#041 Lose Belly Fat with a High Healthy Fat Diet

October 20th, 2014 by

Lose Belly Fat with a High Healthy Fat Diet

Could consuming a liter of olive oil weekly actually help you lose belly fat? According to the latest study, it does.

Indeed, numerous recent studies are showing that replacing simple carbs with healthy fats can help to shrink belly fat.

This goes against everything the American Heart Association and our government taught us for years about eating a low fat diet to lose weight and avoid heart disease. Even the most recent dietary recommendations from our government recommend eating up to a half pound of carbohydrate loaded grains each day.

What would happen if we replaced some of these grains with healthy fats? The key take away from this article is that eating healthy fats will not make you fat but rather could help you to lose the belly fat. It may seem counter intuitive but please read on…

My Transition to a High Healthy Fat Diet

I was no different that the typical American kid growing up in the 1980s. In the 1980s my diet was about 15% protein, 15% fat, and 70% carbohydrates. I dutifully followed the dietary guidelines at that time and drank skim milk, used low or non-fat items, and ate my recommended 6-11 servings of grain each day.

During this period of time, and into the 1990s, I was extremely active physically.  I regularly ran marathons and even started training for an ultra marathon.  Despite these extreme levels of exercise I was still gaining weight on my high simple carb diet (lots of breads, pastas, and pastries).

Things only got worse in the 2000s when high blood pressure, high cholesterol, eosinophilic esophagitis, and an autoimmune disease, among other conditions, also developed. As part of my health turn around a few years ago, I dramatically changed my diet by increasing vegetables 4x and fully embraced a diet full of healthy fats.

Today, my diet is still about 15% protein but now my carbs have dropped from 70% to 40-45%, and my fat has gone from 15% to 40-45% of my diet. The simple carbs have mostly been eliminated  and my nuts and seeds consumption have increased about 10x. Eventually, our government will be forced to acknowledge the ever growing body of scientific data that a diet higher in healthy fats can reverse heart disease, allow us to lose weight, and feel better.

A Balanced Diet

You can’t exclude one of the three macronutirents (fat, protein, carbs) from your diet and expect a healthy outcome. A healthy diet is a healthy balance among the three macronutirents.  My 40-45% fat diet is much higher than the 20-35% currently recommended by our government.

At the same time, my 40-45% fat diet is much lower than the ketogenic diet followers who often target somewhere around 70% fat intake. For me, it is important to keep everything in balance and avoid the extremes until the scientific literature, based on long-term studies, can support these approaches.

From a historical perspective, it is interesting to note that in the late 1800s/early 1900s protein was considered unhealthy. In the late 1900s it was fat that was demonized.  Now in the 2000s it is the carbs.

We absolutely need the right carbs for optimal health, nutrition, and energy. For example, from a scientific stand point, the data supporting fruits and vegetable carbs for long-term health, including cancer and heart disease prevention, are irrefutable.

The Most Recent Study on a High Healthy Fat Diet

In one of the most scientifically rigorous diet studies ever done, researchers have shown that once again people are healthier with a high healthy fat diet. In this study, researchers analyzed 5,801 people randomized to one of three diets.  The three diets evaluated in this study were as follows:

  1. Mediterranean Diet with one liter of olive oil each week
  2. Mediterranean Diet with one serving of nuts daily (walnuts, almonds, and hazel nuts)
  3. Standard low fat diet

The Mediterranean Diet is one also high in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds.  There was no exercise or weight loss goals with this study.  It was purely a diet study for 5 years.

After 5 years, researchers found that those who ate the Mediterranean Diet, supplemented with either a liter of olive oil each week or a handful of nuts each day, had less belly fat and lower triglycerides.  Not only this, the people eating the high healthy fat diet were also 35% (olive oil) and 28% (nuts) more likely to reverse the deadly metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a dangerous condition when at least three of the following are present in a person: excessive belly fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, or low good cholesterol (HDL).

While I do love olive oil, I am still amazed that the people randomized to the olive oil group in this study could eat a liter of olive oil each week and yet not gain weight!

Why are fats healthy?

Don’t be fooled by the fat free label you see in the grocery store! Healthy fats are part of a healthy diet.

Fats are healthy as there are essential fats that our bodies cannot make and that we must get from our diet. Healthy fats are also filling and don’t mess up our hunger hormones and metabolism like a high carbohydrate diet can. The right fats can even reverse heart disease and keep us healthy, vibrant, and strong.

Keep the Right Carbohydrates

In this article I do not want to demonize all carbs.  The simple carbs, like sugar, wheat flour, white rice, processed foods, etc. should be minimized. The complex carbs, like fruits and especially vegetables, should be encouraged at all meals.

I fully support the current 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended by the American Heart Association. Of these nine daily servings, I would recommend that at least six be vegetables.

