#110 The 7 Most Dangerous Foods for Your Heart

June 19th, 2015 by

The 7 Most Dangerous Foods for Your Heart

“Margarine is healthier,” I was told in the 1980s.  I still remember moving out of my parents house and buying groceries for the first time in 1985. Like everyone else, I cringe to think that I used to buy that tub of trans fat laden margarine because I thought it was safer for my heart than butter.

The sad thing is that most Americans still unknowingly eat this unhealthy fat each day!  Fortunately, the FDA has finally intervened and announced this week that “food manufactures” must eliminate added trans fat from our food supply within 3 years.  As with lead poisoning, there is no safe level of this toxic fat.

Despite this good news from the FDA, there is a catch.  Food manufacturers can petition the FDA to keep putting trans fat into their fake food products.

Even if the food label says zero trans fat, you are still at risk due to legal loopholes in trans fat reporting requirements.  As long as there is less than a half of a gram, food manufacturers do not need to report this.  For people who eat a lot of processed foods or eat out a lot, this can really add up.  A large percentage of fast food establishments, restaurants, and bakeries still use this fat.

In this article I will share with you how to protect yourself from the 7 most dangerous foods for your heart. These 7 foods are those highest in trans fat.

Why Should We Worry About Trans Fat?

Trans fat causes inflammation to our arteries. It also dramatically raises our bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers our good cholesterol (HDL).  The end result is rapid plaque build up within our heart.  The CDC estimates that trans fat causes up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 unnecessary heart deaths each year in the U.S.

Why Does the Food Industry Like Trans Fat?

Why do food manufacturers still insist on putting this fat into their products?  The answer is because it gives fake food products a shelf life that just may be longer than your own life.

In addition to a long shelf life, some claim that trans fat makes things “taste better.” Lastly, when frying with trans fat, you can re-use the oil over and over.

Trans Fat in Meat and Dairy

It might surprise you to learn that trans fat is also found in meat and dairy.  Grass fed animals may even have more trans fat than grain fed animals.

I should note that the chemical structure of naturally occurring trans fat is different from that of the man-made variety we have discussed thus far in this article.  Fortunately, the natural forms of trans fat don’t seem to present the same cardiovascular risks.  To stay on the safe side, it may be wise to eat leaner cuts of animal meat.

Why Are Cholesterol Levels Falling?

Something strange is happening in the U.S.  Despite the fact that we are gaining more and more weight, our cholesterol numbers keep dropping.  The pharmaceutical industry would like us to believe that this is due to the cholesterol lowering, “statin” drug, prescriptions being written.

Personally, I believe it is because we have been gradually phasing trans fat out of our diet.  As mentioned, trans fat raises our bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers our good cholesterol (HDL).

Since the FDA loosely required food manufacturers to report trans fat in 2003, we have reduced our consumption of this fat by 78%.  Interestingly, over this same period of time, the number of people with high cholesterol in the U.S. has dropped by 27%.

Heart Stent and Bypass Surgeries Are Falling

Not only have our cholesterol levels dropped but the number of heart stent procedures has declined by 28% and cardiac bypass surgeries have gone down by 46% during this same period of time.  I suspect that much of this decrease has occurred due to the gradual elimination of trans fat from our diets.

The 7 Most Dangerous Foods for Your Heart

1. Pastries

As if the sugar and refined grains were not dangerous for your heart, the trans fat in many commercially prepared pastries delivers the triple hit to your heart.  Never eat cookies, cakes, donuts, or pies without first checking the label to see if there are partially hydrogenated oils.

Commercially prepared frosting and refrigerated dough can also be high in trans fat.  Even breads or crackers may contain trans fat.

If you want to have a pastry, try making a healthier version at home without all of the sugar, refined grains, or trans fat.  For suggestions on healthier options, please review the many recipes my wife has posted on our website.

2. Margarine and Shortening

Margarine was the poster child for trans fat a generation ago.  Shortening is another common source of trans fat.  Fortunately, Crisco has recently eliminated trans fat.

If you want to use a healthier oil, try using olive oil or coconut oil.  There are many healthier options than margarine or shortening.

3. French Fries and Fried Foods

French fries and fried foods are often fried in trans fat.  If you love French fries, try baking your own at home with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt.  Homemade sweet potato fries can be especially healthy.

4. Chips

Potato chips and other chips often contain trans fat. If you like the taste of chips, consider switching to kale chips.  Better yet, make your own kale chips at home with some olive oil and sea salt.

5. Candy

Candy can be another source of trans fat.  If you love your sweets, like me, consider switching to dark chocolate instead.  With regards to health, the darker the chocolate the better.  Dark chocolate has much less added sugar than milk chocolate.

