Dr. Steven Gundry, one of the top Cardiac Surgeons in the US has some advise for us all on how to keep ourselves heart healthy all year round and for a lifetime.
Dr. Gundry: There are two societies, one in Italy and one in the South Pacific (Kitava), where everyone smokes, yet heart attacks and strokes are unknown, and the people live into their late 90’s and early 100’s.
Quite frankly, it’s what they eat and more importantly what they don’t eat. It breaks down to four simple things:
Tuberous Starches like sweet potatoes, taro root, millet, sorghum, yams.
Lots of healthy fat like olive oil (a liter a week in Spain and Crete).
Seafood instead of meat, particularly small fish like sardines and anchovies.
Powerful polyphenols from veggies, herbs like rosemary and sage, and occasional, seasonal, wild-grown fruits. And polyphenols are thought to stop gut bacteria from making heart damaging compounds from animal protein called TMAO.
But what don’t they eat?
Well, most of these low heart disease societies eat nuts, but not peanuts. And shockingly, they don’t eat “healthy” whole wheat, oatmeal, or corn.
And here’s the most shocking thing…they DON’T eat their “fruits and veggies” They eat mostly vegetables, and almost no fruit – except for tiny amounts of in season fruit.
In fact, in animals, the easiest way to produce heart disease is to use wheat germ or peanut oil in their feed!
What does this mean?
Diet plays a key role in preventing heart disease. People who want to stay heart-healthy should not “eat their fruits and veggies.”
Instead, they should enjoy a diet that’s heavy on veggies and good fats. They should eat seafood rather than meat, and avoid commercially-raised meat. As far as fruit goes, they should eat fruit that’s grown naturally: either heirloom varieties or wild-foraged fruits. And skip grains – even “healthy” things like whole wheat and oats. They’re doing more damage than good.
Avoid foods high in lectins (a plant protein that wrecks havoc on digestion and immune system)
High-lectins foods to avoid: whole grains, oatmeal, non-pressure cooked beans, peanuts and cashews, chia seeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, pasta, cereals and nightshades like potatoes and tomatoes.
2. Avoid factory farmed meats and chicken (even free range).
3. Start supplementing with fish oil, polyphenol-rich supplements like grape seed extract, pine bark extract and Resveratrol and Vitamins B and Vitamins C.
These recommendations are based on my 12-year study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. I conducted the study on 1000 patients with known heart disease. After patients changed their diet and added supplements (as mentioned above), they saw a reversal of narrowing of the coronary arteries and avoided heart attacks, strokes, and stents.
3) Any heart health tips for women especially?
Heart disease is the number one killer of women! Period. In my research, women who eat low-fat, high-grain based diets are most at risk – and that’s hard, because so many “low fat” diet foods are marketed toward women. And it makes them shy away from the good fats like avocados and olive oil.
Know the signs: The classic warning signs of heart disease like chest pain, jaw or left arm pain or numbness often do not occur in women. Instead, they notice nausea, shortness of breath, or fatigue. And women who develop heart disease usually have weight deposited around their middle – think “apple” shapes.
Be aware of female-specific warning signs: prolonged nausea, shortness of breath or fatigue.
Include healthy fats in your diet, such as avocado and olive oil.
Reduce grains and grain-rich food, even if they’re marketed as healthy – think granola, cereal bars, bread (even bread “thins”), rice and rice cakes, and even oatmeal.
4) Any heart health tips for men specifically?
The vast majority of men who develop heart disease also have a gut! And shockingly, the ‘beer belly’ weight gain doesn’t just come from snack foods, beer and alcohol – but that’s not a good reason to drink beer.
In recent studies conducted on men and women worldwide, the increased consumption of protein, particularly from factory farmed meats, chicken and fish, contributed to belly fat! As shown by the Cleveland Clinic, these proteins are converted by our gut bacteria to artery destroying compounds called TMAO.
If you must drink alcohol, skip the beer, and go for polyphenol-rich red wine instead.
Avoid vegetable oils and fried foods, but DO eat plenty of olive oils. These foods are rich in polyphenols-one of the best antioxidants for fighting heart disease.
Pay attention to where you’re gaining weight – and if it starts to accumulate anywhere, especially around the abdomen, it’s time to focus on weight loss to stop the problem in its tracks.