What are the healthy fats?

You may be wondering, what are some other healthy fats other than the olive oil and nuts mentioned in this article. Seeds are also loaded with healthy fats. Coconut, avocado, and olives are other great fats. Also, be sure to include the omega 3 fatty fish like Wild Alaskan Salmon, Atlantic Mackerel, sardines, or anchovies.

Dr. Day’s Personal Fat and Carb Rules

Here are my rules as to how I approach fats and carbs in my own diet.

1. I minimize simple carbs

2. I eat at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (healthy carbs)

3. I eat at least 1 serving of beans or lentils daily (healthy carbs)

4. I eat a variety of nuts and seeds every day (healthy fats)

5. I use organic extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil (healthy fats)

6. I eat Wild Alaskan Salmon at least twice weekly (healthy omega 3 fats)

7. I eat some form of omega 3 fats every day (salmon, walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds)

8. I do all I can to avoid hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils, and other “Franken oils” found in processed foods

Do you still find yourself afraid to eat fats, even healthy ones? Why is this? Have you found better health by liberally eating healthy fats? Tell us about it!

#027 Do You Have Any of These 12 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms?

August 11th, 2014 by

Do you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

You probably have no idea that you are currently suffering from magnesium deficiency. Indeed, studies show that up to 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient.  Read on to see if you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Jill’s Experience

Jill was a 45-year-old woman suffering from a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation. It made no sense why someone so young should develop this heart condition as she didn’t have any of the usual atrial fibrillation risk factors.

The only tip-off as to the cause of her atrial fibrillation was that she was taking Prilosec for acid reflux, Lasix occasionally for leg swelling, and she was eating the “Standard American Diet.” Even though her magnesium levels came back normal on her blood test, I suspected a magnesium deficiency as the cause of her heart problem.

Interestingly, once I convinced her to replace all added sugars and processed foods with real foods which included a massive salad every day, she immediately lost 20 pounds without even trying. In no time at all her acid reflux was gone and she was off the Prilosec. Also, with no added sugars or processed foods, her legs no longer swelled so there was no further need of diuretics.

Best of all, she felt better than she had ever felt and her atrial fibrillation went away. As she made many lifestyle changes, it was impossible to know what exactly drove her atrial fibrillation into remission.

However, in my mind, I’m sure replacing her magnesium stores played a role. Continue reading to figure out how she boosted her magnesium stores.

Can you test for magnesium deficiency?

While you can test for magnesium deficiency, you probably don’t want the test your doctor orders. The reason for this is because the standard magnesium test only measures the magnesium in your blood.

As 99% of your magnesium is not freely floating around in your blood but rather is inside of your cells and bones, you need a better test for magnesium deficiency. Of the various ways to test for magnesium deficiency, probably the best is the RBC magnesium test. The RBC magnesium test measures the amount of magnesium inside of your red blood cells.

Who is at risk for magnesium deficiency?

Many things contribute to magnesium deficiency. For example, if you are under a lot of stress, you likely are not absorbing much magnesium from your food.  Those who love drinking filtered or bottled water also aren’t getting much magnesium. And processed foods are notorious for being completely absent of magnesium.

Other conditions contributing to magnesium deficiency include being overweight, diabetic, or over age 60. Likewise, many prescription medications like diuretics or acid-blocking medications are also keeping your magnesium levels dangerously low.

Do you have any of these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

1. Weight Gain/Diabetes

When you don’t get enough magnesium in your food and water, it can cause glucose and insulin levels to rise.  When insulin levels are high, you may suffer from food cravings.  Unfortunately, these food cravings are generally for sugar or processed carbohydrates which lead to further weight gain.

2. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness

Magnesium is a critical component of energy production in the body.  In fact, the body’s energy molecule, ATP, is created through magnesium dependent chemical reactions.

If you are tired all the time, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if your muscles are weak, you may also not be getting enough magnesium.

3. Anxiety

People under high levels of mental or physical stress, poorly absorb magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract. Contributing to a downward spiral, magnesium deficiency is a significant cause of anxiety.  Fortunately, studies show that restoring the magnesium may help in the treatment of anxiety.

4. Insomnia

Having enough magnesium balances out your stress hormones.  Magnesium also helps the body maintain sufficient melatonin and other sleep hormones.  Indeed, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with sleep.

5. Depression

Magnesium deficiency and depression go hand in hand.  Low magnesium stores lead to depression and people suffering from depression are more likely to eat a diet low in magnesium.

6. Dental Cavities or Osteoporosis

Dental cavities and osteoporosis are two more signs of magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium affects vitamin D metabolism and osteocalcin which play a vital role in bone turnover and formation.

Ironically, if you are taking calcium supplements for osteoporosis, you may be making matters worse. Calcium supplementation can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

7. Constipation

If you suffer from constipation you probably are magnesium deficient.  Magnesium in any form is an excellent laxative.

