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Cholesterol is a topic very near and dear to my heart. I myself along with a few family members have battled high cholesterol and managed to completely reverse it naturally. I have helped clients to achieve this result as well, and today I want to share my tips with you. There are a few reasons why cholesterol levels get high. First being your own body’s predisposition to make more cholesterol. Second, and most well-known, is eating foods high in cholesterol. Lastly, it is possible to have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol levels – which was the case for myself. It is scary to develop high cholesterol as we know it is linked to heart disease and stroke; two of the largest contributors to fatality in the United States. The issue with cholesterol is that there are no signs or symptoms as with many other health complications. Because of this, I highly recommend getting a full blood test done yearly. You will want to check to make sure cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL (the “bad cholesterol”) are levels are low and HDL (the “good cholesterol”) is high.
Overall, the best thing we can do to improve not only our lipid profile, but your overall health as a whole is to transition to a whole food plant based diet, even if you can do it a few times per week. I will be discussing some of my favorite foods that fall under this category while lowering cholesterol.
The first nutrient I would like to discuss is fiber. We know there are two types (soluble and insoluble). You may be most familiar with insoluble as it speeds up G.I. activity and keeps digestion “regular.” In case of reducing cholesterol, we want to eat foods high in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber combines with water in your body to make a gel-like substance. This gel helps slow down the absorption of cholesterol and sugar in the bloodstream. Foods high in soluble fiber include steel cut oats, barley, apples and citrus.
One of my personal favorites for reducing cholesterol are nuts. I recommend a handful of nuts each day (almonds, walnuts, pistacchio) as a snack. Instead of reaching for chips or crackers, try seasoning nuts with sea salt and paprika. As we’ve discussed before, nuts are very calorie dense so be sure to eat them mindfully.
If you’ve been keeping up with me for a while, you know avocados are another of my favorite foods. These are packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, which are proven to help lower cholesterol. Avocado’s are a wonderful way to incorporate healthy fats into your diet. I am not suggesting store bought guacamole or similar products as these have a lot of added salts and sugars. You can eat avocado raw, add it to salads, sandwiches or make it into a dressing. I have a wonderful avocado dressing recipe under my recipe tab if you’d like to try it out.
4. Beans and Lentils
I also love beans and lentils as they are high in fiber and protein. Beans can positively interfere with your absorption process and help lower cholesterol through that mechanism. Lentils are a great food to add to your diet as well in addition to beans packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
5. Omega 3’s
Omega 3 fatty acids are great to add to your diet especially for vegetarians trying to naturally lower cholesterol levels. I suggest eating a spoonful of flaxseeds or flax powder each day. If you eat fish, many fatty fish like salmon and tuna contain optimal levels of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Phytosterols are important for cholesterol lowering too. These compounds work to limit absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. One of the best foods high in phytosterols is hemp seeds. These are high protein seeds that taste great in sauces, dressings and baking. If you are having a difficult time with phytosterols, supplementation is always an option.
Soy is also very important on your cholesterol journey. Soy contains no cholesterol and can be used to substitute many traditional processed foods. We discussed earlier how important transitioning to a plant based diet is; and soy is a big part of that for me. Although the western world has somewhat stigmatized soy, it is quite healthy as some studies have linked soy consumption to lowering LDL. You can eat soy in so many ways, but one of my favorites is tofu. Tofu is so versatile and is best known to substitute meat. You can also get soy from soymilk. I recommend adding this to your steel cut oats in the morning for a super cholesterol fighting breakfast. Edamame is packed with soy and is a super delicious snack or addition to any meal.
As I wrap up my favorite cholesterol lowering foods, I do want to mention that supplementation is always an option. I recommend Omega-3 and niacin tablets. For a more natural route, eating raw garlic is a great solution. You can eat it whole in the morning or add it to other foods throughout your day. My favorite way to incorporate garlic is by making a garlic infused olive oil.
9. A little about Statins
It is common for those struggling with an undesirable lipid profile to be prescribed Statins. Many of my clients make the mistake of thinking this medication will solve all their problems, and they can eat whatever they like. However, long-term use of Statins can cause high blood pressure and high blood sugar. As a dietitian, I always recommend trying to reverse your cholesterol naturally to avoid these negative outcomes. If you are currently taking Statins and are interested in lowering cholesterol naturally, continue to take your medication as prescribed with the intention to wean off with the guidance of a healthcare profession.
To summarize: always eat a colorful plate (fruits and veggies), prioritize soluble fiber, stay away from polyunsaturated fatty acids and processed foods, and try to incorporate soy and phytosterols into your diet. Make sure you supplement this diet with proper exercise. I always recommend doing something a little different every day. I encourage my clients to exercise in a way that decreases stress like yoga, tai chi or running. Myself and many of my clients have successfully reversed our high cholesterol with these lifestyle changes – and I know you can too! Please send me a message if you would like to have a personalized consultation to discuss your unique goals.
