Tag Archive: heart


How to Eat

All right, now many of my patients have come to me with questions about how to eat. If your digestion is great, energy great, and you have no weight-loss concerns, no family history of heart disease, etc. then keep doing what you’re doing, and ignore this blog post 🙂

As always, keep the cautions at the top of this page in mind.

Otherwise…

In Chinese medicine, the ideal diet is one designed just for you, because each food has its own kinds of properties, and will affect people differently depending on their energetic pattern. However, there are some generalizations we can make.

First, let’s start with the Western, scientific side of things, which I’ve been intensely studying for some time now. This is an enormous pain, because you have to cut through misreporting of studies, ideological bias, and deliberate, industry-funded obfuscation. There’s many diets out there that are dramatically different, from low carb diets (including Paleo and Keto), to low fat diets, vegan diets, a blood-type diet, the WFPB (Whole Foods Plant Based) diet, to a way of timing your meals as in intermittent fasting. It’s quite a mess, so a good source for high-quality information is crucial.

IMO, the best source for information about the latest science on diet is nutritionfacts.org. It’s a nonprofit site run by Dr. Greger that goes through every study on nutrition published in English every year, and takes no corporate money. Dr. Greger also has several books out, including How Not to Die, How Not to Diet, and a How Not to Die cookbook, all of which I recommend.

In addition, I like the YouTube channel of Mike the Vegan, who shows a good understanding of both the basics and some of the more confusing points, and includes links to all his sources: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGJq0eQZoFSwgcqgxIE9MHw

To make a very long and confusing story short, the best proof, from multiple lines of evidence, points to a WFPB low-to-no-added oil diet as being the healthiest.

“But wait,” I hear some of you saying, “what about when I lost all that weight on Keto/Paleo/Low Carb, and my cholesterol and blood sugar got better? Doesn’t that show these other diets are just as good?” Well, here’s the thing: any diet that restricts calories enough to cause weight loss has beneficial effects, so is it the food you’re eating or just the total calories that’s causing the benefits?

This very question was tested with a WFPB diet, where the participants were weighed and required to eat more if they started losing weight. So what happened?

“Diets were designed to be weight-maintaining. Participants were weighed every day, and if they started losing weight, the researchers made them eat more food. In fact, so much food some of the participants had trouble eating it all… so, there was no significant alteration in body weight despite restrictions of meat, dairy, and eggs, and enough whole plant foods—whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit—to provide 65 grams of fiber a day…The control diet they used was the conventional diabetic diet… So, how did they do? With zero weight loss, did the dietary intervention still help?…Overall, insulin requirements were cut about 60%; half were able to get off insulin altogether, despite no change in weight. So, was this after five years, or seven months, like in the other studies I showed? No, 16 days.

“So, we’re talking diabetics who’ve had diabetes as long as 20 years, injecting 20 units of insulin a day, and then, as few as 13 days later, they’re off insulin altogether, thanks to less than two weeks on a plant-based diet… And as a bonus, their cholesterol dropped like a rock, in 16 days. Just like moderate changes in diet usually result in only modest reductions in cholesterol, asking people with diabetes to make moderate changes often achieves equally moderate results, which is one possible reason why most end up on drugs, injections, or both.”

From https://nutritionfacts.org/video/diabetes-reversal-is-it-the-calories-or-the-food/

In addition, considerable evidence shows the low carb approach has many problems, especially long-term. From Dr. Greger: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/flashback-friday-paleo-diets-may-negate-benefits-of-exercise/ (meat protein causes as much insulin release as pure sugar, and the low carb approach raises LDL, the bad cholesterol), https://nutritionfacts.org/video/low-carb-diets-and-coronary-blood-flow/ (low carb diets impair arterial blood flow), https://nutritionfacts.org/video/does-a-ketogenic-diet-help-diabetes-or-make-it-worse/, https://nutritionfacts.org/video/keto-diets-muscle-growth-and-bone-density/ (keto diets lead to bone loss, muscle shrinkage and reduced ability to exercise), https://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-keto-diets-safe/ (keto promotes heart disease), https://nutritionfacts.org/video/keto-diet-theory-put-to-the-test/ (the theory behind Keto found to be false experimentally).

