11,000 of whom developed cardiovascular disease (CVD), tracked for an average of 14 years, and concluded that there is no relationship between the intake of saturated fat and the incidence of heart disease or stroke.

According to Dr James J DiNicolantonio (2014),  “Not only has the condemnation of saturated fats led to an increased consumption of carbohydrates, it has also led to several dietary guidelines recommending replacement of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, without specifying which polyunsaturated fatty acid (ie, Ω-3 vs Ω-6). The recommendation for increasing polyunsaturated fat stems from pooled analyses of data looking at increasing Ω-3 and Ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. However, a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials showed that replacing a combination of trans-fats and saturated fats with Ω-6 polyunsaturated fats (without simultaneously increasing Ω-3 fatty acids) leads to an increased risk of death.These results were corroborated when data were recovered from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and included in an updated meta-analysis.” Read the full piece here.

PROCESSED fats however, are bad fats.

Plastic bottle of cooking oilProcessed fats such as canola oil, shortenings, and vegetable oils are not in their inherent or natural form. They are heat and chemically treated thus destroying any “omega 3” properties that might have been in the original plant. They are unstable, and pro-inflammatory. They disrupt the prostoglandin balance in the body, and create…get ready for it… INFLAMMATION!

What is the root cause of heart disease again?

INFLAMMATION

So Why again is canola oil or vegetable oil bad for my heart?

Canola oil is a highly processed rancid oil. It is a chemically extracted oil, through the use of harsh solvents. Canola oil is genetically modified, and pesticide laden. Consuming these oils will actually contribute to inflammation, not reduce it.

According to Mark Sisson,

Once harvested and graded, seeds are heated to facilitate oil extraction. Most canola oil is chemically extracted using the harsh petroleum-derived solvent hexane. Even when expeller pressing is used, a process common to organic brands, the massive force of industrial presses still produces heat. True “cold-pressed” canola oil (extracted with millstones) does exist but can be hard to find and is more expensive.

Following extraction, canola oil must be de-gummed to remove unappealing solids that settle during storage. The process involves heat and sometimes the addition of acids. Next stop, the oil is then bleached and separated. Finally, the oil (known for its stench) must be deodorized through heating methods that use temperatures as high as 500 FahrenheitRead more here

 

What fats should I eat to keep my fatty acids balanced?

  • You want a nice mix of Omega 3’s, Omega 6’s, and saturated fats
  • Omega 6’s to omega 3’s should be 1:1.

Food Sources of Omega 3:

  • wild caught fish
  • grass-fed or pasture raised meats and eggs including beef
  • small amounts of nuts and seeds (most nuts are very high in omega 6 as well, so you do not want a staple diet of nuts, but rather in small amounts).

What about Omega 6?

Our typical diet is very high in Omega 6 fatty acids. We want to try to reduce the amount of Omega 6 fatty acids in our diet. Avoid all processed oils and try to keep nuts to small amounts.

 

Saturated Fat Sources to INCLUDE in a healthy diet:

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  • Coconut oil
  • Grass-fed butter or ghee
  • Palm oil
  • Animal Fats from pasture raised animals such as: tallow and lard

What’s the deal with cholesterol?

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  • All of the cells in your body need cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol metabolizes all hormones and fat soluable vitamins.
  • Your body manufactures most of it’s own cholesterol and a little bit comes from food.
  • Cholesterol forms and maintains cell wall structures.
  • Cholesterol is used by the nerve cells for insulation.
  • The liver uses cholesterol to produce bile.
  • Cholesterol is also needed for your body to make Vitamin D.
  • Much of what you may think about cholesterol is wrong.
  • Cholesterol is found in the arteries, but it is mistaken as the culprit in heart disease. Cholesterol travels to arteries in order to heal the body–as a  “patch” or “bandage” to the lesions caused by underlying inflammation. This underlying inflammation is from a diet high in inflammatory foods likes sugars, processed grains, and oxidized oils.

 

What are the real underlying causes of Heart Disease?

  • inflammation
  • adrenal issues from stress
  • sugar imbalance from high carbohydrate and low fat diet
  • poor mineral intake or absorption
  • fatty acid imbalance
  • leaky gut
  • thyroid issues
  • depression/anxiety
  • obesity
  • lack of movement

 

What should my “heart healthy diet” look like?

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It shouldn’t look like a “diet”, but rather nourishing your body with nutrient-dense real foods most of the time!

  • Try to get a good mix of healthy saturated animal fats, as well as monounsaturated fats (like olive oil, and avocado oil). Use saturated fats for high heat cooking, and pressed olive oil for light sauteeing or cold use.
  • Eat wild caught fish, like salmon and sardines, as well as oysters (oysters are an excellent source of minerals).
  • Eat pasture raised animals (animals out eating their natural diet) such as beef and pasture raised chicken, including pasture raised eggs. Animals out eating their natural diet of grass are much higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, and contain CLA, a potent cancer fighter.
  • Avoid processed foods…foods that come in a box or package and are made with canola oil, shortening, or other highly processed oils.
  • Don’t fear eggs. Don’t fear animal fats from pasture raised animals. These myths have been proven wrong.
  • Manage your stress levels through yoga, mindfulness, and meditation.
  • Try to get adequate sleep.
  • Work to heal your gut through avoiding processed foods, and consuming fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut, fermented beets, fermented carrots, kefir, or kombucha tea.
  • Use your body! Get up and Move.
  • Get outdoors, and connect with nature.

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About Kathryn:

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Kathryn Kos is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)  through The Nutritional Therapy Association, and a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor through The University of San Diego. Her undergraduate degree is in Movement Science from Westfield State College. Her Master’s degree is in Rehabilitation Counseling from Springfield College. She specialize in healing digestion, balancing blood sugar, balancing hormones, and autoimmune conditions.

Kathryn offers worldwide skype consultations! 

My Services

Contact Me: primalblissnutrition@gmail.com

 

Comments

  1. You really speak my language and I am so glad you posted this! You will have to check out our podcast Nutrition Genius Radio, we discuss so many of these topics…with the same approach and philosophy. Thank goodness we kicked canola oil to the curb!

  2. Susan antonelli says:

    My mother recently died of a sudden (and unexpected) heart attack at the age of 66. Your list of underlying causes of heart disease reads like a check-list for her (except for depression/anxiety in her case.) She had a high-stress job for years that caused her to eat a lot of processed and restaurant food and resulted in a sedentary lifestyle. However, she also followed the advice of leading health gurus and carefully avoided saturated fats and ate lots of carbs. She would always go for a box of something labeled “low-fat and multi grain.” Her blood pressure was fine and her cholesterol was within the “OK” range. I wish more people understood what really causes heart disease. Her passing has opened my eyes!

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