5 Simple Steps To a Healthier Heart

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by Carra Richling

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Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.  February is National Heart Month, which brings awareness to the largest cause of death for men and women in the United States.  The good news is that the Dr. Ornish’s Lifestyle Heart Trial has shown that heart disease can be prevented and reversed.  By making simple changes in your diet and lifestyle, you can protect yourself against heart disease and begin to undo the damage and reverse heart disease.

The benefits of this change have a tremendous positive ripple effect from improving your health to positively impacting our environment.


The value of science is to increase awareness of how much our choices matter each day. Dr. Ornish says: “When we become more aware of how powerfully our choices in diet and lifestyle affect us—for better and for worse—then we can make different ones. When you make healthy choices, you feel better quickly. This allows us to connect the dots between what we do and how we feel.  Feeling so much better, so quickly, re-frames the reason for changing from fear of dying to joy of living.”


The Ornish Program offers clear steps you can take to prevent or reverse heart disease by making simple changes that have powerful results.

US News and World Reports has selected the Ornish diet as the #1 diet for heart health for the last 5 years. The selection was based on the ease of following the diet, nutrition adequacy, safety, effectiveness for weight loss and protection against heart disease and diabetes. It’s important to understand, however, that the Ornish Spectrum approach is not a diet, but a lifestyle approach that is about freedom and a spectrum of choices. Foods are neither good nor bad, but some are more healthful than others. The spectrum of food choices ranges from Group 1, which is the healthiest, to Group 5, the least healthy. Dr. Ornish’s researchdemonstrated that heart disease could be reversed by eating a diet that includes predominantly plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, soy products, with the option of nonfat dairy and egg whites. This group is abundant in vitamins, minerals and a wide range of protective substances with powerful properties to protect against heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases. Group 2 are still predominantly plant-based, but somewhat higher in fat, providing choices that can offer protection against heart disease and other chronic disease.

The following provides a few simple steps from Ornish Spectrum Group 1 and the nutrition guidelines from the Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease.

Start with A Few Simple Steps:

 1. Choose a Whole, Plant-based Approach

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan

The benefits of this one change have a tremendous positive ripple effect from improving your health to positively impacting our environment. Research shows that plant-based diets are a cost-effective, low-risk intervention that can decrease risk factors with marked improvement with blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight management. A Nutritional Updatefor physicians published in the Permanente Journal notes that the benefits of a plant-based diet includes a reduction in medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. It encourages physicians to consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity. The benefits include reducing risk factors for heart disease such as decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol and weight with improved blood sugar management.

By choosing whole plant foods you are not only avoiding the factors that contribute to heart disease and other chronic diseases, but also at the same time increasing the protective substances that prevent disease and promote good heart health.

The Ornish Recipedia offers hundreds of delicious, plant-based recipes including a variety of heart healthy salads, soups, entrees, sides, snacks, condiments and desserts.

2. Cut the Fat

The American Heart Association recommends a low fat approach, low in saturated and trans fats and low in cholesterol for the prevention and treatment of heart disease. To begin reversing heart disease The Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease suggests limiting fat to 10 % of total calories, by avoiding any added fats such as oils, nuts, seeds, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressings with oil, avocado, olives, and coconut; omitting animal proteins with the exception of nonfat dairy and egg whites. Here’s some information on the benefits you’ll get.

3. Focus on Fiber

Fiber from whole foods has many health benefits including heart health, blood sugar control, weight management, gastrointestinal health and reduced risk of stroke, gallstones and kidney stones. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract and support weight management. It is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Soluble fiber is the type that can lower cholesterol by lowering the absorption of cholesterol into your blood stream. Food rich in soluble fiber are oats, barley, legumes, apples, berries, oranges and carrots. The link between soluble fiber and reducing the risk of heart disease is so strong that it has been established as a health claim suggesting 4 servings of soluble fiber foods a day.

4. Limit Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates

Research continues to examine the effects of sugar on heart disease and other chronic diseases. Growing evidence shows the link between sugar consumption and heart disease, diabetes and liver disease.  The average American consumes nearly three times the recommended amount of added sugar every day, increasing risk for heart disease, diabetes, and underlying metabolic issues that increase risk for chronic disease. Both sugar and refined carbohydrates can increase triglycerides, blood and insulin levels, and impact risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a strong predictor of heart disease.