6. Frozen Pizzas

Frozen pizzas are yet another source of hidden trans fat and other heart unfriendly ingredients.  Consider making your own pizza.  It is surprisingly easier than you think.  You can even include almond flour and coconut flour into your homemade pizza dough recipe.

7. Popcorn

Microwave popcorn often contains trans fat.  Movie theater popcorn is no better.  If you love popcorn you can still eat it–just try the air pop variety at home.

Bringing It Home

The key message is that trans fat is still in our food supply and there is no safe amount you can eat.  If you buy processed or prepared foods, you must ensure that partially hydrogenated oil or shortening is not listed anywhere on the ingredient list.

If you like to eat out, ask the manager, or your server, what types of oils are used.

Was it hard for you to eliminate trans fat from your diet?

#102 How to Get Off Medications Safely

May 18th, 2015 by

How To Get Off Medications Safely

Fully 70% of all Americans take prescription medications according to the Mayo Clinic.  Nearly twice as many Americans are now taking prescription medications compared to 15 years ago.  Are we opting for medications instead of treating the real underlying problem?

Do you struggle with fatigue?  Are you having troubles sleeping at night?  Do you not feel like yourself anymore?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then chances are that you may be suffering from  a medication side effect.

If you want to learn how to get off your medications safely by replacing them with healthy new habits, then this article is just for you.  Even if you are not on any medications at this time, in this article I will show you how to develop healthy habits so that you may never have to take a medication in your life.

Mark’s Experiencebigstock-Diet-Decision-71663104

No sooner had Mark turned 40 than his doctor told him his cholesterol was too high.  Although Mark exercised regularly, he was a busy executive and it was hard for him to make healthy food choices while traveling.

“I know I can beat this with a healthy diet,” Mark told himself.

He started eating more vegetables, dramatically reduced bread and pasta, eliminated sugar, and replaced red meat with fish.  He was making real progress and his cholesterol numbers were coming down.  He even lost 20 pounds.

Given his family history of heart disease, his doctor wanted his cholesterol numbers even lower.  After 6 months of trying, the numbers were simply not low enough.  His doctor wanted him to take a “statin” medication to further lower his cholesterol.

At first nothing changed.  Mark continued to make healthy food choices and faithfully take his statin.  Three months later, his cholesterol numbers were now perfect.

“I’ve dodged the bullet that killed my father,” Mark thought.  With perfect cholesterol numbers, little by little, Mark started bringing back his “comfort foods.”  He quickly gained back the 20 pounds he lost plus an extra 10.

Previously, Mark felt obligated to go to the gym each morning before work.  However, with things busier at work and with his perfect cholesterol numbers, he no longer felt compelled to go to the gym each day.  A year later, his blood pressure and cholesterol were up and he was diabetic.

Mark’s physician then prescribed metformin for his diabetes, lisinopril for his high blood pressure, and increased his dose of simvastatin.  What went wrong?

Do Prescription Medications Change Behavior?

Conventional wisdom would tell you that patients who faithfully take their medications must be healthier. Could “fixing” his cholesterol problem actually be the cause of Mark’s new health challenges?

Eating Behaviors Change With Medicationsbigstock-Colors-In-Spoon-85837742

Mark, like many patients I have cared for, subconsciously felt like his heart was “protected” on a statin.  Even though he knew he still needed to “eat right,” the motivation was just no longer there with perfect cholesterol numbers.

Is there any scientific evidence to back up this observation that statins change eating behaviors?  In a recent study of 27,886 Americans followed for 20 years, UCLA researchers discovered a most unusual finding.  Once Americans go on statins, they start eating 10% more calories, 14% more unhealthy fats, and gain an extra 10+ pounds in the process.

Statins are not known to make people hungrier or crave junk food.  Rather, researchers concluded that once a statin was “on board,” people no longer felt compelled to religiously watch their diets.

Indeed, these are changes that are not just seen with statins.  I have seen the same thing with diabetes and high blood pressure medications as well.  Too often, once people start on these medications they start making poor food choices again.  They feel a false sense of security on the medications.

Exercise Behaviors Change on Medications

It is not just our food choices that change with statins.  We tend to stop moving as well.

In a recently published study of 5,994 older men, once they were prescribed a statin their exercise efforts plummeted and their sitting time skyrocketed.  Despite controlling for other factors, these researchers concluded that statins changed exercise behavior.  In other words, once people went on a statin they somehow felt that exercise was no longer as critical.

The Medication Snowball Effect

In Mark’s case, one simple statin soon led to two more medications.  Indeed, this happens far too often.  Is it any wonder that 20% of all Americans take five or more medications?

