To Yolk or To Eggwhite

From A1c%, to cholesterol, triglyceride labs, to CRP – there are numerous tests we draw to understand how our diet is affecting our overall health. While research shows that 90% of heart disease is caused by modifiable diet and lifestyle factors, there is still a lot of confusion of what foods to eat and which to avoid. (1) Zooming in closer, I am going to layout some thought starters on cholesterol/cardiovascular labs, and propose some advice on how to hit optimal targets.

Strawberry Scrambler - 2 eggs, 3 strawberries, fresh parsley, ginger, coco nibs, salt/pepper #antioxidants #swee

Yet, first let’s get the elephant out of the room: high cholesterol is a symptom of some sort of inflammation in the body. It is not necessarily caused from eating egg yolks, and or other high quality cholesterol containing foods. Conclusions from research based in the 1960s suggested that cholesterol was caused from high cholesterol (animal) foods and saturated fat. However, more recent data, and stronger research puts this myth to bed. While 25% of the population may respond to a higher cholesterol intake, the increase does not impact heart health or the LDL to HDL ratio. In other words, I have no problem starting my every day with eggs and or bacon/sausage, and some sort of vegetable of course, even as a type 1 diabetic with an increased risk of heart disease. I digress.

Long-term studies on saturated fat and heart health are just as comforting, if not more. Low carbohydrate diets tend to be high in fat, including saturated fat, and have shown health benefits beyond lowering cholesterol including weight loss, decrease in triglycerides, fasting blood glucose, blood pressure, waist circumference, c- reactive protein/CRP (indicator of inflammation), to name a few. (2)  So once again, understand you are doing no harm to yourself when you consume saturated fat and high quality cholesterol foods.

Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Diet and overall health marry this quote perfectly.

To improve heart health first know your numbers, and what they mean, and how to interpret them. The total cholesterol is not the be all. Nearly half of the heart attacks, take place with people with low cholesterol. With all my clients, I hear their story, understand their lifestyle and interpret labs with this angle:

What is total cholesterol? HDL? LDL? Total triglycerides? The I take it a step further and measure: Total cholesterol/HDL? Triglycerides/HDL ratio?

With these results, I also want to know if my client has lost weight recently, and how long the weight has been stable, and/or if the client is postpartum. All the above can affect the lab results. Further more, let’s use some hypothetical lab results and play with the interpretations:

 

CHOLESTEROL 160 mg/dL
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): <170 mg/dL
TRIGLYCERIDE 61 mg/dL
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): <100 mg/dL
Highly Abnormal (please review with your medical team further): >499 mg/dL
HDL CHOLESTEROL 70 mg/dL
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): >50 mg/dL
LDL CHOL (CALC) 78 mg/dL
Optimal (not to be construed as a target for drug therapy): < 100 mg/dL
Highly Abnormal (please review with your medical team further): >189 mg/dL

As you can see beneath each result are optimal ranges. However, going off what I want to know, I will calculate a few ratios.
Trig/HDL = 0.87
– Ratio is ideal 1:1 or less. If it’s 2.5-3.0 there are some said lifestyle changes to made. If it’s >3 may indicated insulin resistance and increased heart disease.

Total cholesterol/HDL = 2.285
– Goal is to be below 5. Closer to 5 or above, can be an indication of cardiovascular diet/lifestyle modifications.

Ideally want HDL to be above 70 mg/dL for immunity and overall health outcomes.
– HDL increases with exercise, grassfed butter, cream, and coconut oil. HDL is made from fat, so we need to eat clean and quality fat for the raw materials. A little alcohol can also increase HDL.

A high LDL can be a sign of maybe some low thyroid, as well as, miss managed stress, sleep deprivation, high blood sugars, or too many carbohydrates in the diet.

If Triglycerides are high, review the amount of carbohydrate in the diet. Research has shown by limiting carbohydrates to 120-150g per day, can improve triglyceride levels, unrelated to weight loss. (3)

Understand what foods to eat and avoid:

  • Avoid man-made foods, including vegetable oils. Indeed, vegetable oils/margarine were once recommended for heart health.
  • Avoid eating large portions of foods that are high in omega 6 fatty acids. For example: nuts and seeds should be treated like a condiment. Please note the emphasis on “large.” Nuts are healthy and have many wellness benefits, but any good thing, can be overdone.

