Food Really is the Best MedicineJul 04, 2021 10:43PM ● By Laura Varich, M.D.
Q: I recently started a low-carb diet, but now have a high LDL cholesterol level. I know that this is bad for my heart. What can I do?
A: There are two issues associated with low-carb diets that make this a common problem. First, many low-carb diets rely on increased intake of animal products which contain high levels of saturated fats, the largest contributor to increased LDL “bad” cholesterol. Second, while these diets limit “bad carbs” like sugar and processed foods, they also limit “good" carbohydrates, including whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), the most healthful foods on the planet. These good carbs contain fiber that lowers cholesterol by binding and carrying it out of the body. Eat as many high-fiber foods as possible (particularly whole grains and legumes) and cut down on animal products; you’ll see your LDL “bad” cholesterol drop.
Q: Help! I am desperate to improve my sleep!
A: Sleep is very important to your overall health, as poor sleeping increases your risk of obesity, hypertension, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer. You should aim to sleep for more than six hours every night. The hormone melatonin promotes sleep in response to a dark environment (so make sure your room is dark). Unfortunately, with aging, your body produces less melatonin, resulting in worsened sleep. The good news is that you can get melatonin from food sources (recommended over the use of supplements, due to lack of regulation and inconsistent potency and purity). Goji berries have the highest melatonin content of any food source, and as a bonus, have the third-highest antioxidant capacity of any common dried fruit. Try eating ¼ cup dried goji berries before bed for better sleep.
Q: My blood pressure has been creeping up and my doctor recommended that I limit my salt intake. Is there anything else that I can do? I would prefer to avoid medications if possible.
A: High blood pressure (hypertension) is a serious concern because it contributes to many life-threatening diseases, including heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, making hypertension the number one risk factor for premature death. And understand hypertension is not a natural consequence of aging. Populations that eat mostly plants and have a naturally low-salt diet do not experience increased blood pressure with aging. Thus, hypertension is a lifestyle disease that can be reversed with lifestyle changes. Lowering salt intake is key, and because the majority of the salt (sodium) in your diet comes from processed and restaurant foods, not from your salt shaker, try to reduce or avoid all highly processed foods. Also, certain plant foods contain a nutrient, nitric oxide, that causes arteries to relax, lowering blood pressure, and drinking just one cup of beet juice per day or a cup of hibiscus tea with meals (three cups per day) has been shown to decrease hypertension as much as anti-hypertensive medications. As with all things in life, moderation is key, so do not exceed these recommended doses.
Laura Varich, M.D.
Laura Varich, M.D., is the owner of Fresh Physician. For questions about health through nutrition and lifestyle, email Varich and see the question answered at F[email protected]m, or visit FreshPhysician.com.
———————— Sponsored Content ————————