In the medical field we call this “polypharmacy.”  The more medications you take the more symptoms you have.  Soon you are taking medications to counter the symptoms of the other medications.  It is hard to safely break free of this cycle.

What Will It Take?bigstock-Results-effort-Graph-Drawn-By--77059727

If you are committed to getting off medications safely, it will definitely require major behavioral changes.  For each person the pathway may be different.  For example, to get off of pain medications may require dramatic weight loss to unweight your back, knees, or hips.

For other conditions, such as anxiety, it may require religiously exercising, meditating, yoga, and volunteering to get to a point where you could safely come off medications.   Getting off of sleeping pills may require you to aggressively manage stress and anxiety, stop caffeine after 10 am, exercise outside every day, and religiously go to bed at the same time every night.

In my cardiology practice, most of my patients want to get off of blood thinners.  These blood thinners are critical in preventing strokes.  For some of these patients, the only pathway off of blood thinners may require them to completely reverse their diabetes or high blood pressure.

Sometimes It Is Not Possible To Get Off Medications

Unfortunately, there are some conditions that may require life-long medications.  For example, this could be due to a genetic abnormality or damage that has already been done.

In these cases, don’t despair.  Rather, work with your physician to get to as few medications as possible by adopting healthy behaviors.

How To Get Off Medications Safelybigstock-Medications-47175382

Whenever a physician wants to prescribe a medication, the real question you should ask your doctor is, what things have to change for me to safely get off this medication.  Avoid the doctor that gives you no hope of ever getting better.  Anything is possible with dramatic lifestyle changes.

In general, a healthy lifestyle, which includes healthy food choices every day, daily exercise, rejuvenating sleep each night, daily stress management, and really connecting with others each day will help you to get off of most medications.  To help you partner with your physician in getting off your medications, let me share with you these eight strategies.

1. Know Your Medications

Probably the most challenging thing for a physician is a patient who does not even know what medications they are on.  If your goal is to go “drug free,” then step 1 has to be to know your medications.  Also, know your dose and know the common side effects with each of your medications.

2. Find Out What It’s Going To Take

Sit down with your physician and ask what specifically is it going to take to get off of your medications.  Encourage your physician to imagine the impossible.  Too often, physicians either don’t feel patients can really change their lifestyle or that medical conditions are reversible.

Don’t let your doctor’s pessimism or lack of faith in you deter your efforts.  Review each medication one by one at each doctor’s visit.  For example, you could ask your doctor how low does your blood pressure, cholesterol, or hemoglobin A1C have to go before you can safely get off these medications.

2. Connect With Your “Y”bigstock-Child-Holding-Why-Sign-76895297

For any behavior change, you have to connect with your “Y” (why).  You have to have a reason or change is far too difficult.  If feeling energetic and alive again is not enough for you, then just read the package insert for each of your medications for inspiration.  For many conditions, the side effects of the medications may actually be more dangerous than the underlying medical condition you are treating.

3. Change Your Environment

Once you have your “Y,” (why) the next step is to change your environment.  I have found that if you have the right environment then behavioral change is incredibly easy.

For example, if your family is willing to support you in having a junk food free home, then you will always eat perfectly at home.  Likewise, if you can make friends with fitness junkies then you can’t help but to exercise effortlessly each day.

4. Take the First Stepbigstock-sports-woman-running-up-on-sto-76164344

Once you have a reason (the “Y”) and the proper environment in place, then it is time to start taking steps.  If your “Y” is strong and your environment supportive, you can take big steps.  In contrast, if your “Y” is relatively weak, like wanting your jeans to not fit so tight, and your spouse has a house full of junk food, then you must make baby steps or you will fail miserably.

5. Be Specific

You need to clearly define each step for your new habits.  For me, one of my biggest challenges was to eat healthy at the hospital.  I had to stop eating the junk in my hospital’s cafeteria.  I also had to stop eating the junk many nurses and other hospital employees were bringing in each day.

The solution was easy.  I had to bring in healthy options from home so that I would not be tempted by my hospital’s cafeteria or the free food at the nurse stations.

6. Create a Trigger

You need a “trigger” for the new good habits to kick in.  For me, I had to link packing healthy food to a habit I already had.

After family dinner, our habit is for our family to clean the kitchen together.  For me, this became the new trigger.

Here is how simple it was.  When we are cleaning up after dinner, I will pack food for the hospital.  It worked.  It also made logical sense.  Instead of just putting the left overs into the fridge, I packed them into individual Pyrex containers to take to the hospital in the morning.

The same can be true for you.  Just take any habit you have and make a small tweak for the better.  When ___ (fill in the blank), I will do ___ (fill in the blank).