Feed your heart the nutrients it needs:

  • Eat whole real food, more often than not,
  • Have wild seafood twice a week (omega 3 fatty acids),
  • Eat antioxidant-rich foods at every meal (think produce, coffee, chocolate). An awesome goal to strive for, is 2 cups of vegetables at meals and 1 cup at snacks. Enjoy fruit, but keep quantity less than vegetables.
  • Enjoy polyphenol- rich foods such as cocoa, coffee, spices, tea, wine, vegetables, fruit.

Treat yourself with the care it deserves:

  • Sleep like you are getting paid for it. In a way you are!
  • Get spiritual – religious or not. But make the goal of getting in touch with yourself, being present, and finding calm in our busy lives.
  • Be kind with your thoughts and actions. Our feeling shape who we become.

Above all, remember that it is hard to manipulate nature. I always tell my clients, “Mother Nature cries everytime we throw out a yolk.” Keep things simple. Eat real food, and try to not over think it.

PS – the picture is a Strawberry Scrambler – 2 eggs, 3 strawberries, fresh parsley, ginger, coco nibs, salt/pepper #antioxidants #sweet

RELATED TOPICS

Eat Your Heart Out

See You Later Hypertension

Last fortnight I was asked to participate in an online interview (article originally published on: http://www.bloodpressurecharts.net/kelly-o-connell-interview.html) about natural ways to manage high blood pressure. Not only was this request interesting but it is a topic that needs more coverage. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a silent killer. I hate to be so blunt but there is no way around it – one in four adults (US data) have hypertension. Untreated hypertension can get ugly causing kidney damage, stroke, heart disease, dementia and more. However, with most things related to health, you can turn it around for the better. If hypertension is something you deal with personally, consider the below to incorporate with your daily routine. As always, if you need some help, feel free to contact me.

  • What supplements/foods do you recommend people with high blood pressure try, to help lower their blood pressure?

Before advising someone on what to eat and what to supplement with, I first need to understand if there is anything else going on with their health, such as diabetes, kidney disease, etc. I also want to know what medication they are taking.

Generally speaking though, I advise eating a moderately high protein and fat diet, with moderately low (less than 150 grams per day) carbohydrates. Carbohydrates should be mainly sourced from vegetables, legumes/lentils, tubers and fruit.

Important foods to consider are those rich in potassium (bananas, avocado, herbs, cocoa, nuts, and tomatoes), magnesium (pumpkin, squash, cocoa, nuts, fish), vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, celery) and vitamin E (almonds, herbs, olives), omega 3 fatty acids (fatty fish like salmon or sardines) and flavonols (red wine, grapes, cocoa). Do you see a trend? I am a believer in dark chocolate/cocoa nibs and consume cocoa in one shape or another daily.

However, more important than knowing what to eat is knowing foods to cut back on, including foods high in fructose and processed foods (chips, deli meat, bread, pastries, cookies, desserts, etc).

Fructose, simply put, is a type of sugar. It is under a lot of scrutiny causing detrimental things to our health including hypertension. While the jury is still out, there is a true consensus that fructose does more harm than good. The important take away is to know what foods are high in fructose i.e. candies/lollies, cold breakfast cereals, desserts such as ice cream, cake, muffins, salad dressing, breads, pizza,crackers, canned fruit and juices with added sweeteners and more.

My recommended supplements include high-quality fish oil, a strong probiotic, magnesium twice a day, Himalayan sea salt and CoQ10. Food always comes first.

  • What are your thoughts on salt and high blood pressure? Should we be limiting salt intake or is the salt thing all blown out of proportion?

You may be surprised to hear that I do not stress salt restrictions. Processed foods should certainly get more vigilance in this space. I think overall sodium claims are blown out of proportion and certainly, I strongly advise the use of Himalayan sea salt. Overall, individuals need to self-assess how salt makes them feel. If the consumption of salt makes someone retain fluid or make their heart palpitate/speed up, then a reduced salt intake should be implemented. However, I think there are far more important actions to take than demonizing salt. Focus should zero in on stress levels, adequate sleep, exercise, eating whole foods (this does not include whole grains) and maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Not necessarily specific to high blood pressure, but what are your top 5 healthiest foods we should all be trying to eat more of, and why?