Until next time,
While I do have a wide scope of clients, my passion lies in helping women over 40 reach their weight goals. I myself have maintained my weight in the past 10 years, so I want to share with you some of my favorite nutrient rich foods that have helped me achieve this.
- Eggs: They are a great source of choline (mood booster!), are a good source of protein, and run about 75 calories each. Boil a couple of them for the week and eat them as a snack or use in other dishes. Pair with a healthy fat to keep you full and to keep your blood sugar at a good level.
2. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables: These include spinach, broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower (to name a few). I love these because they are low calorie, provide a greater sense of fullness and are a good source of antioxidants. Add them to your salads, smoothies or soups.
3. Potatoes: These are my favorite vegetable, especially sweet potatoes. They are calories rich with lots of Vitamin A & C. You can reduce resistant starch with regular potatoes by eating them after they’re cool. Potatoes keep you full, but make sure you are not eating too many calories here.
4. Beans and Legumes: These are the best sources of fiber. Especially if you’re a vegetarian, these provide a wonderful source of plant protein. Try to aim for 3-4 cups a week or more if you can.
5. Soups: Soups are a great way to maintain or lose weight. Not so much store bought, I am talking about homemade soup (way less sodium this way)! The high water content in soup creates a feeling of fullness. Aim to have broth based soups, not cream. This is a great opportunity to pack in your vegetables as well.
6. Spices, herbs and chili peppers: A lot of people think that if they’re on a health journey, that food has to be boring. This is 100% false! Add in as many flavors as you like because more spices is associated with greater weight loss success.
7. Fruit: Fruit and protein together is a wonderful combination. For example, nuts, nut butter or cottage cheese paired with your fruit will work wonders. This is a great snack to have before a meal to prevent bingeing due to being too hungry.
8. Chia seeds: These are my favorite seeds and have 10g of fiber in 2 tbsp. I like to add this to sugar free yogurt or greek yogurt. Yogurt is not only yummy – but so good for your gut. The combination of fiber from the chia seeds and probiotics from the yogurt will have your GI tract in the best shape of its life.
9. Avocados: I love avocados as a source of monounsaturated fats and potassium. Avocados provide a great opportunity to make your own sauce and dressing. I love to make salad dressing out of avocado.
10. Whole Grains: My two favorite grains are quinoa and steel cut oats. These are both a great source of fiber and wonderful plant proteins.
11. Nuts (as long as you watch portion size): You can make your own nut butter, or add to soups for creaminess. They have lots of healthy fat, but try not to exceed 1/4 cup. If you’re looking for a low calorie option, try pistachios.
12. Green tea: My personal drink of choice! It’s full of antioxidants and provides Hydration. You should aim to hydrate with every meal or snack. Like I’ve said before, 64oz isn’t set in stone. Many people need more depending on body size, activity level or medical conditions. Drink as much water as you can – it is rare to drink too much water. Many times when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty.
I hope you love these foods as much as I do!
Until next time,
I specialize in weight loss, so I understand the challenges and frustrations that accompany this journey. Today, one of those challenges I want to focus on is weight plateau. If you are unfamiliar, plateauing is the phenomenon that occurs in losing weight where an individual may see the number on the scale steadily declining for weeks/months, then it stops. It often feels like whatever they do, the number will not budge. The one thing I see often is cutting too many calories at once. It is common to be excited when starting a diet. However, this can cause a slow in metabolism which in turn, stunt weight loss and causes the plateau. This is one reason why I recommend seeing a professional (like a dietitian) before starting your weight loss journey.
Here are my top 10 reasons you might be plateauing:
- You are not adjusting your caloric intake. As you are dropping in weight, make sure your are adjusting your calorie requirement. For example, someone who is 200lbs needs more calories than someone who is 150lbs. If you consume a consistent amount of calories, your rate of weight loss will drop.
2. You are eating the wrong foods. You could be eating a 1500 calorie diet (not that I recommend that number), but the calories could all be coming from empty calories like donuts. Someone who eats the same amount of calories, but is eating “clean”, will likely have more success. Not all calories are made equal. Eating fresh and colorful will make you feel so much better.
3. Your exercise is too repetitive. If you are exercising often and not losing weight, consider that your body might be getting too used to the movement. If you walk on the treadmill every day, try revamping the exercise. Attempt a diverse array of exercises like weight lifting, cardio or yoga. I am a huge fan of HIIT (high intensity interval training). Give this a google search and try this out if you are stuck.