From Mike the Vegan: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGVn4OYJByrvbq9oX68FyCknhnCIbmJk5 In particular, I’d like to draw your attention to this one: https://youtu.be/MyOACAdvAsE where he shows most of stored fat comes from ingested fat.

That’s the highlights, you can check those sources for many more details.

With regard to heart disease, the causes and benefits should be well-known, but often aren’t. For the causes of heart disease, see https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-do-we-know-that-cholesterol-causes-heart-disease/, and Mike gives an excellent explanation of the mechanisms here: https://youtu.be/MsFWeC-DeLo

But what about all that hoopla about studies that show dietary cholesterol is no problem? See https://youtu.be/vBtfzd43t8o (the tricks used by the meat industry to cause confusion on this).

As you might expect, plant-based diets can prevent or reverse heart disease: https://www.pcrm.org/health-topics/heart-disease, https://nutritionfacts.org/video/arteries-of-vegans-vs-runners/, https://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-based-treatment-for-angina/

Ok, I can go on and on citing evidence but that gets old; let’s get to the heart of the matter: what should you eat? A WFPB diet includes veggies that are minimally processed, whole grains, legumes, herbs and spices, and whole fruits. No meat, no dairy, no eggs, and no seafood. In addition, things like sodas, white sugar, white potatoes, and white flour are avoided, since they’re not whole foods. Last but not least, the evidence shows that, especially for weight loss, don’t cook with or add any oil (https://youtu.be/LbtwwZP4Yfs, https://youtu.be/50KCPqOEjfU); note this doesn’t mean avoid eating fat, as things like olives, avocados, nuts, etc. are whole foods and good, it means don’t add any oil to your food or cook with it. I would add that supplements are often a good idea; a B-complex plus iodine and vitamin D every week, and zinc, selenium, and DHA once a month is what I personally do. See Dr. Greger’s Daily dozen list of foods to eat every day here: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dr-gregers-daily-dozen-checklist/

Does this diet sound too strict, too difficult? You don’t have to jump head-on into it, but transition towards it in a way that works for you. For example, if you’re used to eating a lot of meat, start by substituting some of the fake meats (Beyond Meat, Chao, Follow Your Heart, or Kite Hill vegan cheese, non-dairy milk like Ripple, Flax Milk, etc.) a few times a week into your favorite dishes, and adding more foods from Greger’s Daily Dozen in. Then start adding in more and more WFPB meals as you find ones you enjoy. Your tastes will start to change.

So what do people on a WFPB diet eat? I recommend the How Not to Die cookbook, as well as Mike the Vegan’s cookbook at https://micthevegan.com. Online I like: https://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes/you-wont-believe-these-tasty-vegan-recipes-are-totally-oil-free/,

https://www.forksoverknives.com/plant-based-primer-beginners-guide-starting-plant-based-diet/,

https://cleanfooddirtygirl.com/the-mother-of-all-whole-food-plant-based-resources-for-plant-based-newbies/,

https://blog.fatfreevegan.com

A couple of quick recipes to get you the feel of things:

Basic Veggie Burger

1 can beans or lentils

1 1/2 cup chopped veggies (mushrooms, onions, beets, etc.; you can get frozen organic veggies already chopped, then warm them up in the oven)

4-6 cloves chopped garlic

1/2-1 cup chickpea flour or oat flour, 1/4 cup ground flaxseed

3-4 tsp spices (whatever you like: smoked paprika or liquid smoke and marmite make a meaty taste, or add curry powder or curry paste, or bbq sauce, whatever tastes good to you)

1/4 cup beet juice

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the flaxseed with the beet juice. Mix the rest of the ingredients except for the flour in a food processor until well combined. Add the flax/beet juice mixture, then the flour, and let sit for 10 min, then form into patties. If it’s too wet add more flour, if too dry add more beet juice. Put patties onto parchment paper or silicone baking mat on a baking sheet, and bake for 30-40 min or until fully cooked, turn halfway through. Enjoy on a whole wheat bun with your favorite condiments.