Grassfed/free range meat – protein is essential and free range meat, ideally, beef, has an optimal fatty acid ratio, up to 6 times more omega 3’s compared to the grocery store variety. Certainly, omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in every cell and system in our bodies. Beyond the nutrient profile grassfed/free range beef offers, it is a great tool for optimal health. It is satiating, protective against cancer and cardiovascular disease, has low insulinogenic properties and more.

Coconut – whether it is coconut oil, flour, cream or milk, I welcome it all. I consume this functional food daily, reaping one of the thousands of benefits it offers. In traditional medicine, coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems and it is so versatile to use. I make pancakes from coconut flour and milk, I cook with coconut oil, especially with eggs and coconut cream is delicious with berries.

Pumpkin – is loaded with healthy starches and it is absolutely delicious. Pumpkin is nutrient-rich, easy to make and can satisfy a sweet or savory craving. I have learned to cook pumpkin in a variety of fashions from pumpkin soup (with coconut milk and cinnamon), roasted pumpkin salad (with pine nuts, spinach, feta and homemade balsamic dressing) to pumpkin porridge (mixing puree pumpkin with eggs, nuts, and raisins).  Pumpkin can also serve as a dessert by garnishing it with spices and honey.

Free range eggs – they are one of few foods that naturally contain vitamin D and are far superior to caged eggs when it comes to nutrient content. They are rich in vitamin A and E and omega 3 fatty acids, among many other important vitamins and minerals.

Fermented foods – I am all about gut health and a happy gut, makes a good immune system. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, etc provide probiotics to our intestines. There are plenty of benefits to adding probiotics to our bodies, including protection from colon cancerrelief from lactose intolerance and diarrheareduction in cavities, and more. Improved digestion means more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are absorbed, making you an overall healthier being.

Cheers to you and good health,

Kel
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Mashed Cauliflower

As of June 1 it turned winter here in Melbourne and with cold weather I am craving comfort food.

Let health remain on the horizon with some out-of-the-box ideas for meals. Mashed cauliflower hit the spot tonight and it was so so easy to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped
  • Himalayan sea salt, to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of gluten free soup stock
  • Butter (optional)
Directions:
Boil water and soup paste to a boil and add in the chopped cauliflower. Once all the cauliflower is added, turn temperature down to medium and let cook while stirring occasionally for 25 minutes. You want the cauliflower to get so tender that you can mash it easily with a fork. Strain the cauliflower and toss in a food processor until the consistency you desire. Top with salt and butter (optional).

Cauliflower is a good source of fiber, an excellent source of Vitamin C, a good source of Vitamin K, folate, Vitamin B6 and potassium. Talk about nutrient density mate!

Cheers to you and good health,
Kel

Food for Thought: Seaweed

Do you ever come across the situation of going for sushi, buying sashimi (nice option to avoid rice) and still desire something else to fill your plate and appetite? If you can relate to the above occasion or have an interest in knowing the awesome health benefits of seaweed, keep reading.

Nutrients Composition:

  • vitamins A (beta carotene)
  • vitamin C
  • potassium
  • iron
  • calcium
  • iodine (good for thyroid health)
  • magnesium
  • vitamin B-12 – which is not often found in vegetables, i.e. this is a great option if you are a low or meatless eater.

Seaweed Benefits:

  • As one of the most mineral and vitamin dense vegetables, you can nourish your body with less
  • literature suggests that seaweed can assist in detoxing, removing heavy metals from the intestines
  • prevents some cancers
  • lowers cholesterol
  • increases sexual desire
  • support the thyroid
  • lower blood pressure
  • treat anemia

The research on seaweed is young and in my opinion can use more exploration, but the above conclusions are surely not a shabby start.

Ways to Eat Seaweed:

  • soups, such as miso soups
  • salads, for example, cut up some nori (sushi wrappers) to mix in a  salad
  • side dishes
  • condiment, add some kelp seaweed to a smoothie
Where to Find:
Seaweed can be found in most specialty stores or oriental grocers.

Do Your Heart Some Good

We’re tempted by high-calorie foods, but they should always be an occasional treat, not everyday fare. Eating too many foods high in fat and sodium can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women and men in the U.S.

The American Heart Association says a heart-healthy diet is rich in vegetables and fruits, with whole grains, high-fiber foods, lean meats and poultry, fish at least twice a week, and fat-free or 1-percent fat dairy products.