7. Accountability

We must be accountable to others and/or ourselves for new behaviors to stick.  Friends may not be the best accountability partner as they often let you off too easy.

I have found that for many of my patients, a physical trainer at the gym can be very effective.  Most trainers will give you grief if you eat junk or miss a few days at the gym.

For me, I prefer iPhone apps.  I have apps that track everything.  These apps hold me 100% accountable.

8. Rewardbigstock-Reward-sign-with-road-backgrou-88429736

We need to reward our successes.  It has to be fun.  Have a celebration if your doctor is willing to safely take you off a medication or even lower the dose of a medication.

Even though I am now off of all medications, I still need rewards.  For me, in addition to feeling great, the reward is seeing my progress on the app.  I love reaching higher levels and checking things off.

Bringing It All Home

The real goal in how to get off medications safely is to change how we view medications in the first place.  Anytime your doctor wants to prescribe a new medication, get him or her to clearly spell out what needs to happen in order for you to safely get off of this medication.  View any medication as just a temporary “crutch,” until you can reverse your underlying medical condition.

Of course, you must never stop a medication on your own.  Stopping a medicine or reducing a medication on your own could have life-threatening consequences.  Rather, work closely with your physician in helping you to live a healthy enough lifestyle so that medications will no longer be necessary.

If your physician does not believe you can completely turn your life around or that chronic medical conditions can’t be reversed with dramatic lifestyle changes, then look for another physician.

What has your experience been?  Have you been able to safely get off your medications?

#087 Coconut Oil versus Olive Oil

April 1st, 2015 by

Coconut Oil versus Olive Oil

Is coconut oil or olive oil best for the heart?  In this interesting interview, I press Dr. Jared Bunch to answer this and other questions based on an article he recently wrote on Everyday Health.

In this podcast interview we discuss the following topics:

1. Why is it that the Vedda people living in Sri Lanka as well as some Polynesian cultures are protected from heart disease, despite many cardiac risk factors, by eating coconuts?

2. Is coconut oil good for weight loss?

3. How does coconut oil affect cholesterol levels?

4. What is the best type of coconut oil to buy?

5. Why does Dr. Bunch feel olive oil may be better than coconut oil for the heart?

This Podcast is Available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio

If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe to the Dr. John Day Show in iTunes or Stitcher Radio.  Also, please be sure and recommend this podcast to a friend, family member, or coworker!

Transcription of the Coconut Oil versus Olive Oil Podcast

John: Hello and welcome to the Dr. John Day’s Show. I am so excited today to have as a guest, my partner, Dr. Jared Bunch. Dr. Bunch is a very famous cardiologist at Intermountain Medical Center. Please welcome Dr. Bunch.

Jared: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

John: Now, Dr. Bunch writes an article for the Rhythm of Life at Everyday Health. How many people read your articles last year? Was it like a million people?

Jared: Yes, from what I understand, we had over a million unique people looking into the article during the year. So quite a bit of people and quite a bit of opinion on the different pieces that are posted.

John: Definitely. Now Jared, one of your most recent articles certainly got a lot of attention.  I actually posted a link to this article on my Facebook page and I got a lot of shares and comments.  The article was on coconut oil versus olive oil. I loved this article. Certainly, coconut oil is very popular right now. Olive oil has been popular for quite some time. How did you come up with this concept to write about these oils?

Jared: I’ve been interested in olive oil for a long time as it’s been part of healthy diets, in particular, the Mediterranean diet.  Many of the people in Utah are quite interested in alternative therapies and alternative diets and more and more people are asking about coconut oil. We’re bringing in samples to try, and I had friends trying it and so I decided to research the topic further.

John: Interesting. You know though there hasn’t been a whole lot of data yet on coconut oil.  In contrast, olive oil has been around a long time.  Probably the thing that interests me the most is that there are a number of studies in the medical literature about coconut eating cultures.  These cultures eat coconuts everyday and they don’t seem to get heart disease despite other risk factors. For example, the Polynesians have issues with obesity, but yet some coconut eating Polynesian cultures have low rates of heart disease.  In your article, you talked about the Vedas people of Sri Lanka. Do you want to comment a little bit about that?

Jared: Yes, the Vedas people were one of the most interesting aspects of what I learned about coconut oil.  Another term for them were the “tree people,” and they live in these small communities in Sri Lanka. Their diet – their routine diet – mainly is coconuts, and wild game they can catch. Depending on the season of the year they also eat different fruits and vegetables.  But really from day-to-day, they count on game meat and coconuts. These people just don’t develop heart disease.  Many of them do die from other things, like hunting accidents.