8. Muscle Cramps or Migraine Headaches

Do you suffer from leg cramps, eye twitches, or muscle spasms?  Do you get frequent headaches? These may all be magnesium deficiency symptoms.

9. Inflammation, Arthritis, or Autoimmune Diseases

If you suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or autoimmune diseases, you may be magnesium deficient.  Studies have linked magnesium deficiency to arthritis and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests.

10. Palpitations, Heart Attacks, Heart Failure, or Cardiac Arrest

Most forms of heart disease are linked to magnesium deficiency.  This mineral is critical to optimal cardiac function.

11. Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems are widespread in the U.S.  Research suggests that many thyroid issues may be due to magnesium deficiency.

12. Cancer

Cancer may be a wake-up call that magnesium levels are low. Magnesium is a critical nutrient for many DNA repair mechanisms.   As new cancer cells are created every day in your body, you need your DNA repair mechanism functioning optimally.

Magnesium in Our Water

Our ancestors used to get large amounts of magnesium just from their drinking water.  Mountain spring water is naturally high in magnesium.  Unfortunately, many municipalities remove magnesium as part of their water treatment process.

If you want to see how much magnesium is in your drinking water, click here.  In general, the “harder” your water, the more magnesium you are getting.

Interestingly, drinking hard water may lower your risk of heart disease.  If you happen to live in a city with naturally hard water, you can get up to 30% of the magnesium you need each day from water.

Unfortunately, water softeners, water filters, reverse osmosis devices, and bottled water are generally all depleted of magnesium.  If you drink any of these magnesium depleted water types, you have to get 100% of your magnesium from food.

Magnesium in Our Food

Once upon a time, our soil contained much more magnesium.  Unfortunately, modern agriculture has stripped this essential mineral from the ground.  Processed foods are even worse when it comes to magnesium content.

Fortunately, organically grown produce has been shown to have up to 29% more magnesium.  To get enough magnesium in your diet, make sure you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes every day.  To see a breakdown of which foods contain the most magnesium click here.

Can you get too much magnesium?

In general, it is very tough to get too much magnesium from your food and water unless you have kidney disease.  Certainly, it is possible to get too much magnesium if you are taking supplements.

How much magnesium do you need each day?

The recommended daily amount of magnesium varies depending on your gender and age. Assuming there are no problems with magnesium absorption, you need about 400 mg of magnesium each day. If you can get at least 400 mg of magnesium daily from your water and food, you can start to enjoy the health benefits of magnesium.

Magnesium in China’s Longevity Village

As you know, we have been studying the residents of China’s Longevity Village for many years.  We have found that these people do not suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

The mountain spring water they drink is extremely hard and packed full of essential minerals.  Researchers suggest that these people get up to 50% of their magnesium just from the water.

Also, modern agriculture has yet to put a stake in the ground in this rural area of China.  Thus, the soil is extremely high in magnesium and other minerals.

Their diet, which is very high in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, only further augments the magnesium they are getting every day.  We suspect that the magnesium in their food and water may be a major reason why heart disease is very uncommon, and people live to old ages free of chronic medical conditions.

To learn more about why China’s Longevity Village has the highest known concentration of centenarians in the world, please be sure to pick up a copy of our new book, The Longevity Plan.

How can you correct magnesium deficiency?

Let me give you five simple steps to correct magnesium deficiency.

1. Drink hard or mineral water.

2. Eat a heaping salad with spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes daily. 

3. Embrace the stress in your life.

4. Talk with your doctor about magnesium supplements.

5. Talk with your doctor about medications that may be contributing to your magnesium deficiency like diuretics, acid reducing medications, or calcium supplements.

Practical Tips

As 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient, there is a high likelihood that you may be one of them. Fortunately, magnesium deficiency is easy to correct.

I know I used to be one of these people. Before my health transformation, I required Prilosec daily for acid reflux, ate the Standard American Diet, and was always stressed. These three things alone probably put me also into a state of magnesium deficiency.

Now, in addition to eating a diet very high in magnesium, I have found that taking a magnesium supplement before bed helps me to sleep. Indeed, medical studies show that magnesium supplementation is an effective treatment for insomnia.

If you suspect you may have a magnesium deficiency as well, correct anything that can be fixed to boost your magnesium stores. Also, speak with your physician about whether a magnesium supplement might be right for you.

If you enjoyed this article, please be sure to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and podcast. Also, to learn the secret to fantastic health at any age, please be sure to read our new book, The Longevity Plan.

