Carbohydrates & Cholesterol…Good or Bad?

A few years ago when I began to really dive deeper into nutrition and wellness, the same theme continued to pop up: What we had been told to eat for the last 40 years or so to be healthy was not based on sound science.  When you look at how much sicker we are today than in the 70’s for example that becomes very clear.  Diabetes and all manner of chronic auto-immune diseases are reaching epidemic levels. Carbohydrates and cholesterol have both played a critical role in the mess we find ourselves in.  Are they good or bad for us?

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Although many diet fads have come and gone in that time, (and many more are sure to follow) in general it has been recommended that we eat much less fat and cholesterol in favor of a lot more carbohydrates. Again, it’s quite clear this is not working.  Even in the 70’s there was real evidence showing that basing ones diet in whole grains and other carbs was not in our best interest from a health perspective.  Especially in relation to diabetes, inflammation and weight gain. One big reason this data was ignored was because it didn’t make anyone a lot of money. It didn’t fit the governments nor farmers agendas very well.  Its much more profitable to grow grain and corn in excess (and put it in everything…I mean everything) than fruits and vegetables.

sad-bucs-fans-bags-on-head-550x385Cholesterol and fat have been blamed for everything from obesity to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers never winning a Superbowl.  Again this is based on flawed science and big business. The evidence is there for anyone who wants to look at the available science that high levels of cholesterol in our blood have very little to do with the cholesterol we eat in our food.  It’s also very clear there is no hard proof supporting the fact that higher cholesterol levels means a greater risk of heart disease and other coronary problems.  An excellent read on the subject is “Cholesterol Clarity” by Jimmy Moore, but there are countless other books and sources of information on the subject.

My Dad took a Statin drug to lower his cholesterol artificially like thousands of others.  After doing my research and completing relevant coursework in my studies, it became obvious that based on his numbers this was totally unnecessary.  Even my brother, a Harvard trained physician now agrees with me.  Statins, like antibiotics and pharmaceutical drugs in general are over prescribed to an alarming degree. Studies link this behavior to modern-day health issues like poor gut health, neurological problems, allergies and many, many more). Luckily, Dad was on a low dose statin so has hopefully experienced fewer side effects, if any, but that may never be fully known.  He doesn’t take them anymore.

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A little over a year ago the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new cholesterol guidelines essentially declaring that millions of more healthy Americans need to start taking statins.  An article from the New York Times quotes both the above associations, although non-profit are heavily supported by drug companies.  The connection here is obvious and is nothing new.

So if basing our diet on carbohydrates is a bad thing and cholesterol is not nearly as bad as once thought what is the plan of action? Not surprisingly it comes back once again to just eating real food, but in ratio’s that better suit most people.  Carbs are not inherently evil, far from it.  They provide glucose which is fuel for energy. However, they need to come from clean sources and in conjunction with activity levels. Refined, processed, simple sources of carbs (most cookies, crackers, chips, pastries, cereals, breads, etc.) should be drastically reduced along with sugar (all carbs turn to sugar).

Look to sweet potatoes, yams, squash, plantains and green veggies instead as some healthy complex carbohydrate sources.  Even whole grains, while much better than refined grains tend to be inflammatory for many. If not prepared properly they can also inhibit absorption of other nutrients. Then of course gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye can be very troublesome as well.  Lastly, if you are not very active be careful as those excess carbs have to go somewhere.  If you don’t use them for energy they tend to make your butt, thighs and belly expand.

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It is shocking that cholesterol ever got such a bad rap. Its found in every cell of our body, forms the building blocks for our hormones, is part of the myelin or sheathing that protects our nerves, is vital for vitamin D production, our brains are full of it…need I go on? So eat those egg yolks, that grass-fed butter and beef and clean animal products in general!  The latest science is connecting too much carb intake with high levels of LDL pattern B cholesterol, high triglycerides and low HDL which is a very ugly trifecta you do not want. Yes, you read that right, eating too many carbs (especially the processed, refined kind) very well may be a big reason we are fat, sick and heart disease is rampant.

So the takeaway message here? Eat the right kinds of carbohydrates in conjunction with how active you are and do not “base” your diet on them.  They should occupy about 20% of your plate on average with plants taking up 65-70% and protein the last 10-15%.  Oh and eat lots of cholesterol, if you are like most people it will do wonders for you!

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Bart Thurman

Break-Free, Own Your Health

Are you waiting to be sick?

