4 Ways to Avoid America’s Number One Killer
4 Ways to Avoid America’s Number One Killer
Most people know that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America, but did you know that it kills 6 times more women than breast cancer every year?
Cardiovascular disease can happen to anyone no matter their gender, age or ethnicity. However, since men and women have different body composition and hormone levels, the way we develop cancers and other diseases can differ.
Plaque blockage is a key factor in heart disease for men and puts them at a high risk for a heart attack. With prescription medications such as statins, they can often help lower their risk. Heart disease in women, however, tends to be associated more with artery spasms and clotting issues and these factors are affected less by cholesterol lowering medications.
So, what can women do to help prevent the number one killer in our country? The answer, in our opinion, is much simpler than taking handfuls of prescription medications every day. In this case, the saying, “you are what you eat,” definitely rings true! The way we fuel our bodies effects more than just our daily mood and weight. Food was created to give us nutrients, prevent health issues and keep us happy. What are the best foods to help improve the function of our arteries, prevent and even reverse the effects of cardiovascular disease?
1) Our Favorite Friend, Fiber!
We have all heard that fiber is an important part of every meal and helps relieve constipation. But more importantly it also helps to maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.
What is fiber?
Fiber is the roughage or bulk found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber is the part of the food that your body cannot digest and passes relatively intact through your body. Although most fiber is considered soluble, there is also insoluble fiber that does not dissolve in water and helps push material through your digestive system. Insoluble fiber would include whole-grains and vegetables such as cauliflower and potatoes. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol. Studies also have shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
2) Heart Healthy Fat
Over the years we have been told that it is best to reduce the amount of fat in our diets, however, recently we are finding that is not completely accurate--hooray! In fact, it is very important to include healthier fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, into your diet to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Although we encourage healthy fats, it is important to remember that trans fats are still bad and to eliminate them from your diet. Trans fats raise your LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower your HDL (good cholesterol) which increases your risk of heart disease.
Trans fat hides in some meat and dairy products, but most of it is formed in the factory, when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. The reason? To increase shelf life and keep oil longer, specifically for deep fried foods in restaurants. We suggest staying away from baked goods, such as cakes and cookies which usually are made from hydrogenated vegetable oil. Other culprits include potato and corn chips, microwave popcorn, fried foods, refrigerated cookie doughs and cinnamon rolls, and even nondairy creamers and margarines.
A few of our favorite healthy fats include avocados, fatty fish, whole eggs, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and dark chocolate (minimum of a 70% cocoa). Starting your morning with eggs cooked with EVOO rather than butter is a quick and easy way to start your day with healthy fats.
3) Long Live Lean Protein!
Just like healthy fat, you need protein to live. Think of protein as the builder in the community. Protein builds your muscles, hormones and enzymes and even antibodies for a healthy immune system. Protein helps aid in weight loss by helping you feel satisfied for longer periods of time.
Luckily, there are many sources of protein in our daily diets, whether you are a vegetarian or lover of meats. These sources include wild caught salmon, tuna, steamed clams and mussels, eggs, tofu, nuts, pork tenderloin, skinless chicken and turkey and even grass-fed ground beef (90% or leaner). Another great source of protein is fiber-rich beans. Adding beans into your daily diet has multiple benefits including improving blood sugar, cholesterol profiles, plus they are a powerful anti-aging food!
4) Spice Up Your Life
Chicken or Italian dishes just wouldn’t be the same without a hint of garlic and herbs or spices. Fortunately, like most naturally grown foods, everything has been provided to us for a reason. Herbs and spices are a not only a great way to add flavor to our dishes, they also have huge health benefits. While they seem like such a simple ingredient, they provide very important nutrients and antioxidants for your most important muscle, the heart! Herbs and spices including curry, hot chili spices, Italian herbs and garlic all block arterial plaque growth, slow aging, boost your metabolism and lower inflammation. Garlic has actually been proven to reduce LDL cholesterol by about 10-15%. A few other favorites we suggest stocking up your kitchen with include mint, paprika, parsley, red pepper flakes, rosemary, basil, allspice and onion powder.