lipid hypothesis carbohydrates low carb diet dietary-fat
heart healthy eating Atkins Diet Doctor speaks out

Heart healthy eating

What does it mean and how can we actually ensure we have heart healthy diets?

Swedish doctor, Andreas Eenfeldt, MD, gives a fascinating talk about food, fat, dietary guidelines, the obesity epidemic, the causes, a look at a dramatic shift in Sweden's attitudes towards fat, and more. The talk was given on the 2012 Low Carb Cruise.

Where is the truth?

When it comes to something as seemingly simple as heart healthy eating, there is a lot of controversy.

What is a healthy diet? What foods should we avoid? Is fat unhealthy? Is red meat bad for my heart?

Sometimes it seems that various factions in the debate are only interested in advancing their own perspectives. There is acrimony instead of collaboration. There is distrust and condemnation. And there are industry lobbyists (the food industry is the largest industry in the United States), each pushing for their particular area, be it vegetable oils, cereals, corn refiners, beef, chicken, pork, and on and on.

Sorting through the special interests, combined with bad and faulty science, and factions from all sides of the debate, makes it difficult for you and me, the consumer, to figure it all out. Heart healthy eating has come to be defined in many different ways.

One voice in the cacophony of claims and counter-claims is that of a journalist, Micheal Pollan. His book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto condemns the practice of looking at food as a collection of individual nutrients and urges us, as food consumers, to get back to the basics of eating whole, unprocessed foods. He, like some of the other authors we quote in this section, gives a pretty good overview of how we got to where we are today.

His previous book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals takes a scathing look at the industrial food production cycle and the resulting health risks. He contrasts industrial, non-sustainable farming practices with a relatively small farm that uses sustainable practices to produce a wide range of food (chicken, eggs, turkey, beef, rabbits and pigs, plus tomatoes, sweet corn, and berries), natural feeding methods (i.e., grass) and natural fertilizers. To gain a better understanding of where your food comes from, be it industrially grown beef or chickens, and even "organic" produce, we highly recommend reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Both of these books by Michael Pollan are definitely readable and worthy of your investment in a little time. Taken together they will help you make more informed decisions about your food choices and how to achieve that seemingly elusive goal... heart healthy eating.

Those of us who are concerned with our health realize that one can only be as good as the food you eat. And these days it takes considerable effort to put good food – fuel – in.

Why have things got to where they are?

When you stop to really look at the situation, there is an almost unbelievable amount of manipulation of the food chain, including:

  • feeding GMO (genetically modified organisms) corn to cattle in massive (and disgusting) industrial feedlots
  • poultry farms where chickens are raised in extremely confined quarters and fed GMO corn
  • animals that are pumped full of antibiotics because the living conditions are breeding grounds for disease
  • a corn subsidy system that produces so much corn that it is imperative that corn be force fed to animals that were not designed by nature eat it (it’s the cheapest form of calorie production)
  • processing foods to the point of making them nutritionally poor, then artificially injecting certain nutrients back in and labeling them "enriched"
  • the use of high fructose corn syrup in an incredible array of products
  • and many other startling facts that will make you re-think your regular trip to the grocery store.

You may find this a little unsettling. And like many, you may also find it overwhelming.

Is it worth it?

We believe that the efforts you put into finding and consuming healthy, more wholesome food will pay unknown dividends to you and your family down the road.

Whether it’s worth the effort and possible added expense is a question each of us must ask ourselves. Heart healthy eating involves a lot more than stocking up on packaged goods at the grocery store.

Not only are most of the items on your grocery store shelves highly processed and full of questionable chemical additives, but even the whole foods (i.e., the meats, fruits, and vegetables) may be contaminated with pesticides, grown in poor soil, be too high in omega 6 fatty acids, and transported thousands of miles thus losing much of their nutritional value.

What are the alternatives

The choices we have as consumers are many. We have a voice, if we choose to use it.

One of Michael Pollan's suggestions is to shake hands with the person who grows your food. What he means is, search out, then get to know, some local producers.

As an example, we buy our chickens, turkeys, pork, beef, and eggs from a farm that is about 100 miles north of us. They deliver to our area bi-weekly. We've been to the farm twice, got to know the family, and learned about their sustainable, natural farming methods (as described in the Polyface Farm section of The Omnivore's Dilemma).

We feel good knowing who is growing our food, that it is nutritious, contains no growth hormones or antibiotics, that the animals are treated humanely and that sustainable farming methods are embraced. It’s important to us to know the food we consume is produced using these sustainable methods that continuously put nutrients back into the soil.

Similarly we’ve become familiar with a bison and elk producer with a similar philosophy, whom we encountered on our weekly trips to our rustic retreat. He sells the meat he grows from large walk-in freezers right on his property.

This summer we will take advantage of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for weekly delivery of fresh, locally grown, organic vegetables. To see if there is a CSA program in your area, check out community-supported agriculture on Google. There are many local initiatives, so this is something that will require local investigation to find something in your area. If you’re unable to find a CSA, at the very least try to obtain as much fresh produce from farmers’ markets.

To educate yourself is to arm yourself. Only then can you make informed decisions about heart healthy eating. Then do some local research to find producers in your area whom you can feel good about supporting.

See also

What are your thoughts on this important topic?

We Recommend
There are a number of books mentioned in this section on the lipid hypothesis. We strongly urge you to read some or all of them to better equip yourself with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions.

And be sure to check out these great online resources for
blogs and podcasts.

This is a confusing and controversial subject!

What are your thoughts? Low carb, high fat. Statins. Processed food vs. whole organic. "My Plate" and the food pyramid controversy. There's a ton information out there that goes way beyond what the so-called "experts" are telling us. What is your experience? What do you think?

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