Veggie Soup

2 chopped onions

2 chopped carrots

2 stalks chopped celery

2 finely chopped sweet potatoes

1 pound lentils or other beans, rinsed well

15 ounce can (be sure it’s BPA-free) Fire-toasted tomatoes, diced

8 cups vegetable broth

1-2 cups leafy greens (spinach, mustard greens, kale, chard, etc.)

Sauté the onions, carrots, and celery in a 1/4 cup vegetable broth for 5-6 minutes. Then add everything except the leafy greens and simmer gently for 2 hours or until everything’s well done. Add the leafy greens in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Enjoy with some whole grain bread.

Basic Veggie Bowl

Cook some whole grains you like- quinoa, brown rice (from India, not the US because of the arsenic issue), or whole wheat noodles, and fill up 1/4 of your bowl with it. Take some cooked legumes, spiced in a way you like (Indian Dal, or southern black-eyed peas, etc.), and fill up 1/4 of your bowl with it. Then take some cooked vegetables of your choice, spiced as you like – curried, stewed, baked, whatever – and fill the rest of your bowl with it. You can make up whatever sauce or dressing you’d like, you can make very tasty ones without oil (BBQ sauce for example often is fat free).

As an example, see this recipe (leave out the oil, and instead of sugar use date syrup or monkfruit):

https://www.veganricha.com/2015/08/masala-chickpea-bowl-with-chana-masala-spice-chickpea-dressing.html

Basic Snacks

Cook some blue potatoes and sweet potatoes, cut them into thin slices, and dry them in a dehydrator. Make a tasty dip by using silken tofu – blend with an onion dip mix and veggie bullion, or whatever spices you enjoy. Enjoy chips and dip 🙂

Another choice is hummus, made without oil, and chopped veggies or whole wheat pita to dip in.

Fruit, fresh or dried; assorted berries with nondairy milk and date syrup or monkfruit sweetener.

OK I think this post is long enough! I’ll continue with the Chinese medicine approach to diet in my next one. Let me know if you have any questions, and good health to you this winter!

PS in case anyone was wondering, I have no affiliation or financial interest to any of the people or sources I referred to in this post 🙂

Hi Folks! So holiday time is upon us, a time of merry-making, eating, and drinking – especially foods that are no good for us ☺ But I came across a few tips recently that can help us make our holidays a bit easier on our systems.

The main tip I’d like to share with you is that dates seem to be quite good for us, and surprisingly that’s true even for diabetics. How can that be so, you might wonder, considering how sweet they are and so loaded with carbs? Aren’t they like 80% sugar? I think this is a great example of how a simplistic anti-carb approach can lead us to radically false conclusions. Not all high-carb foods are the same, nor do they have identical effects on the body.

To see how healthy a real food from nature is for us, we actually need to check, not make assumptions. So let’s look at some of the studies on dates and how they affect blood sugar levels.

This study compared a healthy group to a group of diabetics, and found that eating dates did not significantly raise blood sugar in either group:

“Each subject was tested on eight separate days with 50 g of glucose… equivalent of available carbohydrates from the 5 varieties of date… Capillary glucose was measured in the healthy subjects at 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 and 120 min and for the diabetics at 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 and 180 min. The glycemic indices were determined… There were no statistically significant differences in the GIs between the control and the diabetic groups for the five types of dates…The results show low glycemic indices for the five types of dates included in the study and that their consumption by diabetic individuals does not result in significant postprandial glucose excursions. These findings point to the potential benefits of dates for diabetic subjects when used in a healthy balanced diet.”