#023 The Real Food First Diet

July 28th, 2014 by

Real Food First: A Simple Guide to Losing Weight, Getting Kids to Eat Healthy, and Feeling More Energy

When we returned home from our first visit to China’s Longevity Village, we asked ourselves, “With all the junk food our kids encounter at school, church, playdates, scouts, sports, and practically everywhere in our society, how can we help our kids not only eat healthy, but develop a desire to eat healthy?”

The pay off of good habits developed early was apparent in the village. We were so impressed how a group of people in this village were able to feel so good, have so much energy, and escape the chronic medical conditions that we see everywhere in the U.S. None of them were taking any medications and they were still growing their own naturally organic food well into their 80s, 90s, and 100s.

The traditional diet of China’s Longevity Village is a diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds, and fish.  They eat vegetables with every meal, including breakfast.  There was no added sugar, limited grains except for unrefined brown rice, and limited animal meat.  Dairy was not part of their diet as they are lactose deficient.

The Junk Food Life

It is so difficult to eat healthy as a kid in our society.  School lunches are horrible.  Little league coaches, scout leaders, and church leaders often enjoy offering “treats” to our kids. But how rewarding are these “treats” when kids in the U.S. are becoming overweight at an alarming rate and developing chronic conditions earlier and earlier in life?

Eating junk food has become the norm.  How do we help our kids break away from the path of least resistance and take initiative to make healthier behaviors? We can’t always be with them.  Somehow, we have to help them develop the desire and the tools to make their own healthy choices.

Like most parents, we are trying to empower our kids with knowledge about what their bodies need and why. We teach them to read labels.  We teach them how food grows. We try to help them practice balance–maximizing the good and minimizing the bad.  All these things are good, but left to their own devices, our kids still tend to prefer the not-so-healthy choices and go for the less healthy ones.

Recently, we’ve been trying a new approach: Eat Real Food First.

Let me explain.  With each meal we offer and encourage our children to eat vegetables, a fruit, a healthy fat, and a healthy protein.  If their bodies tell them that they are still hungry after their fruit, vegetables, healthy fat, and healthy protein, then they can choose to eat additional foods, including not-so-healthy items, if desired. We are finding that by filling up on real food first, our desire for and the amount of junk food we actually eat decreases.

Tips for Getting Kids to Enjoy Vegetables

Getting kids to eat vegetables can be challenging.  Vegetables are something that we know few others will offer to our kids so we make sure to at least offer some form of a vegetable to our kids with each meal.

When given the choice, our kids will always opt for the carrot sticks.  While carrots are extremely healthy, we try to make sure that by the end of the day they have had a rainbow of vegetable colors (orange, green, red, etc.).  Of the rainbow of colors, we try to make at least one of them a cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc.)

Most often, they like the vegetables raw with a salad dressing for dipping.  However, more and more, they are enjoying stir-fry dishes with different sauces.  Our 9- and 11-year-old sons now declare that curry is their favorite, our 6-year old daughter likes hoisin sauce.

We invite the kids to cut and cook the vegetables with us.  Somehow, working with the food itself helps them to enjoy eating it more.  They each have developed their favorites to chop–one particularly likes to chop onions, another zucchini, and another carrots. Whatever works!

If there are certain vegetables they traditionally resist, we find that when we cut them up small and mix them with a variety of other colorful vegetables, we have more success.  A vegetable they’ve always “hated,” often gets eaten without comment or fuss.

Our next step is to grow some of these foods ourselves.

We’d love to hear your suggestions, questions, and successes helping your family to enjoy vegetables. Please share your comments at the end of this blog.

What fruits do we encourage?

Fruits are not so difficult. We can’t think of a fruit our kids won’t eat.  We always try to have a wide variety of fruits peeled and cut up ready to eat with each meal.  It could be something as simple as a few organic strawberries, half of an orange, or a small bunch of organic red grapes.  One small serving of a fruit with each meal is enough and can address the desire for something sweet.

“Hunger Carbs” vs. “Filling Carbs”

Vegetables, legumes (beans and lentils), and to a lesser extent fruit, are what we call the “filling” or “healthy” carbs.  These carbs, which are slowly digested, do not result in big sugar or insulin spikes, and heal us.  These carbs fill our bellies and allow us to feel full.

These “filling” or “healthy” carbs stand in stark contrast to the “hunger” or “disease” carbs.  The hunger carbs result in rapid sugar and insulin spikes.  They cause us to become hungrier and cause our bodies to break down and become sick.

Have you ever wondered why you can have bowl after bowl of Fruit Loops and never feel full?  The hunger carbs are bread, including whole wheat bread, pasta, sports drinks, soda pop, pastries, crackers, and most processed foods.

If you eat the “hunger carbs” you will just be hungry again in a very short period of time.  The “hunger carbs” are one of the biggest reasons why we are gaining unneeded weight.

What healthy fats do we encourage?

For their healthy fats we encourage things like nuts or nut butter of any kind, seeds or seed butter of any kind, hummus, or even Wild Alaskan Salmon.

