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 Outdated recommendations are still being made by “authority” organizations and medical Doctors are still advising for eating nutrient void foods, avoiding healthy fats,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! 

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Contact Me: primalblissnutrition@gmail.com

 

Why Avoid Peanuts

Peanut in a shell and cleared

Peanut in a shell and cleared

 

I’ve had a couple recent clients mention that they eat a lot of peanut butter. They wanted to know if there is a reason to switch out of it if they were not allergic. There are many reasons why advocates of the paleo/primal/realfood lifestyle avoid peanuts, and I will try to cover all of them. Many people think that peanuts are nuts, however, they are actually legumes! What is a legume? legumes are seeds within a pod such as beans, chick peas, and beans.

 

What is the difference between a nut and a legume?

 

Nuts usually have one seed within a shell, legumes tend to have multiple seeds within a casing. The focus on this piece is peanuts which are legumes.

 

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Some people in the paleo community eat small amounts of legumes, some avoid them all together. The reason why some (including myself) choose to avoid legumes is because they contain anti-nutrients (phytates and lectins) that help protect the plant from being eaten by bugs. These anti-nutrients can contribute to inflammation in the body, digestive issues, and leaky gut. You would want to avoid legumes if you have autoimmune conditions. However, when properly soaked and sprouted many of these anti-nutrients can be removed, making legumes easier on digestion. Some legumes are also high in complex carbohydrates which is not good for those struggling with balancing their blood sugar. However, they do contain fiber to slow the absorption of sugar in the system. So legumes are not the worse thing you can eat. They are not the best source of nutrients in terms of nutrient density, but in my opinion are better than many of the processed food options out there if properly prepared (soaked, sprouted).

 

Now onto peanuts…

 

Peanuts (in my opinion) might not be a good choice even if you are keeping some legumes in the diet.

 

According to Dr. Mercola:

  • Peanuts are high in omega-6 fats that distort the omega 3:6 ratio. High omega 6 consumption leads to inflammation in the body.
  • Peanuts are contaminated with a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin
  • Peanuts are one of the most pesticide-contaminated crop (unless organic)

 

My take:

In our culture we eat a very high omega 6 diet, and low omega 3. Many of us are not consuming grass-fed/pasture raised meats which have a better fatty acid profile (higher in omega 3). We also consume high omega 6 vegetable oils. Here is a piece I wrote about oils (which to avoid and why). Even when you try to avoid the “bad” oils at home, you still consume them when you go out to eat. Very few restaurants cook with healthy oils. So why eat even more omega 6 fatty acids by eating peanut butter regularly? Just something to think about.

Some experts link the mold on the shell of the peanuts to peanut allergies. Some deny the link all together. Regardless of the trigger for allergies, peanuts are still very high in aflatoxin, and that is another reason to avoid them.

 

According to the FDA:

“Aflatoxins produce acute necrosis, cirrhosis, and carcinoma of the liver in a number of animal species; no animal species is resistant to the acute toxic effects of aflatoxins; hence it is logical to assume that humans may be similarly affected. A wide variation in LD50 values has been obtained in animal species tested with single doses of aflatoxins. For most species, the LD50 value ranges from 0.5 to 10 mg/kg body weight. Animal species respond differently in their susceptibility to the chronic and acute toxicity of aflatoxins. The toxicity can be influenced by environmental factors, exposure level, and duration of exposure, age, health, and nutritional status of diet. Aflatoxin B1 is a very potent carcinogen in many species, including nonhuman primates, birds, fish, and rodents. In each species, the liver is the primary target organ of acute injury. Metabolism plays a major role in determining the toxicity of aflatoxin B1; studies show that this aflatoxion requires metabolic activation to exert its carcinogenic effect, and these effects can be modified by induction or inhibition of the mixed function oxidase system.”

 

According to Mark’s Daily Apple:

“Peanuts are high in aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are naturally occurring fungal toxins, or mycotoxins, produced by certain members of Aspergillus, a type of fungus found pretty much everywhere throughout the world. Aspergillus tends to colonize any monosaccharide and polysaccharide it comes across, as long as the conditions are right, but peanuts are particularly susceptible. Most crops are colonized after harvest and during storage, but since Aspergillus is found in the soil (among other places) and peanuts grow underground, peanut colonization often occurs well before harvest. The result is that peanuts are among the most contaminated crops, along with corn and cottonseed.”

Read more

 

My verdict:

There are alternative nut-butters such as almond butter or nut-free seed butter like sun butter (made with sunflower seeds), I use these for dipping fruit and carrots in rather than peanut butter. I also occasionally bake with them. Remember, nuts contain anti-nutrients (phytates and lectins) as well, which is why you want raw soaked/sprouted nuts and seeds to ease digestion. However, they are not heavy on the molds like peanuts. When our ancestors started consuming nuts/seeds, they knew how to prepare them properly to ease digestion. It was harder for them to forage and shell them, so they weren’t consuming massive amounts from the food industry like we are today. If you are switching to alternative nut/seed butters do so in moderation or consider making your own with soaked nuts. If you are one of those peanut butter lovers who just cannot give it up, I suggest cutting down on the amount you are consuming, or try converting to an alternative nut/seed butter. Now that I am more in tune with my body, I notice that I get very bloated after eating almonds and almond butter. However, sunbutter doesn’t bother me. Listen to the messages your body is sending you!

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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. Kathryn is a nutrition blogger over at Primal Bliss Nutrition, where she shares whole food recipes and articles pertaining to health and wellness. She specialize in healing digestion, balancing blood sugar, balancing hormones, autoimmune conditions, weight loss, and feeding infants and children.

“My own health struggles occurred through years of following mainstream western nutritional advice led me down this path. I was eating what I thought was a very healthy diet (following conventional medical advice). However, I was struggling with feeling good inside and out. I ended up being diagnosed with several Autoimmune Conditions. I was having horrible gall bladder attacks and living on antacids. My thyroid was enlarged, and I struggled with anxiety and insomnia. My endocrinologist wanted to wait until my thyroid stopped functioning, and put me on a medication. That was the only solution offered. Doctors wanted to put me on medications.

My philosophy is to find and heal the root cause of the problem, rather than fix the symptoms by taking a medication or removing an organ. Through my own intense research, I began my real food journey. My health changed drastically and my autoimmune markers went way down. I started to feel amazing and wanted to share my experience on a big level. I am so excited to share my knowledge with you!  I am dedicated to helping you realize what your bio-individual nutrition needs are, and giving you the tools to make positive changes in your life!”

-Kathryn Kos, NTP

Kathryn sees clients worldwide through phone, skype or google hangouts! She also sees clients locally in her Ballston Spa, NY office.

Contact Kathryn to schedule a free consultation:

(518) 260-9749

primalblissnutrition@gmail.com