5. Include Soy

Including soy foods in your plant-based diet will benefit your heart health as well as make an excellent low fat, cholesterol-free, nutrient-dense, plant-based protein to replace animal protein. A moderate intake of minimally processed soy foods such as edamame, tofu, and soymilk, along with fermented soy foods such as tempeh, natto, and miso offer potentialprotection against coronary heart disease and certain cancers.

What is one simple step you can take to a healthier heart today?

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Why Prevention is Worth a Ton of Cure

· January 30th 2015 ·

More people might be open to changing their diet and lifestyle if they knew how little modern medicine has to offer for combating chronic diseases.

Doctor’s Note

This is the video I mentioned about how we wildly overestimate the efficacy of pills and procedures as well: The Actual Benefit of Diet vs. Drugs.

Here’s a link to the live presentation I mentioned: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death. That’s about avoiding our deadliest diseases, More Than an Apple a Day addresses some of our most common andFrom Table to Able some of our most disabling.

For more background on how scandalous our handwashing history has been, see my Q&A What about Semmelweis and medicine’s shameful handwashing history? It’s truly an unbelievable story.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

Normal Numbers Don’t Equal Good Health

January 31, 2015

Normal Numbers Don't Equal Good HealthA few years ago, I had a conversation with my aunt that went something like this:

Me: “I didn’t know you had high blood pressure.”
Aunt: “I don’t”
Me: “But I see these medications for high blood pressure on your counter.”
Aunt: “Yes, I take them and now I don’t have high blood pressure.”

Turns out my aunt didn’t have high cholesterol either even though she was on cholesterol lowering medication. This same aunt suffered a heart attack a year later, almost died, and couldn’t understand where it came from seeing as she considered herself disease free and all of her “numbers” were under control.

Unfortunately, my aunt’s misconception is a very common phenomenon. We are lured by modern medicine and pharmaceutical companies to believe that pills that will get our numbers under control (blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.) will rid us of our diseases. In reality, these medications at best manage our diseases and more commonly give us a false sense of security that not only doesn’t cure us, but often gets us into trouble.

I tend to be a visual person and used this analogy when explaining to my aunt what went wrong for her. Imagine your blood vessels are pipes that should have blood, the consistency of water, flowing through them. Every time you eat fast foods, junk foods, fatty foods and these need to travel through the pipes you get greasy, fatty, thick liquid attempting to flow through. But this fluid cannot move as smoothly or as quickly. So, instead you get sluggish, slow moving blood that sticks to and plugs up the pipes. Medications, like a plumber, can come in and open the pipes but this is only a temporary fix. As long as you continue to eat those foods, you will continue to destroy the pipes no matter what or how much medication you are on.

So, what is the answer here – change the foods that you eat so that you preserve your pipes and the blood that runs through them. How? By choosing the most health promoting foods available to you – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Use these as base ingredients for your favorite dishes – mashed potatoes, burgers, pizza, lasagnas, sandwiches, burritos, desserts, and more.

This year, choose healthy, choose vibrant, choose truly disease free!

  1. Make the commitment to try something new. Resources to help includenutritionstudies.org, forksoverknives.com, pcrm.org, and drmcdougall.com.
  2. Stress the positive – Focus on all that you will be gaining (more energy, better health, fewer to no medications, and the possibility of disease free living)
  3. Set realistic goals – What took years to develop may take some time to reverse. Aim for short-term as well as long-term goals. For example if you want to lose 30 pounds in a year, shoot for about 3 pounds in a month which would be about a pound every 10 days.
  4. Allow for imperfection – Challenges are bound to come up. Use them as opportunities for learning rather than as roadblocks.
  5. Reward success, both long-term and short-term – Making a change is not easy, so treat your-self to a job well done!
Dr. Alona PuldeDr. Alona Pude is a board-certified practitioner of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and Family Medicine Physician specializing in nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Dr. Pulde is lead author of the books, Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole: Your Guide to Optimum Health and The Forks Over Knives Plan – A 4-week Meal by Meal Makeover. She also developed the Lifestyle Change Program used for patients in the film “Forks Over Knives,” as well as in her clinic, Exsalus Health & Wellness Center. Alona joined Whole Foods Market in 2010 to serve as a health and wellness medical expert.


Hard to Swallow: How Meat Advocates Skewer Science


How meat advocates skewer science

In 1974, a new book titled We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle alleged that NASA faked the lunar landing. In 2001, the Fox network broadcasted a documentary on the subject, and a follow-up survey showed that as many as one in five Americans doubted that Neil Armstrong’s boots had ever touched the moon’s surface.

