Let me start by saying that I don’t have concerns about my cholesterol, but I have a couple of family members who do and are on statin medications to bring their cholesterol levels down. One of those family members would be my loving father who I cherish and adore. He and I talk about nutrition a lot and I’m very grateful that he’s open minded and is willing to listen to his Bossy Pants Nutrition Nut daughter who will happily rattle on and on about what I’m currently reading, how I’m eating and what I think he should be eating too.
Just a brief look through this blog of mine will make it pretty obvious I’m not concerned with the cholesterol and saturated fat found in eggs, real butter, coconut oil, full fat dairy products and many of the other foods that conventional dietary wisdom has told us to avoid. I believe these foods are good for us and cholesterol is a necessary nutrient for good health. But what about someone who has heart disease and high cholesterol? Can they safely eat eggs? What about butter? Do you need to be mindful of your saturated fat and cholesterol intake if your cardiovascular health is already compromised? What is the cause of high cholesterol? What do all these numbers really mean?
After listening to Jimmy Moore talk about his new book on the Balanced Bites podcast (episode #101) this summer, I realized Cholesterol Clarity probably had some answers to the questions I had about real food when it came to heart health.
This is a book review, but it’s not a book report. I’m not going summarize what I read because that would be boring and because I’m still wrapping my head around all of this new-to-me information. If you were sitting here with me in my living room (I’m currently sitting on an exercise ball, I’ve got one for you to sit on too) and you asked “What did you think about this book?”, my response would depend on what your situation is and what your goals are.
I would at least tell anyone who asked (sitting up straight with my hands folded neatly in my lap):
“Cholesterol Clarity has helped me understand that the real “bad guy” with heart disease is not cholesterol but inflammation. Excess lipoproteins in the blood are not from dietary fat, but are the result of too many carbohydrates. Inflammation comes from a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 that is too high (that is, a diet full of processed foods, trans fats and vegetable oils – AKA, The Standard American Diet. But even if you think you eat well you could still be eating too much Omega-6! Almond Butter, I am looking at you.)
I would also tell you that this book is easy for the layperson to understand and was an enjoyable read. I might also blurt out something like, “did you know there was a study released in 2009 that showed 75% of people who showed up at the hospital with a heart attack had normal cholesterol levels?” (i.e., cholesterol lowering meds aren’t necessarily going to save you from a heart attack!) and I might also geek out on what I learned about the positive role that cholesterol plays in our health and all the awesome, important things cholesterol does for us.
From there I would want to know which of these describe you:
Do you have high cholesterol or are you worried about someone who does?
Read this book. Consider the lifestyle changes Jimmy Moore and all his experts recommend. There are lots of dietary and lifestyle choices you can make that can positively effect your cholesterol levels – and know that high cholesterol isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are lots of things you must consider when looking at your cholesterol numbers and this book will help you figure that out.
And if you’re worried about someone with high cholesterol, let’s say this out loud together right now: The only person you can change is yourself. Share knowledge with interested people, let everybody else ask for advice when/if they want to know more. I’m about to pass this book on to my dad, only because he’s willing and interested. If he wasn’t, I would shut the hell up and just send him more pictures of his grandchildren.
Do you have heart disease?
Read this book. Consider the lifestyle changes Jimmy Moore and all his experts recommend. Start digging deeper into the research this book points to. Educate yourself so you can make informed decisions.
Does heart disease run in your family or do you have concerns about your heart health?
Read this book. Consider the lifestyle changes Jimmy Moore and all his experts recommend. Be proactive now instead of reactive later.
Me? I’m Livin’ La Vida Low Carb.
Cholesterol Clarity reaffirmed for me that a low carbohydrate diet is the way to go. That doesn’t mean NO carbohydrates – it means I’m going to continue to keep bread and grain consumption to a minimum. It means eating more vegetables than fruit. It means keeping sugar intake as close to zero as I can most of the time. This has been a work in progress for years now, and I go through phases where I do better and phases where I don’t. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes you a while to break old habits and find a new “normal” with the way that you eat if this is what you choose to do for yourself and the people you feed. Lasting change takes time.
I also want to explain that I’ve had issues going too low carb in the past. I could do it for a while, but after a few days would start to feel wonky. (That’s a scientific term.) Wonky = low on energy, light headed, constipated (sorry) and unsatisfied – I didn’t understand how all these Paleo people I’d been reading about could do it. I’d heard of the low carb flu but ”hanging in there” just wasn’t cutting it for me. Something felt WRONG and so I would go back to eating more carbs in the form of fruit, Ezekiel bread, oats, the occasional cookie or treat, etc.
I’m finally figuring it out thanks to another book I was lead to by the co-author of Cholesterol Clarity - New Atkins for a New You (let me spoil the ending: Dr. Westman explains that going low carb can throw off your electrolyte balance, which is the cause of many of those symptoms I just described, and not a cause of going low carb itself. Adding more salt and potassium to my diet has solved the first three issues on my wonky list! Salting your food to taste isn’t enough, I’ve been making my own “sport drink” with salt and lime juice and drinking more bone broth. Making sure I’m getting enough dietary fat has fixed the satiety and satisfaction part.)
Even though I’m reading an Atkins book I’m not “doing Atkins”, but the low-carb guidance and troubleshooting has been invaluable to me. I’m convinced of the importance and benefits of a low carb lifestyle thanks to The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, Deep Nutrition by Dr. Catherine Shanahan, The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, The Paleo Coach by Jason Seib. I’ve flipped through Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso and Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, I trust what these people have to say and I get it! I want to drink the sugar free Kool-aid and now I’m finally working the kinks out. I hope to write more about all the great things that come from a low carb, high fat diet in a future post (no cravings, feeling full and satisfied for long stretches of time, lots of energy, effortless weight loss). If you want to know more and I forget to write about it, remind me!
That’s a nice way to lead into the next book on my radar (I’m #9 on the waiting list at the library), Grain Brain, another book I can’t wait to devour after listening to Dr. David Perlmutter on the Everyday Paleo podcast episode #57. Good stuff.
The Bottom Line.
Cholesterol Clarity does not have all the answers, but it’s a great place to start. Know that prescription meds with all their costs and health risks do not have to be your fate, there are a lot of things you can do and try that could save you from sending a cocktail of pharmaceuticals through your liver.
And no matter what, don’t put your faith in any one person or what they have to say. Keep reading! Read, read and then read some more. Take responsibility for your own health, consider lifestyle changes, chip away at it piece by piece and you’ll figure out what works for you. I’ll shut the hell up now.