Researchers have gone out and performed the traditional tests we use here in the United States to look for heart disease–looking at them with imaging, on stress test studies, and even with our current technology, they did not find heart disease or evidence of early heart disease in this population. So these were people that really have preserved healthy hearts throughout their life.

John: It’s really fascinating. How can this group of people smoke and do other things, but yet the coconuts seem to be protective. And what about when they move into the cities? Once they move into the cities they may lose some of that social cohesiveness that may have helped to promote health and longevity.

Jared: That’s one of the interesting things when you look at healthy populations.  The first question that a lot of researchers have is, “Well, is it their genetics?”  Perhaps it was their lifestyle and the culture they lived in that was healthy. So these people, many of them had to move in to the city due to various stresses on their habitat, and there they adopt more of the common lifestyle of the Sri Lankans, and approximately 40% begin to smoke. They have jobs that aren’t quite as active, but they do continue to eat coconut, and their incident of heart disease is about one in a hundred thousand, which is far below the risk in our country on orders of magnitude – not even a percent. Even though they’re smoking, they’ve been urbanized, they’ve changed their surroundings, and they start to smoke, and fortunately, they still don’t have a lot of heart disease.

So that does bring up a suggestion of the significance of their genetics, but it also brings up the lifestyle they carry with them, and that’s their tendency to consume a lot of coconuts – about 200 a year.

John: Wow. Now can we replicate that here in the United States if we start using coconut oil?

Jared: That’s a great question. I don’t know if I could eat 200 a year. I could probably drink 200 pina coladas a year [laughter]. I don’t know if I could eat a lot of coconuts, but that’s what you would hope. You’d hope to learn from people that have been able to evade disease. So we have to look at their lifestyle and say, “What can we do?” We probably can’t go and shoot small game, live in a jungle, and be very active in a small community, but we can eat healthier and one of possibilities is enriching our diet with more coconut.

John: Interesting. It seems like – at least on the internet – that coconut oil seems to be good for everything. We’ve talked about heart disease. Another thing is that a lot of people are saying coconut or coconut oil may also help with weight loss. Is there any truth to that?

Jared: Yeah, there is. That is one of the areas of coconut oil that truly has been studied as a means to lose weight. They took 20 obese men and they had them consume about 30 milliliters of coconut oil a week and that’s not a lot. Some people who try it say, well, it changes the flavor in things. It adds a coconut flavor. I can eat it for some things, but I can’t for other things. But 30 millimeters of oil over a week isn’t that much even if you tend to use it just for certain food sources. In obese men, that was the only change they made to their diet. Their weights decreased. That’s fairly significant without changing any other variable, so that gave us some excitement about the potential of weight loss product. It does stem from being rich in medium chain fatty acids. These are healthy for our bodies. They are healthy nutrients, but it does take the body a little bit more energy to break them down into useful products. Things that take the body more energy to break down consume more calories and then you get more weight loss. And so those are exciting aspects of coconut oil.  It also gives promise for future studies as a weight loss dietary aid.

John: Yeah, very fascinating. As a cardiologist, you see patients all the time with high cholesterol. What is the impact of coconut oil on cholesterol levels? Is that something we need to worry about?

Jared: This one’s a good one for me because as a Caucasian white male, I suffer from a slightly high LDL or bad cholesterol and a slightly low HDL, good cholesterol, so it’s a bad mix. And a lot of people with a Northern European ancestry have this trouble, as well.  Not a lot of things raise good cholesterol. Exercise does a little bit. Red wine does a little bit. Coconut oil is one of the things that does as well. It does raise the good cholesterol. Now it does raise bad cholesterol as well. And that’s from polyunsaturated fats.  Polyunsaturated fats are one of the unhealthy by-products of meat consumption. But when we consume them in an oil – in a plant oil – these are what make the plant oil opaque. It’s a different type of polyunsaturated fat . It does raise that protective healthy cholesterol. We often see in clinic people that have slightly high LDLs, but if they have a very high protective good cholesterol, HDL, then they’re relatively protected from heart disease. It is a unique medication for those two aspects of cholesterol management. And clearly if it helps with weight as well, then weight loss can lower LDL on its own. Sometimes when you adopt coconut oil to a healthy lifestyle with other things that lower LDL, you’ll overall come out a winner.

John: We’ve talked about how the Vedda people and some Polynesian cultures are protected from heart disease by eating coconuts.  We have also talked about weight loss from coconuts. Coconut oil tastes great. Also, it seems to be relatively benign on cholesterol. Why is it in your article that you gave the nod to olive oil as the better of the two oils?