Fast-forward to June 23, 2014. Time magazine’s cover proclaimed in large type “Eat Butter” and featured a big artistic swirl of the stuff. Several other publications—the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Scientist, and others—ran similar stories. The experts have been wrong all this time, the articles exclaimed. Fat isn’t unhealthy after all. Steak and pork chops won’t hurt you. Go ahead, dig in!

Of course, meat and dairy products are strongly linked to all manner of health problems, from heart disease to cancer, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. So what is behind the contrarian stories?

Eskimos and Maasai

Some of the articles were based on a new book called The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. Its author, Nina Teicholz, aimed to rehabilitate meat’s image, starting with Eskimo and Inuit populations of the far north. They have almost no heart disease, she held, despite a diet heavy on fish and blubber. Was she right or wrong?

Wrong. A study from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology showed that cardiovascular disease has been at least as frequent among northern native populations as for others.1 Strokes have been particularly common, and life expectancy overall was found to be about a decade shorter. Heart disease seemed rare among northern native populations mainly because reporting of medical problems has been spotty.

Teicholz then invoked the Maasai, an African population who are supposedly free of heart disease, despite a diet of meat, milk, and blood. Right or wrong?

Wrong. Researcher George V. Mann wrote in 1978, “We have collected hearts and aortae from 50 authenticated Maasai men who died of trauma and we found extensive atherosclerosis.”2

Okay, so the Maasai’s arteries are clogged with atherosclerotic plaques. But they don’t have heart attacks, Teicholz maintained; so meat and milk must be safe. Right or wrong?

Wrong. Plaques that form in arteries can rupture, sparking the formation of a clot that blocks blood flow like a cork in an artery, causing a heart attack. Teicholz’s notion was that the Maasai have plaques, but the plaques somehow never rupture, like time bombs that never explode. This is highly unlikely. A better explanation for the lack of reported heart attacks among the Maasai comes from their tragically short life expectancy. If life is cut short in one’s 40s by an accident or an infection, plaques have not had enough time to produce a heart attack. Moreover, in a rural population with limited medical care and poor medical records, heart attacks may not be recognized or reported.

Ancel Keys and the Seven Countries Study

Teicholz and other fat-backers zeroed in especially on Ancel Keys, the University of Minnesota researcher who identified the dangers of fatty foods in the 1950s. Looking at six countries with reliable dietary and medical records, Keys found a clear association between fat intake and heart disease deaths.3

But as Teicholz tells it, the rug was pulled out from under Ancel Keys by University of California at Berkeley statistician Jacob Yerushalmy.4 If Keys had zeroed in on more countries than just six, Yerushalmy held, the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease would have been weakened. In Teicholz’s words, it “nearly disappeared.” Right or wrong?

Wrong. Including additional countries, as Yerushalmy suggested, did muddy the correlation between fat and heart disease deaths, because many of these countries had poor data on diet or medical care at that time. Even so, the correlation between fat and heart deaths remained high, and the correlation between animal protein and heart deaths was even higher.


What really grabbed the headlines, however, was a meta-analysis published in early 2014 by the Annals of Internal Medicine.5 The meta-analysis combined 72 smaller studies, finding no overall effect of saturated fat on heart risks. According to the fat lobby, that proved that “bad” fat isn’t bad for your heart after all. Right or wrong?

Wrong. The Annals meta-analysis combined data from many studies. Some were designed to accurately show the dangerous effects of saturated fat. The designs of other studies did not make the hazards of saturated fat readily apparent. The net result was that the two types of studies canceled each other out, showing no risks. For example, take these two studies the Annals meta-analysis included:

The Oxford Vegetarian Study6 included 11,000 people whose diets ranged from vegan to ovolactovegetarian to nonvegetarian, with saturated fat intake ranging from a low of 6 percent of calories to more than 13 percent of calories. The study found that the fattiest diets tripled the risk of dying of heart disease, compared with diets that had very little saturated fat.

But in a Swedish study, no groups were on lower-fat diets. All of the study groups averaged more than 13 percent of their calories from saturated fat.Not surprisingly, the study could not identify any effect of avoiding saturated fat, because no groups in the study had a low fat intake.

Is Meat Safe or Not?