This next study found similar results, and that eating dates in combination with other foods such as yogurt also reduced their glycemic index (note that table sugar’s GI is about 100):

“Results: Mean glycaemic indexes of the dates were 47.2, 45.3, 35.5, 37.3, 28.9 for rutab, traditionally stored, commercial, rutab/yoghurt and commercial tamer/yoghurt preparations, respectively… Conclusions: Khalas dates, when eaten alone or in mixed meals with plain yoghurt have low glycaemic indexes. The consumption of dates may be of benefit in glycaemic and lipid control of diabetic patients. The consumption of dates in mixed meals with yoghurt appears to have, at most, a minimal effect on the glycaemic index.”

But the good news about dates doesn’t stop there. It also turns out that dates lower levels of triglycerides in the blood – helping to decrease risk of heart attacks -and if that wasn’t enough, they appear to have significant antioxidant activity:

“Most important, fasting serum glucose and triacylglycerol levels were not increased after consumption of either date variety, and serum triacylglycerol levels even significantly (p < 0.05) decreased, by 8 or 15% after Medjool or Hallawi date consumption, respectively. Basal serum oxidative status was significantly (p < 0.01) decreased by 33%, as compared to the levels observed before consumption, after Hallawi (but not Medjool) date consumption…it is concluded that date consumption (and mainly the Hallawi variety) by healthy subjects, despite their high sugar content, demonstrates beneficial effects on serum triacylglycerol and oxidative stress and does not worsen serum glucose and lipid/lipoprotein patterns, and thus can be considered an antiatherogenic nutrient."

And one specific variety of date lowers levels of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), in addition to actually lowering blood sugar:

“The effect of dates on blood glucose showed that only the variety Tamesrit had a significative decrease on blood glucose (p <0.01). Concerning lipid profile, we noted that Ghars variety induced no significant variation of different lipid parameters while the variety Tamesrit reduced the LDLc level (bad cholesterol), thus improving the lipid profile."

And again, here’s more evidence that dates have a high concentration of antioxidants, which provide a wealth of health benefits: “These results suggest that all date varieties serve as a good source of natural antioxidants and could potentially be considered as a functional food…”

Here’s a video from Dr. Gregor on the subject, along with one comparing date sugar to other sweeteners.

As long as we’re on the subject of good news about sweeteners, let’s look at which artificial sweetener not only isn’t so bad for you, but appears to actually be helpful.

So using date sugar and erythritol may be a way to make this holiday season a bit sweeter for you and your family, especially for those with diabetes. See my recipe below for Faux Pecan Pie, a delicious way of using dates and coconut with no added sugar.

As always, see the disclaimer at the top of the page: please check with your appropriately licensed health care professional before making any changes to your diet.

Now what about when we do wind up eating some of the less healthy sweetened treats? Well it turns out that there’s some evidence that by having your treat with a couple of cups of green tea, you can blunt the blood sugar spike and subsequent drop:

“Mice fed an antioxidant found in green tea — epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG — and corn starch had a significant reduction in increase in their blood sugar… levels compared to mice that were not fed the compound…”The spike in blood glucose level is about 50 percent lower than the increase in the blood glucose level of mice that were not fed EGCG,”…The dose of EGCG fed to the mice was equivalent to about one and a half cups of green tea for a human… EGCG was most effective when the compound was fed to the mice simultaneously with corn starch. For humans, this may mean that green tea could help them control the typical blood sugar increases that are brought on when they eat starchy foods, like breads and bagels that are often a part of typical breakfasts.”

Of course, this study was conducted on rats, not humans, but it is suggestive.

Faux Pecan Pie

The original version of this recipe I found here, but I’ve replaced the nuts for those who are allergic.

Preparation: take two cups of dates and soak in two cups of water for 3 hours; save the soaking water. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust: use a prepared crust if you’re pressed for time, otherwise combine 1 cup shredded coconut with one cup of rolled oats in your blender and blend well. Dump out into a bowl. Then add 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 2 dates, and 1 teaspoon vanilla into the blender and mix until well combined. Add to the oat-coconut combination and mix until you have a moldable crust, and press into your pie pan.