Jared: I think it comes from a few things. It sounds almost like I’m a politician [chuckles]–

John: I have to pin you down on this.  I was actually surprised when I read through the comments on this article you wrote for Everyday Health.  I would’ve predicted that the readers would have beaten you up on this point. People were very kind to you with their comments [chuckles].

Jared: Well, I think they’re kind in general to me because they know I’m a novice at this. I think one, they knew I gave coconut a good shake, and I’m still optimistic about it. I think there are three reasons.

One is there’s just so much more data on olive oil. Olive oil is part of some of the most healthy heart friendly diets that we know of. The Mediterranean Diet has numerous studies that show that it lowers cholesterol, heart attack risk, and stroke risk–olive oil is the main product of this healthy diet. So coconut oil is a newcomer. It may reach the same level of success as olive oil, but it’s going to take some time and adaptation across many cultures. The Mediterranean diet not only helps a White race or an Asian race, it has been shown to help races of all kinds throughout the world. So I think that’s where olive oil has a strong lead on coconut oil.

The second is coconut oil contains more calories. So it can in larger quantities lead to some weight gain.

And then I think the third thing that I’ve realized after I wrote this column is people– it’s easier to add olive oil to a lot of food. For example, even today, I was speaking to a friend who is just starting to use coconut oil, and he used it on some eggs, and he served his family the eggs and the eggs had a coconut taste to it. And so he thought, “These eggs taste good, but there is something just different.”

John: Something different about these eggs?

Jared: Yes. So if you add them to brownies or omelets it has a little coconut flair to it. So it takes some time to get used to it and perhaps that’s what our brains told us when we added olive oil instead of canola oil or corn oil. But that, I think, takes a little bit of time to get used to.

But I think that’s a distant third, where the number one is the rich research we have with olive oil.  And in time there will be more and more articles coming out on coconut oil.

John: With all of this, what oil do you use in your home?

Jared: We have lots of olive oil. And partially after writing all of that, we still do use a lot of oil, but we’ve started to substitute coconut oil to see whether it has a role in our family. We’ve used it in things like waffles and pancakes, things that are more sweet, and brownies to substitute for more traditional oils and it works. It’s almost seamless in those, and actually it’s quite good. I haven’t yet tried it on things like eggs and some things that were traditionally consumed in a Mediterranean diet with olive oil, so I need to try and experiment one at a time and see if I like that flavor. But I’ve come to really enjoy olive oil. I use it on most of my vegetables and most of the dishes we cook and so it’ll take some time. We go through a lot of olive oil in our house.

John: Sure. So, at the end of the day it really comes down to a personal decision. Both of these oils appear to be heart healthy. There is a lot more data on olive oil than coconut oil. What type of coconut oil should our listeners buy?

Jared: There’s two main products out there. There’s what we call virgin coconut oil and this is coconut oil that is removed from coconut milk through a process called wet extraction. It’s largely free of refining, and it’s thought to be quite healthy, because it minimizes any loss of the elemental properties of the oil, through refinement and processing. There’s a second one called copra oil, and now this is removed from the coconut meat, the dry meat itself, and it requires some deodorizing, some bleaching, some refining, and it’s thought that in the process of making this ready as a food source, it loses some of the heart-healthy benefits like phenols and antioxidants. And so generally, we’d recommend using the virgin coconut oil products. You’ll see a lot of debate about these on the internet, as to how to classify what’s virgin, extra virgin, etc.  Those standards really aren’t in place, but we want to use the least refined oil as possible, the purest elemental source in order to hopefully take advantage of a lot of the natural nutrients in it without exposing ourselves to some of the things that can occur through processing of the product.

John: Sure. Certainly, if you’re making salad dressings or using it with vegetables dipped in hummus or something like that, olive oil seems to make a lot of sense. But what about for cooking? With the low smoke point of olive oil, is that potentially an issue when cooking?

Jared: Yes. Smoke points can influence what type of things you cook with. Olive oil has a lower smoke point and so it will develop smoke at lower temperatures. Coconut’s a medium range smoke point, so you’re able to cook at a little bit higher temperature. And then your peanut and sesame seed oils have very high smoke points.  For most of the cooking we do at my house we can get away with olive oil because we cook at lower temperatures.  If you are a true chef and you use a variety of ranges and cook hot, coconut oil may have an advantage compared to olive oil.

John: Sure. Maybe as we are starting to come to the end of this podcast, what are some of the most interesting uses of coconut oil that people are promoting on the internet these days?

Jared: The more people that venture into coconut oil, the more applications are promoted on the internet. In fact, there’s a site called the Wellness Mama and this person recently put out 101 unique uses of coconut oil. Everything from helping keep away diaper rash to psoriasis. They promoted it to help with skin– for sunbathing, helping your fingernails grow, there’s lots of things. If you have an interest in the many potential applications, you can go to the Wellness Mama website It’s welnessmama.com and you’ll see a very interesting article of 101 unique ways to use coconut oil including how to make your own soap of coconut oil [chuckles].