Is meat safe?Of course, no one orders saturated fat at a restaurant or puts it on a shopping list. This fat is hidden in meat, dairy products, and other foods. And here, the evidence is crystal clear. Meat-eaters are heavier than people who avoid meat. They have higher blood pressure, higher risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and many other problems. And in carefully controlled studies, when people take meat out of their diets, they lose weight, and cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease all improve. So while researchers debate the statistics on saturated fat, it pays to remember that getting away from meat is a healthy choice.

So how could the media have been duped? As John McDougall, M.D., said, people are always looking for good news about bad habits.

1. Fodor GJ, Helis E, Yazdekhasti N, Vohnout B. “Fishing” for the origins of the “Eskimos and heart disease” story: facts or wishful thinking? Can J Cardiol. 2014;30:864-868.
2. Mann GV. The Masai, milk, and the yogurt factor: an alternative explanation. Atherosclerosis. 1978;29:265.
3. Keys A. Atherosclerosis: a problem in newer public health. J Mt Sinai Hosp NY. 1953;20:118-139.
4. Yerushalmy J, Hilleboe HE. Fat in the diet and mortality from heart disease: a methodologic note. NY State J Med. 1957;57:2343-2354.
5. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:398-406.
6. Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJA. The Oxford Vegetarian Study: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70:525S-531S.
7. Wallstrom P, Sonestedt E, Hlebowicz J, et al. Dietary fiber and saturated fat intake associations with cardiovascular disease differ by sex in the Malmo Diet and Cancer Cohort: a prospective study. PLoS One. 2012;7:e31637.

Maasai woman
Ancel Keys

Why Cranberries Are an Inexpensive Superfood You Should Add to Your Diet

We all know fruits and veggies are good for us – no news there, right? If you’ve bypassed cranberries as a simple holiday adornment or just an ingredient in cranberry sauce until now, it’s time we gave you some new insight into these magical berries and what they can do for you. Quite honestly, most of us probably associate cranberries with their ability to fight urinary tract infections, which they may do, but they’re much more beneficial for that. Cranberry juice, controversial to belief, isn’t always the best way to get cranberries’ nutrition into your diet. 

Beyond blueberries and more exotic berries (such as goji and acai), cranberries offer their own unique benefits others do not. A relative of the blueberry family, belonging to Heather shrub plant species, the cranberry comes from a flowering plant that grows in water bogs in Canada, The United States and Europe. They’re to be treasured as much as possible since they’re only available through October through December in fresh form. Though relatively inexpensive and easy to find this time of year, they’re a remarkable superfood we’d benefit from using all year round.

Here’s why cranberries deserve a place in your diet:

1. Cancer Prevention

Let’s start with a major benefit – cancer prevention, the topic everyone wants to know more about. Though there is no proven cure for cancer, a plant-based diet has been shown to provide major anti-cancer benefits. But just any old plant-based diet won’t do. A diet based off whole foods (leafy greens, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains) prove to have the most benefits. Cranberries and most berries, offer specific nutrients that serve as cancer’s worst nightmare. Cranberries’ most valuable antioxidants that fight cancer cells are: phenolics,  proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, flavonoids, and triterpenoids. They also contain: resveratrol, piceatannol, and pterostilbene. All these fancy antioxidants fight cancer cell growth, improve immunity, and ward off disease.

2. Tumor Cell Death

Not only can cranberries improve your chances against getting cancer thanks to their antioxidant benefits, but they have also been found to destroy cancer cell growth when consumed on a regular basis. They’ve been found to promote Phase 1 detoxification in the body, which triggers tumor cell death. Cranberries have specifically been linked to: breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer prevention.

3. Liver Cleansing

Cranberries are one of the best foods to cleanse the liver, though also one of the most overlooked. Their famous ability to improve urinary health and reduce urinary tract infections (UTI’s), is likely due to their antibacterial and antiviral properties that also promote Phase 1 detoxification within the liver. Your liver is the most important organ in your body for filtering out toxins that lead to disease. Cranberries have specifically been found to not only cleanse the liver but also cleanse the blood (which is important since it passes through your liver daily.) Here are 10 more foods that improve liver health further.

4. Reduce Stomach Ulcers

Cranberries kill harmful stomach bacteria including E. Coli and H. plylor (also referred to as Helicobacter pylor). Both lead to stomach disorders, virus development, and stomach ulcers. Cranberries come to the rescue with specific compounds that result in the death of this harmful bacteria and offer protection for the stomach lining. Their high Vitamin C content is another benefit that helps improve immunity. Since the immune system is largely housed in the digestive tract, eating foods that protect your body will also improve digestive health as a bonus. Cranberries even go a step further and help prevent future attachment of stomach bacteria when consumed on a regular basis.

