by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCP
This article is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. It is meant for educational purposes only. Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health, and Nature’s Sunshine Products accept no responsibility for results you get, whether good or bad, from using this information. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.
We all know what can go wrong with the cardiovascular system, right? There is so much media attention, mostly using well-designed scare tactics, that most of us have learned to ignore it. It’s interesting that so much of what is harmful to the circulatory system is also harmful to the brain. Ditto things that are good.
In truth, we do need to care for our cardiovascular systems and brains. I think I can safely say that there isn’t one of us that aspires to having a heart attack, stroke, swollen limbs or Alzheimer’s Disease, but I really disagree with a lot of what media teaches.
Here’s the simple list of ‘what’s good’ for both of these systems.
- Have a healthy diet – more on this in a minute. Some of what we thought was healthy, and is still being taught now, is really wrong.
- Use judiciously chosen supplements.
- Engage in daily physical activity.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Have a healthy diet
I’m sad to say, the Canada Food Guide and the American Food Pyramid don’t fit the bill as ‘healthy diets.’ Yoni Freedhoff does an interesting comparison of the two dietary guides.1 The US food pyramid is slightly better because it also gives recommendations on better choices. The Canada Food Guide is, in my opinion, very weak. It makes no recommendations about better choices at all.
Both guides have two serious flaws: first, most North Americans don’t know and don’t care about these guides; and second, even if they did, by lumping fruits and vegetables into one category and encouraging exorbitant amounts of carbohydrates in the form of grains and sugars, the stage is set for people to become obese and create a plethora of other health issues.
I know from my practice that the vast majority of people do not eat anywhere near enough leafy green or brightly colored vegetables. Most people are doing well to get two or three servings per day. They tend to rely more on fruit because it is more portable and easier to eat out of hand. Here’s the problem. Sugars from any source, even fruit, can lead to hypertension. Funny, all along we thought salt was the problem. According to Dr. Hugo Rodier,2 sugar leads to inflammation of the linings of the arteries, which leads to arterial spasms and results in hypertension. He goes on to say: “Artificial sugars and even natural sugars in excess may increase insulin resistance tendencies. This may affect our kidneys and other blood pressure regulatory systems like the adrenal glands, receptors in the brain, heart and arteries.”3 We would be well to consider, in both dietary guides, eating much less fruit each day – only one or two servings – and eating many more green or brightly colored vegetables.
I decided to see what else I could find about the food plans. I went first to the US site4 and completed their interactive daily food plan. The Canadian Food Guide5 doesn’t have anything like this, and while this tool is really cool – you can adjust it for the weight you’d like to be – the recommendations are still ‘mainstream’ enough to make me squirm.
My own Daily Food Plan from the US site came up with me needing six dry ounces of grains per day. That translates to three cups of cooked brown rice. That’s enough to make me VERY FAT all by itself – not to mention what it would do to my triglycerides – because that’s what an excess of carbs does. My suggestion for an anti-inflammatory diet is to keep your whole grains down to two half-cup servings per day, preferably sprouted.
Next, it recommended only two and a half cups of vegetables. A better guideline is to consume at least one serving of vegetables for every 25 pounds of body weight. A serving of leafy greens is the size of two fists. Most of us digest lightly steamed, souped, or sauteed vegetables better than raw. To the credit of the American Food Pyramid, they include a guide of how much dark green, orange, dry beans & peas, starchy, and other vegetables that should be consumed in a week.
Apparently, a woman my age, height, weight, and activity level can have two cups of fruit per day – which is at least double what I recommend, since fruit can create a serious spike in blood sugar levels.
The recommendation for dairy was three cups. I know they say this is for calcium and a bit of protein – but since the milk has been homogenized and pasteurized, the calcium is not bio-available and the protein is so messed up in the processing that it isn’t easy to digest. The indigestible protein leads to inflammation. You know this if it gives you a gut ache or makes you ‘stuffy.’ I’d rather get my calcium from leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and reduce the overall amount of calcium I need by not eating a high-acid diet. (Remember, the first job of calcium in your body is to neutralize excess acid. Reduce your acid load and you effectively reduce the amount of calcium you need in your diet.) Reducing your acid load means no coffee, tea, green tea, soda pop, white sugar, tropical (non-vine-ripened) fruit, and only minimal amounts of red meat.
The final recommendation was that a woman like me should be consuming five and a half ounces of protein per day from a variety of sources including poultry, fish, beef, beans and peas, nuts and seeds, with no mention of eggs. (Eggs are a superior source of protein and they don’t affect cholesterol levels in a bad way.) This is far less protein than most women need, especially if they are active, have tired adrenal glands, or have blood sugar swings. I usually recommend about 10 ounces of protein in small doses throughout the day. As much as possible, look for grass-fed beef and poultry, eggs from grass-fed chickens, and wild-caught fish.
The oil recommendations6 include such genetically-modified disasters as canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and soybean oil. These are all polyunsaturated, and the list of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) also includes grapeseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and vegetable oil. All PUFAs are unstable when heated, exposed to light, or exposed to oxygen. That means they form inflammation-producing free radicals. Here’s where it gets dicey – we need polyunsaturated fats, most notably Omega 3 and, to a lesser extent, Omega 6. When you purchase Omega 3 (cold water fish oil, chia seed oil, and to a lesser extent flax seed oil and pumpkin seed oil) and/or Omega 6 (most notably evening primrose oil, borage oil), make sure they are always in either brown capsules or a light-blocking bottle. If it is a bottle of oil instead of capsules, make sure you store it in the fridge once it has been opened, and never ever heat your PUFA oils. For a multitude of other reasons that I won’t go into here, it is important to use organically-grown oils.
Because of its stability as a saturated fat, butter is an excellent health option. Organic butter from cows that were grass-fed has higher levels of Omega 3.7
Why would I give you all these painful details? Because our food choices form the base of our inflammation levels. A diet made up of poor choices is a diet high in cell-damaging, inflammation-stimulating free radicals. A diet high in carbohydrates from refined grains or too many unrefined grains, high in sugars from all sources, high in fruit, high in starchy vegetables, high in red meat, high in bad-quality fats, and high in dairy products is just such a diet. It is a recipe for chronic inflammation, and that is a recipe for vascular inflammation, elevated cholesterol, and dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease.8,9
For a summary of my food and lifestyle recommendations, click here. If you have concerns about the health of your circulatory system or just don’t know where to begin making improvements and would like some help, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available.
To be continued in Show Your Heart You Love It!
Copyright © 2015 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).