For the longest time, none of our kids would eat fish.  But after offering it over and over and over, all three of them have now learned to enjoy Salmon.  They even ask for it when we are planning meals! We like the Wild Alaskan Salmon because it offers the best fish health benefits with minimal mercury, dioxin, or PCBs.

If they are asking for “milk,” healthy fats choices could also include organic unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, or soymilk.  We realize that soy can be a controversial food item for some people.  This is likely because of how we eat soy in the U.S.  Our soy here is genetically modified (GMO) and processed, not using the whole bean. The organic soymilk we buy does use the whole organic soybean, not merely isolated components or added chemicals. We just make sure we read the labels carefully.

Countless medical studies from Asia have demonstrated the health benefits of soy.  This is likely because they eat the whole bean and the beans they traditionally used were non-GMO.  If you choose to drink soymilk only buy the organic unsweetened whole bean varieties.

If they are asking for a dessert or something sweet, assuming they have not already had candy offered to them from someone else, we may offer dark chocolate.  Our kids have learned to love even 80% cacao dark chocolate.  The darker the healthier.  Dark chocolate includes many healthy fats. We have recently begun mixing nut butters with almond milk, cocoa and stevia. This concoction is a step up in nutritional value from traditional sweets and satisfies our sweet tooth. And, somehow, a smaller amount seems to satisfy, rather than producing an unquenchable desire to eat more and more, as the others sweets usually do.

What healthy proteins do we offer?

For a healthy protein with each meal, we offer our children the same foods listed above that provide the healthy fats–nuts or nut butter of any kind, seeds or a seed butter of any kind, legumes (lentils or beans of any kind), hummus, or Wild Alaskan Salmon.

As most of our suggested healthy fats and proteins are on the same list, depending on what our kids want to eat, one serving of something high in the healthy fats and proteins could suffice for both.

We understand that some of our recommended healthy proteins are not complete proteins with all of the necessary amino acids (i.e. lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds).  This is not a concern to us as our kids will also get other protein sources during the day which will round out their amino acid profile.  For example, at some point during the day, our kids will want a sandwich or a bowl of a healthier cereal.

Ideally, the sandwich or cereal comes after eating the real food first. Otherwise, it’s easy to fill up on the less-nutrient-rich foods and not want the more nutritious foods afterwards.  The protein from the whole grains in these items will make a complete protein when combined with lentils, beans, nuts, or seeds.

We try to offer the healthiest possible versions of the snack foods they ask for at home—i.e. chips, crackers, treats, and we encourage them to be eaten with meals, No foods are forbidden or restricted, as we’ve seen that this can create unintended problems in itself. We know that they will certainly find the junk food at school, a friend’s house, or at church, etc. Our intent is to be relaxed about these realities in our society.

The important thing is that we have at least given them three opportunities each day to provide them with real food first to help keep them healthy.

Day by day, our kids are relaxing into the idea of eating real food first with every meal we have together.  Sometimes they even take their own initiative to get the healthy stuff first.  Sometimes.  We hope this is a work in progress, and will continue to build over time. We’re not there yet, but we are finding that this approach is helping us to guide our children to eat healthy.

Real Food First is the adaptation of China’s Longevity Village Diet to an American lifestyle, which helps us to more successfully navigate the realities of our society and live better.

How to Start Eating Healthy as the Best Way to Lose Weight

As a cardiologist, 80% of the health problems that I see every day could have been avoided with healthy lifestyle choices.  The benefits of eating healthy, reducing stress and moving more are truly life changing.

The question among my patients is always: “how do I start eating healthy and what is the best way to lose weight?” Carrying extra weight is one of the biggest factors causing so many of the health issues I see today.

Unfortunately, less than 5% of diets work long-term.  Eating less does not work because your body’s metabolism just slows down and you are hungry all of the time.  This just makes you tired and irritable.

Exercising alone to lose weight doesn’t work either.  Vigorous exercise can just work up an appetite and, if left unchecked, will cause you to negate any calories you may have burned off with one sports drink, a treat, or a big meal.

By eating real food first, we can give our body all the nutrition it needs for optimal health and eat the foods that will fill us.  Eating real food speeds up your metabolism, so that you burn more calories through the day. Filling up with real food first, in combination with exercise and moving throughout the day, really is the best way to lose weight.

Step 1: Real Food First

Step 1 of the Real Food First Diet is really quite simple.  At each meal, before you eat anything else, have a fruit, two vegetables, a healthy fat, and a healthy protein.  The list of suggested items above for our kids is exactly what you could use as you are starting as well.

You have to be religious about starting every meal, including breakfast, with real food first.  Vegetables are not typically part of a traditional American breakfast.  Let’s change that.

