If You Have Heart Disease, Here is How You Should Be Eating: Red Meat?

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Heart Healthy Diet Plan

Most people with heart disease don’t know how to eat after a heart attack. A well-done study from UMass followed 555 patients one year after their angiogram after their heart attack.  They were overweight (average BMI of 30, about 30 pounds over), averaged 61 years old and were 60 percent men.

  1. Only 1 of 8 was eating 3 vegetables per day.
  2. Only 1 of 12 was eating 2 fruits per day, or getting enough fiber…minimum, 25 grams.
  3. Only 1 of 20 was eating less than half a percent of their calories as trans fat.

Because patients are confused. And so are doctors. No one eats a trans fat, or fiber.

That’s also true with the latest WHO correlative study about meat and colon cancer. Meat is correlated, but not necessarily causative.  Processed meat usually contains preservatives that can become nitrites and then nitrosamines, which are produced when nitrites and amines combine in the stomach, or at high temperatures in a pan. Nitrosamines cause cancer: they’re created in cigarettes too…which hold roughly 20x the risk for cancer as does meat.

Actually, if you have colon cancer or are at high risk for it, there are stunning data for turmeric’s ability to shrink colon polyps. Turmeric is the yellow Indian rhizome and spice: because it is not well absorbed as a food, either add black pepper to your curry so the curcumin in yellow curry is better absorbed, or buy the most highly absorbable curcumin in capsules.

Back to bacon: not eating red meat might cause less colon cancer and heart disease, but almost as likely, it might not. Not eating conventional red meat does, however, certainly fight global warming, air and water pollution, and animal cruelty.  

But eating a little, well-raised, clean red meat, grass fed and sustainably produced, lowers appetite, improves muscle fiber production, can raise HDL (healthy) cholesterol, lower triglycerides and blood sugar, and improve satiety and even testosterone level. 

A New York Times commenter observed: “Observational studies have never successfully separated eating red meat from other diet and lifestyle factors. Those who eat more red meat tend to eat more processed meat, more refined carbs, more processed foods in general, less vegetables, less fiber, are less likely to exercise or go to the doctor, are more likely to smoke, etc. Those who eat less red meat are the opposite of all those behaviors, on average.”

For heart disease, red meat is also associated, but not causative.  Mediterranean diet aficionados historically do eat meat: but as a special occasion food… when it could be wild caught, or at a special holiday feast.

The Third Plate, by Dan Barber, is actually a carrot steak (a really substantial carrot steak) surrounded by a sauce of red meat, made from a shank or another less-than-middle-of-the-plate cut.  That’s the proper proportion and conformation. But we’re not there yet as a society. Though you can be, individually.

If you’ve had a heart attack, cardiac rehab can help you become more conscious of your food choices, introduce you to other lifestyle therapies, like nature-based treatment (great Nature Principles book about that here), you might not know about. Plus, get you one on one training, coaching and recovery.  That’s a way of taking care of your heart, irrespective of the meat debate.

But four of five patients do not attend cardiac rehab, because they may not get a referral…even though it is nearly always covered by insurance.

What else do you eat for that? Here’s a heart healthy diet plan that you should stick to:

1. Two servings of omega-3 rich fish weekly: that’s 6 to 8 ounces.
2. Extra virgin olive oil, not heated high: you don’t need to create free radicals!
3. A variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes such as beans and lentils and a few really whole grains..
4. Nuts: twice a week can cut risk of sudden death from heart disease in half, especially almonds and walnuts. Eat 1 to 1.5 ounces daily.
5. If it is safe for you, have up to two alcoholic drinks for men and 1 for women a day. One drink is a 5 ounce glass of wine, 12 ounce beer, or 1.5 ounces of spirits. Alcohol raises HDL, which is protective. Even white wine can work.

Avoid
1. Red meat too much too often, especially ground and processed. Eating less red meat will result in less abuse of animals, improved use of natural resources, and is better, in that way, for your heart. But maybe not nutritionally, unless you are eating 6-8 ounces daily, instead of twice weekly, or on the side. Choose only grass fed and sustainably-raised meat.
2. Salty foods, especially if you are overweight.
3. Sugary foods, including most fruit juices. Sugar fans inflammation and insulin, it is in energy drinks, though it zaps your energy.
4. Starchy white (breads, potatoes, crackers, white rice) and highly refined foods, leading to inflammation. Heart disease is an inflammatory process.
5. Foods with trans fats: many store-bought baked goods, fried foods at fast-casual restaurants, pastries, confections, anything with shortening.

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The Best Heart Healthy Diet Plan – What to Eat & What to Avoid