4. You are not counting calories from snacks. Sometimes we forget these things in our food diaries. These snacks slip through the cracks especially at night time. Make sure to track every handful of nuts, sauces and dressings.
5. You’re forgetting to drink enough water. Hydration is not something to ignore on your weight loss journey. Often times, we confuse our hunger cues with thirst. If you feel like you might be peckish, drink some water first. 64oz is not a set-in-stone number, so you may need more or less. Play around with your intake goal to find what feels best for you.
6. You aren’t prioritizing your sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation is associated with overeating the following day. Additionally, sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels, which can promote fat formation in body. Make sure you prioritize sleep.
7. You aren’t sure what your metabolic rate is. Many times we overestimate our exercise amount and underestimate our food intake. The numbers that our treadmills, Apple Watches and Fitbits are giving us are not totally accurate. Be liberal in estimating the number of calories burned and calories consumed. You can also visit a health care professional (like a dietitian) to help get a better understanding of how many calories you’re buring and consuming.
8. You are not eating enough protein. After we eat them, proteins break down into substances that help us to burn fat. Plant proteins like legumes, beans and soy give us not only protein, but also fiber and essential vitamins.
9. You are not getting enough fiber. Fiber is essential in a healthy diet, but even more important in weight loss. This is because we chew it longer, we eat more mindfully, it takes longer to digest and it keeps us fuller for longer.
10. You may be sensitive to certain foods. This can cause fatigue, constipation, water retention and inflammation. These things can work against your weight loss journey. There are plenty of options for testing food sensitivity, so reach out to a health care professional if you feel you might be suffering from food sensitivity.
If you are plateauing, you are doing it right. Do not give up because this is happening! Giving up is what causes people to gain their weight back, and often times more weight than before. Remember: weight is just a number on a scale. I emphasize feeling our best and being healthy before anything else. Be proud of yourself and prioritize your well being.
DO NOT GIVE UP if you are plateauing. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Until next time,
Anti-inflammatory is not only a diet, but a lifestyle. If you have chronic illness, do not only look in your medicine cabinet – look to your diet! Food can do a lot of healing. Our immune system is activated when our body recognizes that there is a foreign trigger. This is what causes inflammation. This is not a problem, but we have a threat when inflammation becomes chronic. Diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, rheumatoid arthritis are all related inflammation. Stress levels, genetic disposition, exercise, exposure to toxics and FOOD come together to influence our levels of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory lifestyle is not a weight loss diet, but if you follow it: the weight loss comes with it. I follow this diet myself, and have found great success in keeping a steady weight and energy level. Some of my diabetic clients have even reversed their diabetes by adapting this lifestyle.
Here are my tips for following this diet:
1. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s a meal or a snack, aim for your plate to look like the rainbow!
2. Fresh produce is key. I preach to stay away from processed food as I believe this is the culprit for an array of health problems.
3. Aim for about 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day. Each person’s caloric needs are very different. This diet is not about cutting calories, so be careful to make sure you’re getting the proper amount. Too little or too many caloies can (suprisingly) both cause weight gain. Talk to your dietitian or doctor to determine how many calories you need a day.
4. 40-50% of your calories should come from carbs. Yes, we want a majority of carbs. However, stay away from sugar at all costs. When I say carbs, I mean whole grain, intact carbs. These are foods like sweet potatoes, beans or quinoa. Avoid refined or processed carbs (chips/pretzels, or anything with high fructose corn syrup).
5. 20% of your daily calories should come from fat. Try to reduce intake of saturated fats. These are foods like butter, cream or fatty meats. Get your fat from extra virgin olive oil, or expeller pressed oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important in this diet so try to eat foods like tuna, salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts.
6. Don’t overemphasize protein in this diet. The remaining 30% of your daily calories are all that need to be delegated to protein. Try to stay away from animal proteins and aim for more plant proteins (like soy). Fish a few times a day is fine as well.
7. Fiber is a huge aspect of this lifestyle in addition to the pre-mentioned macro nutrients. A high fiber diet aids GI tract health which influences both physical and mental wellbeing. You will get this fiber from the abundance of fruits and veggies you’ll be eating. If you want fiber rich grains, steel cut oat or high fiber cereals are a great option.
8. Drink plenty of fluids Ideally, you are drinking water. But if you love soda, try swapping it out with sparkling water flavored with freshly squeezed lemon, or green tea.
Some of my favorite foods that follow this diet include cabbage, cauliflower, mushroom, seasonal produce, 70% cocoa plain dark chocolate, and ample spices and herbs. Supplement with fish oil, vitamin D3 and a multivitamin.
Follow this diet for a few weeks and you will be feeling much more energized. I am excited for you to start this anti-inflammatory journey and I look forward to good health in your future.
Until next time,