5. Very Low in Sugar

Per 1/2 cup of berries, cranberries only contain 2 grams of sugar, with 3 grams of fiber, which is far less sugar than blueberries coming in at 16 grams, raspberries coming in at 13 grams, strawberries coming in at 8 grams, and blackberries coming in at 13 grams.  While fruit from berries isn’t bad for you, it’s always a plus when such a nutritious food like berries offers lower sugar benefits. Eating fruits and vegetables with a low-glycemic index and plenty of fiber-rich, whole plant-based foods is an excellent way to fight off Type 2 diabetes. 

6. Protect the Heart

Cranberries’ antioxidants have also been found to improve cardiovascular health, resulting in less arterial plaque, improving cholesterol, and improving blood health. Cranberries also improve blood pressure levels, which also increases heart health and prevents heart disease even further.

7. They’re Delicious and Cheap!

Cranberries have a wonderful, delicious tart flavor, with a sweet undertone once you start chewing them. They’re spectacular to include in breakfast dishes as a great, low-glycemic way to start the day. Cranberries go beautifully in oatmeal (overnight or cooked), quinoa porridge, or make a nice ingredient in a healthy pancake recipe. You can also bake muffins or bread with them, toss them into puddings and smoothies, or even use them as a nice garnish for a meal-worthy salad. They’re also cheap! Per 16 ounce bag of frozen organic cranberries at Whole Foods, you’ll only spend $3.00 off your hard earned dollars, which is about $2 less than a bag of blueberries or blackberries (though those are tasty too!) and $1.00 less than strawberries. Get your hands on them now though and stock up so you’ll have a nice stash year round!

The Best Way to Eat Cranberries:

It’s said to eat cranberries raw since processing destroys their nutrients and decrease enzymes that improve their absorption in the body. This is another benefit to eating frozen cranberries, which are frozen at their peak harvest. That doesn’t mean you can’t bake with cranberries from time to time, but do be sure to enjoy them raw when you can, especially if you’re eating them solely for health benefits.

Avoid those trendy, pricey juices made from cranberries (which are heated and highly processed), along with any type of granola bar or other processed foods that include dried cranberries coated with sugar. If you buy dried cranberries, please read the label. Almost every brand (except most organic brands) are processed with added sugar- even the popular Craisins you’re all probably fans of. Since sugar has been linked to cancer, weight gain, and contributes to Type 2 diabetes, it’s just not smart to add sugar to such a nutritious food. Wouldn’t you agree?

Here are some healthy recipes to enjoy cranberries with:

Don’t limit cranberries to sugary sauces and drinks alone, and certainly don’t reserve them just for the holiday season. Enjoy them all year round in so many, delicious ways!

Do you eat raw or frozen cranberries?

The Trouble with Triglycerides


WebMD Feature

You’ve probably heard of triglycerides, and you’ve probably also heard that consistently high blood levels of triglycerides can be  a bad thing.

But what are triglycerides, exactly? Why would your doctor shake his head if your cholesterol report says that your triglycerides are high? And what do they have to do with diabetes and a group of worrisome symptoms called the “metabolic syndrome?”

What Are Triglycerides?

Simply put, triglycerides are fat. That is, they’re the major form in which our bodies store fat. Fat tissue is made up of cells that fill up with triglycerides.

So triglycerides are bad, right? Well, not normally. In fact, we couldn’t live without triglycerides. “They’re the main way evolution gave us to store energy,” says Mitchell Lazar, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Up until 100 years ago or so, food wasn’t nearly as plentiful as it is now, and we burned a lot more calories in physical labor. So it was very important to have the ability to store fuel in an efficient way,” Lazar says. “Per pound, you get twice as much energy from your stores of fat as you do from the other two substances we can burn for energy — proteins and sugars.”

But now there’s a lot more food around, we eat a lot more of it, and we don’t get as much physical activity as we once did. So, most of us are storing significantly more fat than we need — in the form of triglycerides.

Damage and Diabetes

What’s the problem with having high triglycerides? If triglycerides are fat, and fat is energy, aren’t we just storing more energy? Unfortunately, our bodies often can’t store that extra energy efficiently — and sometimes those extra fat cells can attract other cells that cause problems for your health.