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There are literally millions of people in the world who are not seriously sick but at the same time are never seriously “well” either.  They all suffer things that keep them from ever functioning at 100% and these “things” prevent experiencing a full life. The sad truth is that most people just come to accept their suffering and rationalize it away blaming it on age or something else they cant control for example.  What they MUST realize is that they do have control! However because they do not understand this they go to the doctor and he/she prescribes a pill, potion, cream etc., and they just deal with it and see it as normal.  Trust me, its not. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Sweet cravings and roller coaster blood sugar levels
  • Digestive distress of all kinds (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc)
  • Struggling to lose weight
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Low level, chronic background stress that never really goes away
  • Flat out high intensity stress/anxiety
  • Up and down energy levels including the afternoon crash
  • Skin issues

What many people don’t see is that these symptoms are anything but normal and instead are signs that your health is slowly declining and your body is malfunctioning.  They rarely tend to go away on their own and if left unchecked can lead to very serious health conditions farther down the road of life. This is because they are warning signs that something isn’t running right inside your body.  Your body is amazing and will do everything in its power to adapt and continue the fight but eventually you will break down if something doesn’t change.

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Lets use an airplane analogy.  If the pilot see’s warning lights on the dashboard indicating there is an engine problem he is going to land and address the issue.  If he ignores the warning it isn’t hard to figure out what might happen.  Lets talk for a second about why you shouldnt ignore these symptoms:

  • Digestive problems.  Most people accept constipation, loose stool, bloating and gas as routine but they can lead to serious, deeper problems.  Everyone has heard by now how important gut health is, it truly is a place from which much of our health begins.
  • Low Libido & general fatigue.  Do you have a hard time just getting through the day? Do you crash all the time after lunch?  Is it extremely difficult to get out of bed most mornings? Is your sex drive non-existent much of the time? Again most folks see these things as rather normal and part of the aging process but they are important to address and correct in order to avoid more serious pitfalls.
  • Aches and pains.  Do you constantly have aches and pains in your joints/muscles?  This is very likely a sign of underlying inflammatory processes and might just be simply something your eating.
  • Weight problems.  Approximately 1/3 of Americans are obese and another 2/3 are overweight.  The health problems associated with being over weight are well documented.
  • Sleep problems.  Studies show that people who get fewer than 7 hours of sleep are at higher risk of death and have a harder time keeping the weight off.  Poor sleep is a sign of distress (physical, emotional, mental, etc).
  • Background chronic stress, depression, anxiety, brain fog.  We now know that cognitive & and mood disorders can be caused as least in part by inflammation inside the body.  Stress itself can increase internal inflammation.
  • Skin breakouts.  Most of the time skin issues can be traced back to whats going on internally.  Breakouts are another sign of underlying inflammation inside the body.

Hopefully the above symptoms are not something you deal with frequently but if they are there is good news.  I have read account after account of individuals who have suffered these problems as well as more serious conditions and everyone of them will tell you that there were a handful of “controllable” variables that played the largest role in their healing process.  I’m talking basic things here that just simply get taken for granted.  Things that we do not understand the power of so do not make them a priority in our lives:

  1. Exercise/movement.  We were born to move, it’s that simple.  The exciting thing is you don’t have to kill yourself at the gym to move.  Start by just finding any opportunity you can to move more.  When you do exercise keep it short (10-20 min) and include intense bursts of movement that really get your heart rate up no matter what kind of activity your engaged in. Research is showing that this type of exercise is much more effective than plodding along on the treadmill for an hour at a steady pace for example.
  2. Diet.  Eat more nutrient dense, real food.  If you give your body what it needs it will function at a higher level…the level is up to you.  Cut back on the processed, fake, sugary foods that are so abundant in our country. If it has more than 5 ingredients think about finding something else.
  3. Sleep.  Your body has to recover on a daily basis.  Deep tissue healing and recovery need to occur each night and it does not happen if you’re not sleeping.  Make sure your room is dark, take at least 30 min to wind down before going to bed, keep the gadgets and electronics out of the bedroom, don’t eat a large meal right before bedtime, and start a simple breathing/meditation practice before hitting the pillow.  Start by making sleep a priority, few do. There are many, many steps you can take to enjoy a more restful nights sleep.
  4. Manage/control stress.  Again a simple meditation practice can work wonders when it comes to stress like the 4-7-8 breathing technique (inhale four seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for eight seconds, repeat for a total of 4 breath cycles twice daily at least).  Read books like, “The Power of Now” by Eckart Tolle which instruct on how to be more aware and conscious of what we are doing so we can stop negative behavior in its tracks.

Do you suffer with any of the above symptoms?  What have you tried? Please share these and any other thoughts in the comments section.

Bart Thurman

Break-Free, Own Your Health