“Most of us want to keep our hearts healthy,” said registered dietitian Fran Williams. “But the question remains, how do we do that?”
Williams, an outpatient dietitian at Kentucky’s Central Baptist Hospital, said that with all the information out there, it can be difficult to be sure we are doing the right thing for our hearts. She gives us a guide by listing her top 10 heart-healthy super foods, and why they should play a major role in our diets.
Fish, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids. Those include salmon, tuna and sardines. “Your heart loves omega-3s. These healthy fats reduce incidents of cardiovascular disease, help lower blood pressure, triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.”
Beans – black, white, red, kidney – are loaded with soluble fiber, which lowers LDL cholesterol. Aim for 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber a day (you need 25 to 30 grams of total fiber a day).
Soybeans. “I especially like edamames, young, immature soybeans, steamed in their pods,” Williams said.

Oats are another great source for soluble fiber.

Skim milk and yogurt are low in fat and high in calcium. “We all know that we need calcium for our bones, but did you know that calcium helps with keeping our hearts beating regularly?” she said.

Berries – blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, lingonberries, raspberries, cherries – are loaded with phytonutrients, anti-oxidants and fiber. “And, let’s throw in a pomegranate, too,” Williams said. “Think color.”

Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids. “They also are high in calories, so stop at a small handful,” she said.

Flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber. It is best to grind your flaxseed and keep it in the refrigerator or freezer.

Brussels sprouts are high in soluble fiber.

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, but it’s still fat, so go easy.

Reference click here
Have a healthy and fit day!

Salt Replacers Improve Heart Health: Study

The use of salt replacers in the diet, as a means of reducing sodium intake, may improve blood pressure and artery health, says a new study from China.

Results of the randomised, controlled trial indicate that people who replaced 100 sodium chloride with a salt substitute, containing 65 per cent sodium chloride, 25 per cent potassium chloride, and 10 per cent magnesium sulfate, experienced improvements in systolic blood pressure.

“Over the 12-month study period the salt substitute significantly reduced not only peripheral and central systolic blood pressure but also reduced arterial stiffness,” wrote lead author Jihong Hu in the journal Hypertension Research.

The study, by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, and Ningxia Medical College, is sure to be welcomed by the burgeoning salt replacer market.

Numerous scientists are convinced that high salt intake is responsible for increasing blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but campaigners for salt reduction, like the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) consider the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, far too high.

The pressure has been mounting on food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their foods and the UK’s food standards agency (FSA) recommendation of six grams of salt per day for the general population is understood to be more a realistic target than the ideal healthy limit recommended by WHO/FAO.

Study details

Hu and his co-workers recruited 600 high-risk people with an average age of 57.4, and an average blood pressure of 150.1/91.4 mm Hg in rural China to take part in The China Salt Substitute Study. Participants were randomly assigned to consume the salt substitute or regular salt for one year.

After 12 months of intervention, the researchers noted significant improvements in both peripheral and central systolic blood pressure of 7.4 and 6.9 mm Hg, respectively.

The central pulse pressure was also found to be reduced by 4.5 mm Hg, added the researchers. On the other hand, no improvements in diastolic blood pressure were observed.


Markers of the health of the arteries also improved, in the aortic pressure augmentation (AUG) or 1.5 mmHg, and pulse wave reflection time of 2.59 milliseconds. These indicated that the stiffness of the arteries improved.

Salt reduction

Earlier this year, scientists from Harvard Medical School reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine that higher sodium and lower potassium intakes may increase the risk of heart disease by 24 per cent.

The trials of hypertension prevention (TOHP) I and II – looked at the effects of sodium reduction and other interventions on the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Researchers, led by Nancy Cook from Harvard Medical School, found that increasing levels of sodium in the urine increased the risk of CVD.

“The totality of evidence suggests that lowering dietary sodium intake, while increasing potassium consumption, at the population level might reduce the incidence of CVD,” wrote Cook.

Source: Hypertension ResearchPublished online ahead of print, 27 February 2009, doi:10.1038/hr.2009.7“Effects of salt substitute on pulse wave analysis among individuals at high cardiovascular risk in rural China: a randomized controlled trial”Authors: J. Hu, X. Jiang, N. Li, X. Yu, V. Perkovic, B. Chen, L. Zhao, B. Neal, Y. Wu

Reference: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Science-Nutrition/Salt-replacers-improve-heart-health-Study