“For one thing, fat cells tend to attract inflammatory cells,” Lazar says. “Certain inflammatory cells, called cytokines, compromise the body’s ability to deal with sugar and increase your risk of developing diabetes.”

Fat, in the form of triglycerides, also tends to spill over into other tissues, like the liver and the muscle. “This seems to predispose these other tissues to not being able to handle sugar properly and thus, again, increases your risk of becoming diabetic,” Lazar says

Meet the Metabolic Syndrome

High triglycerides are often associated with a group of other conditions that together are called the “metabolic syndrome” — a group of risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • Obesity, especially excessive fat tissue in and around the abdomen
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased blood sugars (pre-diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance )
  • High levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood

High triglycerides can also mean low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) — the “good” cholesterol.”  “We don’t know how HDL protects you from things like heart disease and diabetes, but we know it does,” Ginsburg says. “And high triglycerides mean lower HDL.”

At the same time, they can form a sort of “‘combination package” with low-density lipoproteins —LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol — leading to more plaque formation in the arteries of your heart and further elevating your risk of heart disease.

Know Your Levels

What should your triglyceride levels be? Normal triglycerides are 150 or below. Any level that is consistently higher than that is considered to be a problem:

  • Borderline High: 150 – 199
  • High: 200 – 499
  • Very High: 500

So what can you do if your triglycerides are hitting the heights? One answer is extremely simple and, for many people, extremely challenging: losing weight through diet and exercise.

“If everybody lost 10% of their body weight and started exercising for half an hour, three or four times a week, it would take care of almost half the problem,” says Henry N. Ginsberg, M.D., Irving Professor of Medicine and Director of the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “Yes, there is a genetic predisposition involved, but whatever the genetics are, it’s made much worse by being overweight.”

What should you eat? Well, in some ways whatdoesn’t matter as much as how much.

“I don’t care if you’re eating 100% protein or 100% carbohydrates, if you eat more than you burn, you’re going to make triglycerides,” Ginsberg says. “But if you’re eating 100% fat, the body doesn’t even have to work that hard to do it.”

A diet low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and simple carbohydrates is recommended when trying to reduce high triglycerides. If you’re not sure what simple carbohydrates are, think of “white” foods such as:

  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Regular potatoes
  • Pasta

“These get digested and turned into sugar so quickly that you might as well drink soda,” Ginsburg says. “What you want, instead, are carbs that take awhile to absorb — which means fiber.” Try these foods instead:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain bread
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Whole wheat pasta

If your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are very high, your doctor may also prescribe medication to help bring them down. At very high levels, triglycerides can be so bad that a person can develop other problems such as pancreatitis, and these drugs are absolutely beneficial in these cases, Lazar says.

“To prevent diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, I think it’s probably most important to think about it in terms of calories. Your goal should be to eat only as much fuel as you’re going to burn.”

Is Coconut Oil Bad For You?


Many in the coconut oil business promote it as the “good” saturated fat. But “this is a case where facts have been twisted into fiction,” states Dr. Jay Kenney, Educator and Nutrition Research Specialist at Pritikin.

Coconut Oil is Bad For You

Here are the facts:

All oils are a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, though each oil is usually called by the name of the fatty acid that is most abundant. The artery-clogging – and therefore most damaging – fatty acid is saturated fat. The fat in coconut oil is 92% saturated fat.

What gets tricky is that there are different kinds of saturated fats. Some are long-chain (they have 12 or more carbon atoms), and some are medium-chain (fewer than 12 carbon atoms). These various saturated fats do not have the same impact on LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. One long-chain saturated fat, stearic acid, has little impact on LDL cholesterol. Stearic acid is the most common saturated fat in chocolate, which is why chocolate or cocoa butter raises LDL only about one-quarter as much as butter, even though both are about 60% saturated fat.

Coconut Oil Is Bad for LDL Cholesterol


Coconut oil – bad for LDL cholesterol

But other long-chain saturated fatty acids, like the ones that make up most of the saturated fat in coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils (known as tropical oils), do in fact raise LDL cholesterol considerably. These saturated fats are called palmitic, myristic, and lauric acids. They also make up most of the saturated fatty acids in meat, poultry, and dairy fats like milk, butter, and cheese.

Other saturated fats that have little impact on LDL cholesterol levels include medium-chain varieties like caproic, caprylic, and capric acids. A small percentage of the saturated fat in coconut oil, about 10%, is made up of these less harmful saturated fatty acids, but virtually all the rest of coconut oil’s saturated fat is made up of the long-chain varieties that send LDL soaring.