John: That one I haven’t yet seen. Now certainly for those who were following the medical news this week, there was an interesting study about researchers in Sri Lanka using coconut oil in rice to turn it into a resistant starch. Apparently, cooking your rice in coconut oil, then cooling it over night, and reheating it the next day dramatically lowers the glycemic index, as well as the calorie load of rice. So yet another interesting use of coconut oil [chuckles].

Jared: Well, this probably does promote the use of rice and coconut oil.  For the people in Sri Lanka, coconut oil on the skin appears to be something that helps reduce inflammation and itching from mosquito bites.

John: Sure. And even for us here in Salt Lake City with our dry climate, coconut oil has got to be better for your skin than some of the chemicals in commercial lotions.

Jared: Now that is an area with a lot of value as far as our experience. It does appear to be a very good lotion for the skin. And if you have an interest in that, people generally like the aroma of coconut, so it naturally blends into some of the various fragrances used in these products.

John: Yeah, definitely. So, if people want to learn more about you, how can they find your Everyday Health articles?

Jared: I would love to have them to read them, and to share them, comment on them and then also contact me if I can do better. If you go to everydayhealth.com and then go to the Healthy Living tab you will see the columns. If you scroll down, you’ll find Rhythm of Life .  I’m the only guy there.

John: Certainly. Do you agree with Dr Bunch’s conclusion that olive oil is the winner? You can leave a comment on his article or on my website below. We’d love to hear your viewpoint. Thank you so much Jared for participating with us on this exciting topic, and I look forward to reading the comments from our listeners. Thank you for tuning in.

#075 Does Cholesterol Still Matter? The New Nutrition Guidelines

February 15th, 2015 by

Does Cholesterol Still Matter? The New Nutrition Guidelines

Did you see the latest headlines that it is OK to eat cholesterol according to the new nutritional guidelines?  Are eggs now officially considered “healthy” again and how can we make sense of these ever shifting nutritional guidelines?

The New Nutrition Guidelines

To begin with, the guidelines have not officially changed yet.  We are still stuck with the last set of guidelines from 5 years ago.  It should be noted that we get new national nutritional guidelines every 5 years.

All of the stir in the media is because of a leaked report from the nation’s top nutrition advisory panel that will soon be going to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.  The official new dietary guidelines are not expected out until the end of the year.

As there are many powerful lobbyists in Washington DC, not all of these recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will make it into the final draft of the national nutrition guidelines.  These guidelines are very important as school lunches, how doctors counsel their patients, and how food companies advertise their products are all based on these guidelines.

Is it OK to eat cholesterol again?bigstock-Cholesterol-Level-Conceptual-M-51872137

Probably the biggest news leaked from this report is that “cholesterol is no longer important.”  To many this may seem like nutrition guidelines are flip-flopping yet again.

First of all, the cholesterol story is very complicated. Here is what we do know:

1. The plaque that builds up within the arteries of our heart is often comprised of cholesterol.

2. High levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) as well as triglycerides significantly increase your risk of a heart attack.

3. The cholesterol that we eat does not significantly influence cholesterol levels for about 75% of people.

The major cardiology groups in the U.S. dropped the importance of dietary cholesterol in their 2013 guidelines.  The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology both stated that there were not any strong data to recommend cutting dietary cholesterol for most people.  It is expected that the official U.S. nutritional guidelines will do the same.

People Sensitive to Dietary Cholesterol

Does this mean we can now eat as many eggs as we want?  Not quite so fast.  We do know that in about a quarter of people that eating cholesterol rich foods will raise their cholesterol levels.  Also, for people who have already had a heart attack they may want to continue to limit the cholesterol in their foods.

How do you know if you are part of the 25% of people that are sensitive to dietary cholesterol?  Probably the easiest way to check is to have your doctor repeat a fasting lipid panel (blood test) if you choose to eat more cholesterol rich foods.  Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal products like meat and dairy.

Why is my cholesterol high?

You may be wondering what is causing your cholesterol to be high if cholesterol in foods does not matter for most people.  Here are the big causes of why your cholesterol may be too high.

1. Trans fats.

The goal for trans fats in our diets should be zero.  These are man-made fats.IMG_8083

For trans fats you cannot trust labels on your favorite foods.  As long as there is less than 0.5 mg of trans fat then food manufacturers may report “zero.”  This is very deceptive but yet is allowed by food manufacturers under U.S. law.  To help protect you and your family, avoid products that say anything “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredient list.