For breakfast, steam up some broccoli as a side with your oatmeal sprinkled with your favorite nuts and almond milk.  Make a delicious salad. If you love your eggs, mix in tomatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, zucchini—whatever you have.  For eggs, I recommend organic, pasture raised, local eggs.  Never go a meal, especially breakfast, without eating Real Food First.

Step 2: Nothing is Forbidden After Eating Real Food First

After you have finished eating Real Food First, if your body tells you that you are still hungry, decide what you need.  Remember it takes at least 20-30 minutes before your brain gets the message you are full so eat slowly and wait a while after eating real food first. No foods are forbidden or restricted with the Real Food First Diet. There is no counting the calories.

Of course, this is not license to binge or disregard the signals your body is sending you! Listen to your body. If you decipher that you are physically full, but still “hungry” for something else, stop eating, figure out what you really need, move on to another activity, and reassure yourself that you can eat again when you are hungry.

Ideally, you will fill up on the real food first so that you body’s natural weight regulation system will kick in and regulate your weight to the ideal weight.  The problem comes when we eat the “hunger carbs.”  These are the carbs that our body immediately turns into sugar like bread (even whole wheat), pizza, pasta, crackers, processed foods, desserts, etc.

The more “hunger carbs” we eat, the hungrier we will be.  This results in high insulin levels that completely override all of our body’s natural weight regulation system.

If you love bread, like me, try switching to Ezekiel bread, which has no flour and is very high in protein and fiber.  As this bread is not rapidly converted to sugar, like traditional whole wheat or multi grain breads, it is considered a “filling carb.” Even our kids like Ezekiel bread.  It makes great French toast and sandwiches (especially when toasted).  We also enjoy Ezekiel buns, cereals, and pastas.

Step 3: Real Food First with Snacks

If you are hungry between meals then the Real Food First Diet allows you to snack as long as you snack on real food first. We find that if you are eating real foods first, most people do not get hungry between meals.  If you do, have a vegetable, healthy fat, or healthy protein first.

Like with mealtime, if your body tells you that you are still hungry after a vegetable, healthy fat, or healthy protein, then you can eat what you need.  Once again, give your brain 20-30 minutes to get the message you are full.  No foods are restricted or forbidden once you have had real food first.

Immediate Weight Loss

Depending on your previous diet and how overweight you are, you could lose anywhere from 5-20 pounds in your first 10 days by eating real food first.  While this is primarily water weight from the simple carbs or “hunger carbs” (bread, pasta, sports drinks, sodas, pastries, crackers, processed foods, etc.), it is still exciting to see the weight drop so fast at first.

After this initial weight loss, most of my patients see a gradual one to two pound weight loss each week when they eat real food first in conjunction with regular daily exercise (30 minutes if moderate intensity/15 minutes if high intensity) and 10,000 steps daily.

With most diets, people quickly gain back all of the weight, and then some, with eating real food first this is not the case.  This is a lifestyle change.  There is no specific “diet” or meal plan.  Just eat real food first and if your body tells you that you are still hungry after the real food then you can eat what you need.  There is no hunger.  There is no deprivation.

Reclaim Your Energy

In addition to the rapid weight loss in week number one, the biggest thing my patients notice is how much better they feel.  Suddenly, it was as if some one gave them all of their energy back.

Rather than just sitting and feeling tired they suddenly wanted to get up and start doing something.  Many of my patients have told me that they have not felt this good and energetic in years.

Yes, real foods give us energy.  If we can get rid of the energy draining “hunger carbs” or the “disease carbs” and replace them with the “filling” or “healthy” carbs, we can have as much energy as we had when we were kids.

Make Real Food First a Habit!

We have found that with every new habit, tracking our progress is one of the most important things for success.  To help you put Real Food First and reclaim your health and energy now, please sign up for Dr. Day’s free Healthy Habit Tracker App on the resource page of our website.

By signing up for this program, you will get a daily email reminding you to record your progress for the day.  You can even earn “medals” for the number of days you consistently fill out the form.  It is never too late to change!

How about you?  How do you put real foods first?  Have you found success in reaching and maintaining your ideal weight with real foods? Please help others by sharing your questions and experiences here. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

#013 How to Get Rid of Atrial Fibrillation Once and For All

June 23rd, 2014 by

Do you or someone you love suffer from atrial fibrillation (A-fib)?  If so, you are not alone.  One in four Americans will have at least one episode of A-fib in their lives.  In this article, I share how to get rid of atrial fibrillation.

Many of my patients feel horrible when A-fib strikes.  Their hearts race chaotically and they often feel short of breath, fatigued, dizzy, lightheaded, or may even have chest pain.

The effects of A-fib can be devastating.  A-fib is one of the major causes of stroke.  It can also put people on a number of different medications, all with serious side effects.

