As always, the things I learned this week are based on my classes, readings, and one-on-one conversations with my professor.
1. The single most important thing you can do for heart disease is to quit smoking and the second is to be active. Over every other conflicting, convoluted, potentially biased piece of nutritional advice that is floating around concerning diet and heart disease, the single greatest, measurable impact on reducing the risk of heart disease is to quit smoking. Furthermore exercise seems to have a more well-defined, measurable, and consistent positive impact on heart health than much of the dietary advice floating around.
2. The body makes its own cholesterol. Because of this, the body will, in a healthy system, adapt to the amount of cholesterol in your diet – eat more cholesterol, your body will make less of it and vice-versa. Unless your body has some kind of homeostatic imbalance, your blood cholesterol levels will not actually be impacted that much by your dietary cholesterol alone.
3. Cholesterol accumulation and inflammation are the first steps of healing any damage done to the body (they are an important part of the healing process, not something to be scared of or to try to completely remove), but we focus on the cholesterol and lipids in heart disease because we don’t know what causes the initial damage.
4. Several dietary recommendations are made not necessarily because that specific nutrient or food is a problem but because they are an indicator of something else – usually the consumption of highly processed food. There are those for whom high sodium intake is a problem, and they need to be careful but the main reason we are ALL told to lower our sodium intake is because high sodium intake is a proxy for the consumption of highly processed, industrial food.
This last point also brings up something that I have been pondering and rolling around in my mind lately: why does it seem that diet advice does not take a hard stance on highly processed, industrial food? Yes, there are people out there who will say to “try to avoid” it, but I have not seen a consistent message that highly processed, industrial foods should not be a part of a healthful diet. I think this is part of the whole “everything in moderation” fallacy that just happens to have been repeated enough times to be taken as fact without any real critical thinking regarding what that actually means. Hum, perhaps I will take on this issue in a future post….
As mentioned previously, I had to do a diet analysis for one of my classes. It required my keeping track of my own food and drink intake for 3 days (2 weekdays and 1 weekend.) This was a really informative exercise and I am still learning from it, so it will probably keep showing up for a while.
1) I consume way fewer carbohydrates than I thought; yet I was still able to get a good amount of fiber. I don’t intentionally avoid carbohydrates, but I do mostly avoid grains and I eat most of my food within a compressed eating window, with one, maybe two really big meals towards the end of the day. According to the diet analysis program we are using my recommended carbohydrate intake is 202g per day; I averaged 70g a day. BUT I still managed to average 80% of my recommended fiber intake over the 3 days (I was actually over 100% one day, just below another, and at about 50% the third.)
2) Cutting out almost all processed food also made my added sugar intake ridiculously low. I didn’t even have to think about it, just cutting out industrially processed foods did all the work. We were supposed to record our top three sources (of however many we had) of added sugar and I only had 2 total! One of those was from a food I almost never consume – my husband was craving peanut butter, so we indulged a little – and the other was from some honey I added to my tea one day.
What about you, what did you learn this week? Is there anything here that you find interesting or want to know more about?