Most Americans eat about 3 grams of this toxic fat each day.  If you eat fried food, fast food, pastries, processed foods, or use the unhealthy vegetable oils you are getting this deadly trans fat.

Any trans fat in the diet can dramatically raise cholesterol levels.

2. Saturated fats

The bad saturated fats are another cause of high cholesterol for many people.  This is why lean animal meats have been recommended for quite some time.

This is another area where new research may change future recommendations.  We still do not fully understand which saturated fats are “bad” and which ones are “good.”  Certainly, the saturated fats in nuts and seeds seem to be cardiac protective.  Stay tuned on this one.

3. You are not getting enough exercise

Exercise can have a profound effect on cholesterol levels. Exercise can raise our good cholesterol (HDL) and lower our bad cholesterol (LDL).

4. You are eating sugar or foods that behave like sugar

As your total cholesterol is also based on triglycerides levels, any sugar or foods that behave like sugar in your body (think refined grains), will raise your triglycerides.  If you want to lower your total cholesterol and triglycerides then avoid added sugars, fruit juices (real whole fruit is very healthy), and simple carbohydrates (99% of breads, pastas, crackers, etc.).

5. You are part of the 25% that are sensitive to dietary cholesterol.

As mentioned above, you might just be one of those people that cannot eat much cholesterol in your diet without significantly bumping your cholesterol levels.

6. Bad genes

While most people feel there is nothing we can do about “bad genes” quite the opposite is true.  Through a healthy lifestyle we can “turn off” bad genes and “turn on” good genes.  Just because you were born with bad cholesterol genes doesn’t mean you have to take a “statin” cholesterol lowering drug for the rest of your life.

What other changes are expected in the new U.S. Nutritional Guidelines?

1. Salt Guidelines May Loosenbigstock-Sea-Salt-In-Wooden-Spoon-57830636

Our last nutritional guidelines stated that we should keep our daily sodium intake to below 2,300 mg.  However, recent science has challenged this and the Institute of Medicine recently stated that there are no strong data that we should keep salt below 2,300 mg.  It will be interesting to see if the salt guidelines loosen.

2. Lobby Groups Will Oppose Recommendations to Eat Less Animal Meat (Especially Red and Processed Meats)

While the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is recommending more of a plant-based diet with less red meat and processed meats it is expected that lobbyist groups will kill these recommendations in the final guidelines.

The big industrial meat farms are not helping our health or the environment.  Thus, we will likely continue to see wording encouraging us to eat a lot of animal meat in the U.S.

3. We may have our first sugar guidelines

Due to powerful lobby groups, our government has never set official sugar recommendations.  With mounting evidence building ever higher, our government may be finally forced to create some sort of a sugar guideline.

With the average American child now consuming 250 pounds of sugar each year, sugar guidelines are long overdue.  Bucking intense political pressure from lobbyist groups, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently recommended keeping our added sugars below 5% of our daily caloric intake.

4. “My Plate” Probably Won’t Change

The “My Plate” push from the last set of guidelines isn’t expected to change much.  In some ways this is good as our government will continue to encourage us to eat more fruits and vegetables.

However, the other half of “My Plate” will continue to remain very controversial.  Our government is expected to continue to recommend whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean animal meats.  Emerging scientific data will continue to challenge these later recommendations.

My Views of the New Nutritional Guidelinesbigstock-Fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-ov-14753480

While our government is making some progress on the nutritional front, they are still way behind the scientific data.  Over the course of human kind, we have been very good at adapting and thriving from many different cultural diets.

For example, the Mediterranean people have thrived on the traditional Mediterranean Diet.  Asians have thrived on the traditional Asian Diet.  The Tarahumara Native Americans have thrived on their traditional diet.  This list goes on and on.

The only diet that our health suffers from is the “Standard American Diet” (SAD).  Our bodies simply do not thrive in a processed or prepared food environment loaded with sugar, refined grains, and other “Frankenfoods.”

In my opinion, past dietary guidelines have done far more harm than good.  2 in every 3 Americans are now overweight or obese, based in large part, to bad past guidelines.  Millions of Americans now suffer tremendously from many chronic medical conditions that could prevented or even reversed with a “traditional diet.”

The real enemy isn’t the mg of sodium or cholesterol in our diets but rather processed foods, prepared foods, sugar, refined grains, and other “Frankenfoods and Frankenmeats.”

Let this be my call to return to eating real foods!

Please share with me your views on the new nutritional guidelines.


If you suffer from high cholesterol or are at risk for cardiovascular disease please discuss what diet you should be eating with your physician first before considering any changes based on the content of this article.