I recently read a Review article that surveyed 594 studies relating diet to heart disease. When all valid, quality research was lumped together, the authors could see what foods contributed to and what foods were protective against heart disease. What they found was surprising. Saturated fat, which has been touted as contributing to heart disease, came up clean. Trans-fat and high glycemic foods on the other hand, were the villainous duo that contributes to disease.

I harp a lot on trans-fats and high glycemic foods and this article will be no different. If there are two things to be shunned like the devil, trans-fat and high glycemic foods such as processed baked goods, soda and refined grains are on the list. Eat real fat, not fat made in a laboratory like trans-fats and eat real food, not processed, pre-made, precooked food and sugary drinks that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize. They have no place in the diet. If not them, then what to eat?

Read labels – The FDA allows food manufactures to claim that a food is Trans-Fat free even though it has trans-fats in it. If a food has less than 0.50 grams per serving, it can say Trans-fat Free. Note that is “per serving.” If you eat a bag of potato chips cooked in hydrogenated oil and each serving contains 0.49 gr. of trans-fats and there are 2 servings in the bag, then you are consuming nearly a gram of trans-fats in that single bag as well as . The saving grace is that if you read the individual ingredients listed in the fine print, trans-fat (hydrogenated oils) must be listed so you can avoid products containing them.

Keep your blood sugar stable. High Blood sugar contributes to elevated cholesterol. This is no surprise since we know that individuals with metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) and Type II Diabetes have elevated cholesterol. This is because high blood glucose activates the enzyme HMG CoA Reductase. HMG CoA Reductase is the rate limiting enzyme for making cholesterol, that is, if you make a lot of this enzyme, you make a lot of cholesterol. If you make a small amount of this enzyme, then you make a small amount of cholesterol. This is the same enzyme that statin drugs block. By inhibiting HMG CoA Reductase they decrease the production of cholesterol. Interestingly, low blood sugar also inhibits the enzyme thereby lowering cholesterol as well. Eating a low sugar, low glycemic diet of nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruit, lean meats and healthy fats can be a natural cholesterol lowering agent.

Avoid processed foods – As the deleterious effects of consuming trans-fat are becoming more widely known, food manufacturers are turning to healthier fats. This is a positive trend, but that doesn’t mean their food is nutritious. Not by any means. Many pre-made baked goods or mixes contain refined flour and sugar that spike blood sugar because much of the fiber has been removed or broken down during processing. They are nearly devoid of vitamins and minerals and are calorie dense. One Quaker Oat muffin contains 140 calories of blood sugar spiking carbohydrates. It had a glycemic load of 24 which is more than double the desired glycemic load which is less than 10. One would think an oat muffin would be a healthy choice, but really, your body sees it like eating cake.

Eat your fiber - Fiber slows the processing of carbohydrates and high fiber diets are important for stabilizing blood sugar. Fiber also inhibits the absorption of dietary cholesterol as well as binds cholesterol in the gut so it is excreted in the stool. White flour, white rice, and pasta are practically fiber-less, that’s why they are white! When it comes to white foods, you know what they say...the whiter the bread the faster you’ll be dead.
Oat bran, ground flax seeds, apple pectin, inulin (FOS), psyllium husks are all great sources of soluble fibers that enhance your heart health and should be taken daily with plenty of pure water.

Eat a low glycemic breakfast – I cannot overstate the importance of eating breakfast. Whole food advocate and bestselling author Michael Pollan wrote in his book Food Rules, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” It truly is the most important meal of the day. People who eat a light breakfast of cereal and 2% milk have been found to consume 81% more calories throughout the day than those who have an omelet and fruit. The calories you eat for breakfast go toward energy for the day. The calories eaten for dinner, since most are less active at night, are more readily stored as fat. Eating more for breakfast can keep you slimmer and healthier.

Your body incorporates the foods you eat into the cells of your body. You truly are what you eat. Eating is something you do every day so like any good habit it can make or break your health. Your body can handle an occasional indulgences but it’s what you do every day that counts. As Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Make your food count!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Cheri King is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Oregon. She attended National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR where she graduated with honors in research for her work investigating detoxification diets.

She is a cofounder of the Naturopathic Medical Student Association, and received the Jim Lemkin World in Balance award for achievement in applying holistic healing principles in her own life as well as the lives of others. She also received the David Family Award scholarship and the Founders merit scholarship for outstanding performance.

She teaches nutrition and wellness at the Community College of Denver and sees patients at her private practice, Colorado Natural Health Center, in Louisville, CO.

For more information about Dr. King go to www.coloradonaturalhealthcenter.com