This is something you definitely want to avoid, if possible…

If you are like most patients with this condition, you have already been put on a heavy duty blood thinner for life.  You may also be on a medicine to slow your heart down or hold you in rhythm.

Do you want to live this way for the rest of your life?  There are other options.

If aggressive lifestyle changes are made soon enough, the A-fib may completely go away.  I have seen many patients “beat” A-fib just by making significant lifestyle changes.  For others, the A-fib attacks may significantly decrease.  Sometimes, lifestyle changes alone may not be enough.  If this is the case, all is not lost.  These lifestyle changes will double your chances of successfully beating A-fib with a minimally invasive procedure called an A-fib ablation.

If we are going to beat A-fib, we need to know everything that may be contributing to this condition.  If we can aggressively attack each of these 10 items early enough there is an excellent chance that you can get rid of A-fib once and for all!

1. Get Rid of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one of the main causes of A-fib.  It puts a big strain on the heart which can cause the lower chambers of the heart to thicken and the upper chambers of the heart to enlarge.

If you have high blood pressure you are not alone.  Studies show that half of all Americans have a blood pressure above the goal of 120/80 mmHg as established by the American Heart Association.  As with A-fib, if significant lifestyle changes are made early enough, high blood pressure is completely reversible.

I have seen this with many of my patients.  In fact, after just a few weeks of making major lifestyle changes, under the direction of their physicians they can start getting off of their high blood pressure medications.  I personally dropped my blood pressure which could go as high as 150/90 mmHg down to 110/70 mmHg without medications.

For more information on how to reverse high blood pressure, please read my article “How to Get Off Your Blood Pressure Medications: Lower Your Blood Pressure with These Eight Steps.

Until you can reverse your high blood pressure with lifestyle modification, you may need to work with your physician on getting this under control.  For my patients with A-fib, I tend to be aggressive on getting the blood pressure under control.  I usually shoot for a target of less than 135/85 mmHg.

2. Reverse Your Biologic Age

Unfortunately, getting older is a big risk factor for developing A-fib.  Even though you are getting older year-by-year (your chronological age), you can reverse your biologic age now!  Your biologic age can be 10-20 years younger than how “old” you are.  You can regain your youth, feel great, and reverse the effects of aging on your heart.

How do you reverse your biologic age?  Please read my recent article “We Can Reverse the Aging Process“.

3. Keep Stress in Check

It seems like we are all stressed out.  According to a study from Everest College, 83% of Americans are stressed out at work.  One study showed that our chronic stress is the equivalent of smoking 5 cigarettes a day!  Even if you just think you are stressed is enough to increase your risk of a heart attack by 27%!

When we are stressed our bodies release cortisol and adrenalin into the blood stream.  These substances are toxic to the heart if it continues long enough.

What can we do to get our stress under control?  Make it a priority to do something every day to get your stress levels under control.  We will never be able to completely avoid stress.  It is part of the human experience.

Even something as simple as yoga to calm your nerves has been shown to decrease your risk of A-fib by 50%!  The key is to recognize your stress and do something actively every day to bring your stress levels down.  For some people this could be exercising, spending time in nature, reading a good book, getting a good night of sleep, or just hanging out with your friends.

For more information on this, please read my article “Seven Ways to Manage Stress”. http://drjohnday.com/?p=779

4. Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is like stress, it can be helpful to the body for short periods of time. However, when inflammation never turns off it can damage the heart and the rest of the body as well as result in premature aging.

It has been recognized for quite some time that inflammation is an important cause of A-fib.  The good news is that if we can turn off the inflammation for our heart it will help the rest of our body to recover as well.

Did you know there is a simple blood test your doctor can order for you to check your inflammation level?  This test is called C Reactive Protein or CRP for short.  The goal is to have a CRP of less than 1 mg/L.  If you can get your CRP to less than one you can dramatically reduce your risk of A-fib, heart attacks, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s Disease.

How can we reduce inflammation?  Please read the article I wrote on this subject entitled “Six Strategies to Reduce Inflammation and Chronic Pain“.

5. Get Your Weight in Line

Did you know that being overweight is one of the biggest causes of A-fib today?  A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by my good friend, Dr. Prash Sanders, showed how important weight loss is with reversing A-fib.  In this study, if overweight people could lose just 32 pounds, they could reduce their A-fib attacks nearly three-fold.

This is something I have seen time and time again in my practice.  Overweight people with A-fib who can lose the weight can often make their A-fib go away.

6. Eat the Right Foods

Did you know the rates of A-fib are several times higher in North America than anywhere else in the world?  The Standard American Diet (SAD) is like pouring gasoline on the A-fib fire.  The right foods can reverse most of the factors, discussed in this article, driving A-fib.

