Last week you learnt about the process of how the genesis of Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) comes about. This week it makes perfect sense to walk you through how you can prevent and treat a diseased cardio-vascular (CV) system through changes in eating patterns and lifestyle factors. In a nutshell, the changes revolve around implementing diet and lifestyle practices that our distant ancestors innately followed and which we know scientifically to be irrefutably true.
Humans have been hard-wired through environmental selection pressure to prefer fat as their primary fuel source from both storage and from dietary sources. Our cellular preference for fat burning is in stark contrast to conventional wisdom that suggests that carbohydrates should form the foundation of a healthy diet. The modern high carbohydrate, grain-based diet, has created a dependency on external carbohydrates for energy at the expense of efficient fat metabolism. This causes us to struggle to maintain stable energy levels since we are so heavily reliant on a steady supply of ingested calories for energy.
Instead of taking advantage of our abundant fat stores, this high carbohydrate eating pattern stimulates chronically excessive insulin production. With insulin chronically elevated to deal with the genetically unfamiliar high-carbohydrate eating pattern, abundant sources of energy are locked away and inaccessible, in fat cells and other cells. Furthermore a high carbohydrate and high insulin-producing diet promotes inflammation, suppresses immunity and is hormonally disruptive which increase the risk of an assortment of health problems such as CVD, cancer and autoimmune diseases.
The glucose requirements of your muscles and organ can be easily fulfilled by a reasonable intake of Primal foods that contain carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds) as well as the important internal processes of gluconeogenesis (where the body coverts amino acids – proteins – into glucose) and ketone production in the liver. Ketones are fat metabolism by-products that are produced when carbohydrate intake is low. Ketones are used in the body in the same manner as glucose, making this internal energy source a highly effective, clean burning substitute for the energy provided by ingested carbohydrates.
A high-carbohydrate, high insulin-producing diet inhibits fat metabolism and promotes a lifelong accumulation of excess body fat. In addition, it promotes exhaustion of the fight-or-flight stress response and emotional difficulties related to eating and struggling to balance calories-in to calories-out! Increased free radical damage is also promoted by a high carbohydrate eating pattern, accelerating the aging process and contributing to all manner of health problems not the least of which are CVD and cancer.
Genes can be reprogrammed in 21 days by restricting carbohydrate intake and training the body to optimize the burning of fat and ketones as its primary energy sources. These ketones are by-products of fat metabolism in the liver when glucose is low. They are an excellent alternative to glucose as an energy source and in fact are preferred by, and burnt more efficiently by, the brain and heart than is glucose – interesting isn’t it! Ketones have played a key role in human survival, shoring up energy deficits when food intake, particularly carbohydrate intake, fluctuated over the course of human evolution.
Dietary fats come in many forms – some healthy and some not! Saturated fats, often maligned by traditional dietary beliefs, are an excellent source of energy with no negative effects on your health. Chemically altered fats such as trans-fats and industrial fats and excess intake of omega-6 fats (particularly when diet is low in omega-3 fats) are the driving factors in the promotion of serious dietary related health problems such as CVD and cancer. Consuming a daily average of 150 grams of carbohydrates or less allows for an abundant intake of nutrient-rich vegetables, along with a sensible intake of seasonal fruit, nuts, dark chocolate and other foods with moderate amounts of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate intake at this level enables life-long weight management and protection from disease risks.
CVD RISKS AND PREVENTION – AT A GLANCE
- HIGH-CARBOHYDRATE DIET: drives excess insulin production, high triglycerides, and conversion of VLDL into dangerous small, dense LDL.
- HIGH-PUFA DIET: promotes oxidation and inflammation, allowing small, dense LDL to damage arteries.
- STATIN USE: compromises cellular energy production (depleted CoQ10), damages muscles and liver, and lowers HDL.
- EXERCISE: Not enough promotes insulin resistance as a SAD (Standard American/Australian Diet) sugar burner when eating in the sugar-burning zone, or too much produces excessive cortisol and oxidative stress.
- GENETICS: Predispositions are usually only relevant when combined with adverse lifestyle (insulin, chronic exercise, stress) practices.
- ELIMINATE PROCESSED CARBS: moderates insulin, lowers triglycerides, raises HDL.
