• What kind of diet is right for you?

    Although the most important factor in a weight loss plan is to reduce the total number of calories, you'll also need to decide how you want to allocate your calories among carbohydrate, fat, and protein.
    Some experts argue for a diet that's low in fat and high in carbohydrates; others recommend a diet that's low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fat; and others suggest a nearly balanced intake of all three.  All of these have their advocates and there is a lot of debate about which is the best method of losing weight.  Ultimately, which one is best for you depends on your individual health history and food preferences.  Consulting with a licensed nutritionist or registered dietitian may be also helpful in deciding which approach is most appropriate.
    If you're not sure, start with 60% carbohydrates, 25% fat, and 15% protein.

  • What's a heart healthy diet?

    What's a heart healthy diet?
    The first step in a heart-healthier lifestyle is a heart-healthy diet. 

    Here are some guidelines to help you plan and personalize your diet:

    1.  Calories count.
    Being overweight is one of the primary  risk factors for heart disease, so be sure your calorie intake is appropriate to achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight.  See also: How many calories do I need?

    2. Eat plenty of fiber.
    A high fiber diet will help you control your weight (by controlling your appetite) and also can help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Twenty-five grams of fiber per day is the recommended minimum. Ideally, aim for 35-40 grams of fiber per day.

    3. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
    Fruits and vegetables contain fiber (see #2) but also are rich in antioxidant nutrients that help protect your heart.  Eat at least five servings of colorful vegetables (such as carrots, berries, peppers, and broccoli) to get a minimum of 100% of the daily recommended amounts  of vitamin A, C, K.

    4. Emphasize healthy fats.
    A heart-healthy diet doesn't necessarily need to be a low-fat diet. A diet rich in monounsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and other risk factors. Monounsaturated fats are  olive oil, avocadoes, and nuts such as almonds.  Use these as your primary sources of fat.

  • Some important things to keep in mind if you are trying to lose weight:

    1. Eating fewer than 1200 kcal a day for more than a day or two is not recommended without medical supervision.

    2. Be patient.  Although quick weight loss may sound desirable, slow, gradual weight loss (1-2 pounds a week) tends to be easier to do (you're not as hungry) and longer-lasting.

    3. Increasing your activity and exercise level will increase your "maintenance" number. That means you'll be able to eat more calories and still lose weight.

  • Why we get fat

    Why do we get fat?  Because of refined, concentrated carbohydrates like starches and sugars, according to Gary Taubes, a respected science writer with a new book titled, Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It.
    You may wonder why I'm addressing overweight and obesity in the Heart Health Blog.  Fatness is a major risk factor for the development of heart disease, specifically coronary artery disease (blocked arteries in the heart).  Avoidance of obesity should reduce risk of heart disease.
    Harvard's Frank Hu, M.D. suggests that refined carbohydrates are contributing to both obesity and heart disease.  Excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates is also linked to development of type 2 diabetes, yet another risk factor for heart disease.  High-carbohydrate diets apparently double the risk of coronary artery disease in women.
    The link between refined carbohydrates and heart disease is much weaker in men, however.
    Mr. Taubes's new book is a condensation of his 2007 book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, which was difficult reading for many.  Why We Get Fat is shorter and easier to digest.  I recommend it if you or someone you know is struggling with overweight or obesity.  It's a real eye-opener, methodically questioning many of our long-held beliefs about weight management, exercise, and the dangers of dietary fat.

Why we get fat cont.

The fattening carbohydrates are highly refined and concentrated, things like sugars, rice, cereals, bread and other flour products, potatoes, corn, high fructose corn syrup, and liquid carbohydrates (beer, soda pop).  These particular carbohdyrates raise blood sugar levels fairly dramatically, which in turn causes the pancreas to secrete insulin into the bloodstream to bring blood sugar back down to a safe range.
What most people don't know about insulin is that it is also the main hormone in charge of stroring fat on our bodies.  Insulin builds fat tissue.  Fattening carbohydrates lead to insulin release, leading to storage of excessive carbohydrates as fat.
The other two main components of our food - fats and proteins - have very little effect on insulin levels.
According to Taubes, obesity isn't an imbalance of calories-in versus calories-out.  The dominant "calories-in/calories-out" theory of obesity has been our working model for the last half century.  Look around you: it's not working too well, is it? 
Taubes's proposal is that obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation. The limited number of enzymes and hormones that contol fat tissue are out of whack, and insulin is a major player.

Useful links

Resource links to help you trim up

More links coming

How do we control fat storage?

If insulin controls fat storage by building and maintaining fat tissue, and if carboydrates drive insulin levels, then the way to reduce overweight and obesity is carbohydrate-restricted eating, especially avoiding the fattening carbohydrates.  At least that's Taubes's and others' theory.  I'm sure that's true for many people, perhaps even a majority.

Whats a heart health diet cont.

5. Watch your sodium
A diet high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure. The USDA recommends limiting your sodium intake to 2300mg per day--but most Americans eat about twice that much. Those with high blood pressure are advised to reduce sodium to 1500mg a day. See also: Tips for reducing sodium.

6. Limit your intake of sweets and refined carbohydrates
Foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (which includes many low-fat foods!) can create sharp spikes in blood sugar and ultimately increase your risk of both heart disease and diabetes. Choose whole grain foods whenever possible and consume sweets occasionally or not at all.  For a naturally sweet treat, enjoy fresh fruit.