For my patients with A-fib I recommend the following:

-Nine servings of fruits or vegetables daily

-At least one serving of nuts or seeds daily

-At least one serving of legumes daily

-Two servings of a low mercury oily fish, like salmon, weekly

For many of my patients, they need to learn how to eat vegetables.  Vegetables can be the most wonderful tasting food if prepared right.  These foods can heal our hearts and our bodies.

To go along with these must eat healing foods, I recommend that my A-fib patients minimize or avoid the following three foods.

-Processed or prepared foods

-Animal meat, especially processed meats (hot dogs, sausage, bacon, deli meats) and red meat

-Sugar, including foods that are immediately turned to sugar like wheat flour, white rice, or potatoes

The goal is to eat real food.  To get back to cooking and sharing meals with friends and families!

7. Rejuvenating Sleep

I cannot stress enough how important it is to get rejuvenating sleep if we are to beat A-fib.  For most people this means at least seven hours of sleep.  It also means sleep free from sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?  That is where people stop breathing while sleeping.  These big drops in oxygen levels when people are not breathing can lead not only to A-fib but also to heart attacks, sudden death, heart failure, or high blood pressure.

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?  Generally I find that the spouse or sleeping partner can easily make this diagnosis.  People with sleep apnea usually snore like a train and then will stop breathing for 20 or 30 seconds.

Fortunately, for most people, sleep apnea is totally reversible. It is a complication of being overweight.  With weight loss the sleep apnea usually goes away.

Until the weight can be lost, I recommend that my patients with sleep apnea get treated.  Studies show that you can cut the numbers of A-fib episodes by about 50% with getting the sleep apnea treated.

8. Get Moving

Did you know that people with the least amount of physical activity are at high risk of developing A-fib?  The key is to get moving!  The first thing I recommend for my patients is to get a pedometer.

Studies show that just the mere act of tracking your steps will increase the number of steps you take each day by 2,500.  That is the equivalent of walking more than one extra mile each day just by tracking your steps!

The pedometer is so helpful because people overestimate their activity.  In fact, based on pedometer data, less than 5% of Americans get enough physical activity.

I have found that in my practice, most of my A-fib patients only get 2,000 to 3,000 steps each day.  The average American gets 5,000 steps each day.  The average European, where A-fib is much less common, often gets about 10,000 steps each day.  The goal is to get at least 10,000 steps a day.

While this may seem hard to achieve, most of my patients can easily get to this goal.  You just have to be creative. Can you walk somewhere instead of driving? Can you add an evening walk to your day?  The possibilities are endless.

In addition to 10,000 steps daily, I recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day.  I am often asked, what exercises should I do.  My answer is simple, do what you enjoy.  Anything counts.  Gardening, dancing, skiing, hiking, etc. are all great.  The most important thing is that you are consistent and do something each day.

I do recommend varying your daily exercise to keep it fun, work different muscle groups, and to prevent overuse injuries.  Depending on what you choose to do, you may also need to incorporate a couple days of strength training into your routine.

9. Get Rid of the Vices

Tobacco, alcohol, and any stimulants, including caffeine, can be a trigger for A-fib.  Did you know there is even a condition called Holiday Heart?  This is when someone drinks a lot of alcohol and then goes into A-fib.

For many of my patients, just getting rid of these vices can eliminate A-fib episodes.  Other stimulant medications, including Sudafed, Ritalin, or other attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications can also trigger A-fib.

To learn more about the effect of caffeine to heart arrhythmias, please read this article I wrote.

10. When All Else Fails Get it Ablated

For most of my patients, aggressive lifestyle modification can drive A-fib into remission.  Unfortunately, there will always be some cases that just don’t seem to resolved with lifestyle modification.  What should be done in these cases?

For these patients, blood thinners, medications to slow the heart, and rhythm controlling medications are often prescribed.  Unfortunately, for most patients, rhythm drugs only work for a few years at most.

When medications are no longer effective in controlling the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, an ablation is the next step. This is also an excellent option for patients who have side effects from the medications or just do not want to be on life-long medications.

Fortunately, the lifestyle changes we have discussed in this article can double the chances of a successful procedure if an ablation is ultimately required to control the symptoms.

With an ablation, we go into the heart through an IV in the leg, map where the A-fib is coming from in the heart, and then ablate those areas.  The entire procedure takes about three hours and patients will typically spend the night in the hospital following the procedure.  The following day patients will go home with just a band aid.

I have personally done nearly 4,000 of these A-fib ablation procedures.  In experienced hands, most patients can ultimately be free of atrial fibrillation.  There are certainly risks associated with this procedure but these can largely be avoided by physicians with the most experience in performing these procedures.  Please discuss the risks, benefits, and alternatives of A-fib ablations with your physician.

Here is a link to see more that I have written about atrial fibrillation.  Also, be sure to sign up for my free weekly newsletter or subscribe to my podcast.

Feel free to leave your questions and comments below.