I'm Gene Millen, a Heart Health Coach and the owner of this website with my wife Bernie. In 1990, at the young age of 59, I received a surprise that significantly changed my lifestyle.
In 1990 a heart surgeon, sawed open my chest and stitched in bypasses to six of my favorite heart arteries. That got my attention and prompted me to try to discover what happend and what I could do to change to a healthier approach, which included finding a healthy diet for my heart.
We've had it drummed into us for more than 20 years. "A low fat diet is a healthy heart diet." Sorry, but the experts have led us astray. We need fat to stay heart healthy.
The old USDA food guide pyramid also warned us to use oils 'sparingly'. But we have learned that most of us don't get nearly enough omega 3 oils and eat too many of the wrong kind of carbohydrates.
Dr. Dun Gifford, founder of the Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust, explains why his opinion has changed on the subject of carbohydrates and why he supports the low carb approach for a healthy heart diet.
Dr. Gifford founded non-profit Oldways in 1990 to address health issues (increasing rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases of excess) and to preserve culinary traditions, helping people make healthy connections to their food (cooking and eating real foods) and their heritage.
Working throughout the world - from Australia to Brazil and from Italy to the U.S. - Oldways has collaborated with hundreds of international experts including scientists, health care professionals, chefs, historians, food producers and food writers to create "mini-movements" that have inspired millions of people to change the way they eat.
Dr. Giffford commented, "I've done a complete 180 on the subject of carbohydrates. Like many cardiologists, I used to recommend that my patients follow the American Heart Association's guidelines for a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.
"This strategy made sense at first because we in the medical establishment believed that less fat down the hatch directly correlated with less fat in the heart and body. What we found instead was that, by encouraging people to eat very little fat while indulging in carbohydrates, their bodies were secreting excess amounts of the hormone insulin, causing them to store surplus carbs as fat.
When chronically high levels of insulin are circulating throughout your body, the cells eventually become insulin resistant, which can lead to diabetes. Once a person is insulin resistant, they also become prone to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight gain, and even premature heart disease."
Carbs, are the building blocks of all plant life. A healthy heart diet includes fruits, vegetables, grains and starches...plus some dairy products. Nearly all of the carbohydrates we consume are converted into glucose with the notable exceptions of fiber and glycerin. Glucose, commonly referred to as blood sugar, is the primary source of energy for our body.
Here's the rub. Too much of a good thing ends up causing some real serious problems. Some carbs are high in sugar and digest quickly flooding your blood with glucose. Others digest slowly and provide a controlled, steady source of energy.
The primary troublemakers are refined sugars, and the worst carb of all, high fructose corn syrup. This man made disaster is one of the chief causes of belly fat. Other high-Glycemic carbs such as white flour, potatoes, rice and pasta should be used with discretion in a healthy heart diet.
When the sugar from these high carb foods hits your blood stream your body quickly perceives this danger and reacts by mounting an insulin counter attack. Insulin carries a small amount of the glucose to the cells for immediate energy and some is converted into glycogen and stored in the muscles and liver for later use.
But the trouble starts when the glycogen storerooms become full. The over flow is stuffed into fat storage tanks on your belly, thighs, buttocks and other unwanted places.
An increase in body fat is only one of the side effects of these recurring glucose excesses. Over time the insulin receptors on the surface of the cells no longer function properly and this leads to insulin resistance, which is the road to fatigue, malaise, diabetes and of course obesity.
If this isn't enough to get you on a healthy heart diet consider the words of researcher, Nicholas Perricone M.D., and author of the Perricone Prescription.
"Sugar and foods that are rapidly converted to sugar are potent inflammatory agents. They cause a sharp spike in insulin levels, resulting in a rapid acceleration of the aging process, increasing the risk of heart disease, every form of cancer, memory loss, and mental deterioration."
Slow digesting carbs are not only good for us...they are essential to a healthy heart diet. Eat plenty of these "slow carbs" such as whole grains, vegetables and legumes, which are lower in sugar, high in fiber and digest more slowly. They provide an even stream of glucose thereby avoiding insulin spikes. Beans are a super food and play a key role in my healthy heart diet.
Tip: You can also slow down the rate at which carbohydrates enter your blood stream by combining them with fats and oils. For example I put a tablespoon of coconut oil on my oatmeal topped by blue berries and a little Splenda. Umm good.
Researchers have also discovered that low glycemic foods enhance memory and learning. The foods that tend to have the highest index are breads and grains. But here's where it gets interesting.
Bread, rolls and bagels made from white flour digest quickly; sourdough, pumpernickel, and whole grain breads move through our digestive tract more slowly and are great for the healthy heart diet.
The fermentation process used in making sourdough is the factor that slows digestion.
Other things that improve the Glycemic Index are acids, such as lemon juice and vinegar. Protein, fiber and fat also slow down the digestive process.
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