- ELIMINATE PUFAS (poly-unsaturated fatty acids): reduces oxidation and inflammation.
- INCREASE SATURATED FAT INTAKE: raises HDL (the protective cholesterol)
- EAT PRIMALLY: moderates insulin, balances O6:O3 ratio, boosts antioxidants.
- EXERCISE PRIMALLY: raises HDL, lowers triglycerides, and lowers small, dense LDL.
- MODERATE STRESS: improve quality sleep; adequate safe sun exposure; make time for play-time – reconnect with genetic requirements for health!
- BLOOD TESTS: Focus on triglycerides, fasting blood glucose and insulin, LDL particle size (small, dense LDL), and C-Reactive Protein (key marker of systemic inflammation).
Exercise Primally – Maximum Fitness Can Be Achieved in Minimal Time with High-Intensity Workouts
- Brief, intense strength and sprint workouts promote optimal gene expression, and help delay the aging process. Avoid unnecessary complexity or a chronic approach that compromises health.
- The four Primal Essential Movements – push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and planks – are simple, safe, functional full-body exercises that are scalable to all fitness levels.
- All-out sprints are the ultimate Primal workout! Conduct when energy and motivation are 100 percent – once every 7-10 days is plenty. Low-impact options make sprinting accessible to all.
- The aging process is accelerated by declining physical fitness – along with poor eating, lifestyle, and stress management habits.
“Use it or lose it” and reframe your perspective about aging by reprogramming genes through high-intensity training.
Shopping, Cooking and Dining Primally is about finding healthy alternative options for food purchases such as farmers markets, food co-ops, ethnic markets, progressive supermarkets and online sources. It’s also about optimizing your home so that meal preparation is enjoyable and convenient and that the meal time environment is calm and relaxing. Mainstream sources for meat, eggs and dairy like those found at your local traditional supermarket are almost certainly acquired from CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) and will therefore be saturated with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and GMOs. Added to this, mainstream vegetable produce is typically sourced from conventional farms, contains pesticides, and is most often transported from distant origins and ripened artificially with ethylene gas.
When shopping at grocery stores, stay on the outside aisles and avoid, at all cost, the inner wasteland of processed products made with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and refined high polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Get personal with the butchers at your local meat/fish shop and produce section so as you can stay on top of the freshest and most pure selections and the best deals. Farmers markets are the go-to hubs for the freshest local selections. While smaller local farms tend not to carry the organic certification labels due to the red tape and costs involved, they very often practice sustainable farming methods without the use of pesticides. Co-0ps are the year round indoor farmers markets. They offer organic local sources of meat, produce, eggs, nuts, nut flours and butters, organic spices and unrefined oils.
When purchasing produce, locally grown is best, followed by certified organic (grown as close to home as possible), with conventionally grown from a distant location being the least favourable option. Stock your fridge with Primal-Approved food staples such as organic ghee and coconut oil for higher temperature cooking (never canola or other cooking oils), coconut products and domestically sourced extra virgin olive oil. Save time by preparing a weekly menu, cooking in bulk and eating leftovers and cycling through a few primal favourites while you make the transition. Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satiated and keep healthy snacks on hand.
When dining out accept that your options may fall into the 80:20 compromise category. Strictly avoid fast food and fried food, and try to find better options than grain-dominated restaurants. Avoid restaurant dressings (they’re likely filled with sugar and/or processed vegetable oils), and substitute with simple olive, lemon juice and vinegar. Request meals cooked in butter rather than vegetable oils and build your meals around vegetables and protein.
Below is the Primal Food Pyramid as constructed by Mark Sisson. The only variation that I would impress on you to adhere to for at least the first 21 days of transformation, would be to avoid all dairy products (excepting organic ghee), primarily because of the inflammatory nature of the casein protein in most dairy products. After the first 21 days when your body has adapted to a low-carb regime and your inflammatory markers will have subsided dramatically, you may want to introduce a VERY moderate amount of dairy but even then if you can’t source organic, grass-fed and raw dairy (unpasteurized), then don’t include any at all!
This lifestyle regime, based on our ancestral evidence, will give your body the healing and anti-inflammatory edge it needs to facilitate and support a disease free, vital aging process.