And coconut oil is full of these artery-busting long-chain varieties by the sheer fact that there’s such a huge percentage of saturated fat, 92%, packed into coconut oil to begin with.

Ounce for ounce, coconut oil has more saturated fat than butter, beef tallow, or lard. “So coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol as much – or more – than animal fats,” cautions Dr. Kenney.

Coconut Oil Bad For Your Heart

Coconut oil – bad for the heart

For the health of your heart, lowering your LDL cholesterol is the single most important thing to do. How low should you go? Federal guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program state that a desirable LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL.

For individuals who already have atherosclerosis (they have suffered a heart attack, they require heart surgery or angioplasty, they have diabetes, or testing has identified plaque formation), LDL levels below 70 mg/dL are advised.

“It would probably be very difficult to get your LDL into these healthy ranges if you were eating a lot of coconut oil,” cautions Dr. Jay Kenney.


The coconut oil industry likes to point out that the traditional Polynesian diet – high in tropical oils like coconut – is linked with relatively low rates of heart disease.

“It’s important to remember, however, that heart disease involves several variables,” counters Dr. Kenney.

Even Virgin Coconut Oil Is Bad For You“Yes, studies of people on traditional Polynesian diets have found that they have relatively low rates from heart disease despite high LDL cholesterol levels, but other aspects of their native lifestyle are very healthful, and probably help counteract the cholesterol-raising effect of the coconut fat. Their traditional diet, for example, is very high in dietary fiber and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids from fish, and very low in sodium. Historically, native Polynesians also tended to be nonsmokers, and were physically very active. All these factors would certainly promote heart health.”

Is Virgin Coconut Oil Bad For You?

Lately, virgin coconut oil has been heavily promoted. Marketers claim that any bad data on coconut oil are due to hydrogenation, and virgin coconut oil is not hydrogenated. (Hydrogenation is an industrial process in which unsaturated fats take on the physical properties of saturated fats.)

But only a small percentage, 8%, of coconut oil is unsaturated fat, which means only 8% of coconut oil gets hydrogenated. And the yield is mostly stearic acid, the one common long-chain saturated fatty acid that has minimal impact on LDL cholesterol levels. “So completely hydrogenated coconut oil has about the same impact on LDL cholesterol as does virgin oil,” points out Dr. Kenney.

“Sometimes the coconut oil’s unsaturated fatty acids are partially hydrogenated, which will lead to the production of small amounts of trans fatty acids, although not nearly as many as there are in other vegetable oils because there are so few unsaturated fatty acids in coconut oil to begin with.”

“All in all,” observes Dr. Kenney, “you pay a premium price for the virgin coconut oil, but from a health perspective, it is hardly much better than the hydrogenated coconut oils used commercially.”

Bottom Line:

Don’t believe claims on the Internet and elsewhere that coconut oil is good for you. Coconut oil is bad news for your LDL cholesterol, heart, and overall health.

Seniors College Prince Edward Island

Seniors College of PEI 
Courses : Details
Nutrition, Whole Food Plant Based (Queens County)
Course Locations and Times
Term Location Offering Period Offering Day Offering Time Status
Fall UPEI Oct. 1- Nov. 19 Wednesday 1:30 PM – 4:00 PM Closed
Course Details
Description This course introduces students to a new way of thinking about nutrition and explores the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. Students will learn how the risk for degenerative diseases is linked to dietary practice. Students will be more confident and better able to evaluate the conflicting messages about alternative diets so prevalent today.
Requirements An interest in becoming happier and healthier. Learn how to avoid both acute and chronic disease and even reverse the diseases if already chronic
Objectives To make the student aware of the differences between plant-based and animal nutrition. To understand the role of nutrition in the development of multiple chronic degenerative diseases. To provide the student with evidence based information to support substantive change in lifestyles and health.
Teaching Process Lectures and power point presentations with supporting quizzes and discussions. Special video presentations featuring the most prominent researchers and dedicated doctors who espouse the new plant based nutritional concept. Special guests with real life saving dramatic outcomes will also make presentations.
UPEI Parking Pass Required? Yes
Additional Costs or Information None
Course Facilitator

Name Ian Barrett
The facilitator has a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition offered by eCornell U sponsored by the T. Colin Campbell Foundation.
Martha Ellis
(902) 894-2867
Martha Ellis
(902) 894-2867
Tim Harris
(902) 836-4743