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Another "Healthy Heart Guide" that got it wrong

It is so disheartening. Following in the footsteps of the flawed American food guide, and the recently revised and still misguided Canadian food guide, I just looked through the "New Healthy Heart Handbook for Women" put out by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and although parts of the guide look good, the dietary advice continues to be hugely problematic. This is the same dietary advice that we've been following for years, and it obviously isn't working! I can't believe that the powers that be are still promoting a diet that increases the insulin response in the body, and causes inflammation!

I would have thought that by now it was common knowledge that high blood insulin levels cause arteries to clog much faster than low insulin levels! That is why diabetics are at higher risk for heart disease. So why is it that they are recommending the most servings of the type of food that causes the biggest insulin response? 6 to 8 servings of grains???? Not only that but they are suggesting bread and pasta, which are made of flour, thereby increasing the glycemic response further! This is madness.

It is important to remember that in pre-industrial times when there was no heart disease, fruit, grains and veggies were not available during the cold months. Most people ate a meat, dairy, and/or seafood based diet for several months of the year, supplementing with carbs that were dried or fermented from summer. It was only in the warmer months when veggies, fruit and grain were available. It is worth noting that in pre-industrial times no one ate vegetable oils like corn, soy, canola, safflower etc.! No vegetable oils, very limited sugar, no heart disease. Hmm...

It is so simple. Chronic consumption of high starch carbs and sugary foods causes insulin resistance. Chronically high insulin levels cause the arteries to clog. In addition to that, chronically high sugar levels lead to Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs), which also leads to heart disease.  Need I point out that there is no such thing as an "essential carbohydrate"? I bet if you were to go to your doctor and get your fasting glucose and insulin levels checked, then swear off the foods listed as "avoid" in these guidelines for a month (heck, even 2 weeks!) and retest, not only would glucose and insulin levels be moving in the right direction, but also probably cholesterol and triglyceride levels - and you would most likely lose weight and have more energy to boot. Keep following the guidelines until your sugar and insulin levels are under control, and then you can add back in small amounts of  the "avoid temporarily" foods.

    Eat regularly:
  • Above-ground veggies, organic if possible (broccoli, kale, zucchini, green beans etc.)
  • Sea vegetables (wakami, kombu, nori sheets etc.)
  • Mercury-free seafood, shell-fish and fish roe (check mercury levels on the mercury calculator)
  • Free-range eggs and poultry, organic if possible
  • Pasture-fed meats, organic if possible
  • Organ meats, organic if possible
  • Pasture-fed cream, whole milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, raw if possible, second best non-homogenized, organic if possible (Organic Pastures)
  • raw whole nuts and seeds, organic if possible, soaked and dried first (walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds etc.)
  • extra virgin olive oil from the first cold pressing, organic if possible
  • virgin coconut oil, unrefined and organic, if possible
  • unrefined flax oil, organic
    Avoid temporarily until fasting glucose levels drop to between 80 and 90mg/dl and fasting insulin levels drop at least to 7
  • whole grains (including corn)
  • below-ground vegetables like potatoes, beets, carrots etc.
  • fruit, except for avocados, olives which can be eaten freely
  • legumes
  • raw honey, molasses, maple syrup, rapadura
    Permanently remove from your diet - look for these on ingredient lists and avoid
  • sugar in all its forms, and all products with forms of sugar on the ingredient list (look for words ending in "ose", and "saccharides" etc.)
  • all vegetable oils except for olive, coconut oil and unrefined flax oil
  • all processed, manufactured, artificial food with ingredients that you don't understand (ie: textured vegetable protein)
  • products made from refined flour (baked goods, soups etc.)
  • pasteurized fruit juice and canned fruit
  • lower-fat dairy
  • soy isolate products
  • table salt

The handbook is once again suggesting that polyunsaturated omega 6 vegetable oils are "healthy fats". Yet by definition these oils are extremely sensitive to heat and light, oxidize readily making them rancid. We need to treat all vegetable oils like flax oil is treated - unrefined, in a dark bottle and kept in the fridge. But no, vegetable oils are on store shelves rather than in the fridge, frequently in clear glass bottles, and worst of all, they are for the most part refined. That means they were heated in the processing! That means they are rancid! They are deodorized and bleached and then sold to consumers as "healthy fats". So, we consume these oxidized fats, resulting in a ton of free radicals damaging our bodies. Great idea. No wonder our bodies get inflamed! Furthermore, omega 6 oils are known to promote inflammation through use of the Cox 2 pathway. Inflammation is an integral part of cardiovascular disease. So eat omega 6 vegetable oils and then take Cox 2 inhibitors to deal with the inflammation? Makes no sense to me.

I agree with the handbook's advice not to eat trans fats. Trans fats are absolutely awful for us and definitely promote heart disease. But once again, saturated fats and cholesterol are painted with the same brush. Cholesterol goes up when there are a lot of free radicals in the body, because it is an antioxidant. Stop eating rancid vegetable oils and artificial food, and probably cholesterol levels won't need to be so high. I won't repeat my posts on saturated fat and cholesterol here, but suffice it to say that promoting low-fat dairy is misguided. Low-fat dairy = high sugar dairy (lactose) = big insulin response = clogged arteries. One does not need to fear saturated fat and cholesterol. They are in nutrient-dense foods, are part of a healthy diet, and play a critical role in slowing the release of sugar from carbs into the blood stream thereby helping to regulate insulin levels. But one does need to choose high quality fats from free range or pasture-fed animals. Extra-virgin olive oil from the first cold pressing is also a very healthy fat, although it can't take high heat unless mixed with butter or ghee.

The final piece is to learn one's metabolic type, so that you know what ratio of above-ground veggies, protein and fat to consume for your biochemical individuality. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to eat a high protein, high fat, low carb diet. Some people do well on 60 to 70% above ground veggies, with a little bit of protein and fat. Do the test, and find out what ratio is right for you.

Related Posts
Sugar: the disease generator
Blood-sugar regulation
Saturated fat: the misunderstood nutrient
Fats: the good, the bad and the ugly
High Cholesterol does not cause heart disease

"New Healthy Heart Handbook for Women" put out by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
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Copyright 2007 Vreni Gurd