Filling: put the dates and the soaking water into the blender with 1/2 cup coconut oil, 2 tablespoons vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend well and pour into pie crust.

Topping: combine 1 cup of rolled oats with enough melted coconut oil and erythritol and/or date sugar so that they’re coated, and sprinkle on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes; if the topping isn’t sufficiently brown, broil it for a couple of minutes until it is (watch it so it doesn’t burn!).

Enjoy a delicious pie that has a multitude of health benefits and is gluten free, dairy free, etc.

I hope you and yours have a healthy and happy holiday season!

Questions, comments, or suggestions? I’d love to hear from you (especially if you try the pie) so don’t be shy!

Edit: I made this recipe over the holidays, and the oat topping really wasn’t tasty at all; a bit too many oats. I’d use something else, like shredded coconut, (or pecans or almonds if you can eat nuts).

Keeping Your Heart Healthy

I’ve been a bit lax on writing my blog, but I’m happy to say I’ll be posting much more regularly from now on. This week’s topic turns out to be news on some foods that are especially beneficial for cardiovascular health.

I’m very happy to bring you this exciting news about pomegranate juice: It turns out that there’s good evidence that drinking as little as 50 ml (about one-fifth of a cup) of pomegranate juice daily can help to not only prevent the progression of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) but can actually reverse heart disease, by as much as 30% in three years. See the following articles:

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/how-clean-your-arteries-one-simple-fruit

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/pomegranate-reduces-intima-media-thickness-size-artery-while-also-reducing

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/pomegranate-juice-has-potent-antiatherogenic-effects-healthy-humans-and

Also on the subject of heart disease, it’s widely known that one of the most common class of drugs prescribed for this are statins, which are meant to reduce cholesterol. In fact, some doctors suggest that statins ought to be prescribed for children!. But are there any natural alternatives? This author argues that supplementation with niacin does as well or better than statins, with fewer side effects: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v01n10.shtml.

Actos is a drug commonly prescribed for lowering blood pressure; however an unfortunate side effect (one of several) is that it often raises the risk of stroke. It turns out that there’s evidence that simply eating cherries or drinking cherry juice does just as well or better than Actos, without the dangerous side effects. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423102129.htm, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080407114647.htm. While these are studies on specially bred rats and not on humans, the results are encouraging.

And then we have hibiscus tea. I mentioned hibiscus in an earlier blog post, which referred to evidence that hibiscus is one of the most antioxidant-rich plants out there. It turns out that some studies show a positive connection between hibiscus tea consumption and successful management of metabolic syndrome (which includes diabetes), and that it also tends to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. See http://www.naturalnews.com/043393_hibiscus_herbal_tea_cardiovascular_health.html#ixzz2qL5KP8Pm. You can get hibiscus leaves in bulk from your local supermarket and make a tea by simply immersing a couple of tablespoons of it in a pitcher of water overnight (you can leave it in the fridge). With a squeeze of lemon and some mint it is really quite delicious, similar to fruit punch.

All this news about food and supplements is encouraging, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most important and powerful ways you can help keep your heart healthy: be part of an active social community! It turns out that social isolation increases your risk of death from heart disease by up to 250%: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21492978, http://www.pnas.org/content/110/15/5797.full, http://eurjhf.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/7/748.abstract, and also increases your risk of heart failure, stroke, and other illnesses http://wellness.unl.edu/wellness_documents/lack_of_social_support_and_effects_of_coronary_heart_disease.pdf. This is true even when correcting for factors like body weight and so on. The good news in this, of course, is that by not being socially isolated – by cultivating a social network of people you regularly meet physically (Facebook doesn’t count, we need physical contact!) – you become healthier. Real human contact is not yet something one can put in a pill!

Dan Shen (not to be confused with Dang Shen) treats many heart and circulatory conditions, according to Chinese medicine. Now this study shows one of its mechanisms of action.

A good result, especially for only ten sessions of work: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/health-fitness/health/Acupuncture-ups-exercise-tolerance-in-heart-patients/articleshow/6118745.cms