Busting 5 Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

Busting 5 Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining obsession) about cholesterol, right?

Before we jump into some myths let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it’s floating through your blood is what’s more important than just how much of it there is overall.  In fact depending on what it’s combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart.  Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood.  These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”. 

They’re grouped into two main categories:

  • HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
  • LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this.  Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn’t simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats.  Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver.  It’s actually not from the cholesterol you eat.  Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)?  ‘Cause that’s where it’s made!

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces.  After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn’t need to make as much.

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained.  There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don’t seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day.  Every day.  And if you’re like me you’ll opt for over 26 different fruits, vegetables and berries in a convenient capsule form!

But don’t worry because the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats.  That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil.  Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.  My favorite way of ensuring consumption of healthy omegas is with this vegan omega blend.

Summary:

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we’re learning more every day.  You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are.  And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

Recipe (Dressing to go with your salad): Orange Hemp Seed Dressing

Makes about ¾ cup

  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • dash salt and/or pepper
  • Blend all ingredients together until creamy.
  • Serve on top of your favorite salad and Enjoy!
  • Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge.  Will keep for about a week.

References:

Does Waist Circumference Matter?

Does Waist Circumference Matter?

You totally want to ditch your scale, don’t you?  You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”. I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously).

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.  Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

Yup – that apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat. 

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40”. Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.  If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber.  Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day.  Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
  • Nix added sugars.  This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more.  Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  Dance.  It all adds up.
  • Stress less.  Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep.  Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. 

In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice.  Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 15 minutes.  Toss.

Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K.  You may want to eat them more often.

References:

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight.  Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.  Why does this happen?  Why do metabolic rates slow down?  What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”!  In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.   Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right.  But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course.  Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food. 

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have.  As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.  Adding concentrated fruits and vegetables helps as well as a high quality protein source.

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one. 

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have. 

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip:  Incorporate movement into your day.  Also, exercise regularly.

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

  • ½ cup Brazil nuts
  • 2 cups water
  • nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.  If you wish to bypass this step use a high quality almond milk or rice milk.

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries.

References:

31 Protein Shakes

31 Protein Shakes

31 Flavors of Protein Shakes

Protein is an essential macronutrient for building lean muscle mass and so there’s no disputing the fact that protein shakes are an important tool for fitness gains and fat loss.

Not only does a protein shake meal replacement take only a few minutes to prepare, it keeps you on point with your nutrition while making it easy to avoid unhealthy fast food alternatives for a quick meal. However, blending up the same combination of protein powder, ice and water sure does get boring.

The following 31 Flavors of Protein Shakes will destroy your protein shake boredom once and for all! For each of the recipes below simply combine the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add extra water, almond, soy or quinoa milk or ice as needed to create your desired consistency. Serve immediately and enjoy! My go-to protein power is organic, vegan and non-GMO and it comes in vanilla and chocolate flavors. Follow this link to order yours.

Oatmeal Shake

  • ¼ cup dry oats
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • handful of ice cubes

Banana Nut Shake

  • ½ banana
  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 10 almonds
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • handful of ice cubes

Vanilla Coffee Shake

  • ½ cup vanilla almond milk
  • ½ cup cold brewed black coffee
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • liquid stevia to taste
  • handful of ice cubes

Café Mocha Shake

  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup cold brew black coffee
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • liquid stevia to taste
  • handful of ice cubes

Sunny Morning Shake

  • 1 seedless, peeled orange
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 scoops unflavored protein powder
  • handful of ice cubes

Orange Creamsicle Shake

  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • handful of ice cubes

Thin Mint Shake

  • ½ frozen banana
  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 4 fresh mint leaves (optional)

Bright Berry Shake

  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 8 raspberries
  • 4 strawberries
  • 12 blueberries
  • handful of ice cubes

Strawberry Vanilla Shake

  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 handful of ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ frozen banana
  • 3 frozen strawberries

Raspberry Cheesecake Shake

  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 15 frozen raspberries
  • 2 Tablespoons low-fat sour cream
  • liquid stevia to taste

Peanut Butter Cup Shake

  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • handful of ice cubes

Creamy Chocolate Shake

  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons low-fat sour cream
  • liquid stevia to taste

Papaya Ginger Mint Shake

  • ½ cup fresh chopped papaya
  • ½ teaspoon fresh minced ginger
  • 4 fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • handful of ice cubes
  • drizzle of honey to taste

Blueberry Mango Shake

  • ½ cup fresh or frozen chopped mango
  • ¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder

Spinach, Kiwi and Chia Seed Shake

  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • 1 cup packed spinach
  • 1 ripe kiwi, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tablespoon chia seeds
  • handful of ice cubes

Oatmeal Cookie Shake

  • ¼ cup dry oats
  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ½ frozen banana, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of ground ginger, nutmeg and salt

Peanut Butter and Jelly Shake

  • ½ frozen banana
  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup frozen strawberries
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • handful of ice cubes

Vanilla Matcha Avocado Shake

  • 1 ½ cups milk or water
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ an avocado, pitted and peeled
  • 2 teaspoons matcha powder
  • 1 handful of spinach

Cherry Almond Shake

  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ½ cup frozen, pitted cherries
  • 2 Tablespoons almond butter
  • handful of ice cubes

Honey Banana Shake

  • 1 ½ cups of water or milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • sprinkle of ground nutmeg

Carrot Cake Shake

  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ¼ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg and ground ginger

Key Lim Pie Shake

  • ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • stevia to taste
  • handful of ice cubes

Peach Oatmeal Shake

  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ¼ cup dry oats
  • 1 peach, pitted, peeled and chopped
  • handful of ice cubes
  • ½ frozen banana, peeled and chopped
  • stevia to taste

Vanilla Chai Shake

  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ¼ cup strong brewed, chilled tea
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of ground cinnamon, cloves and cardamom
  • handful of ice cubes
  • sprinkle of chia seeds

Apple Pie a la Mode Shake

  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon apple butter
  • ½ teaspoon ground apple pie spice
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • stevia to taste

Cinnamon Roll Shake

  • 1 ½ cups water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup dry oats
  • ½ banana, peeled

Hawaiian Sunrise Shake

  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ½ banana
  • ½ cup pineapple
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • stevia to taste
  • handful of ice cubes

Snickerdoodle Shake

  • 1 cup water or milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ½ banana
  • 1 Tablespoon creamy almond butter
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Chip Cookie Shake

  • 1 ½ cups milk or water
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • ¼ cup dry oats
  • ¼ teaspoon imitation butter flavor
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • handful of ice cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon mini chocolate chips
  • stevia to taste

Chocolate Brownie Shake

  • 1 frozen banana, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ cup brewed coffee, chilled
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon mini chocolate chips

Pina Colada Shake

  • 1 frozen banana, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup fresh pineapple, chopped
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tablespoon shredded, unsweetened coconut

There you go! 31 Flavors of Protein Shakes to keep you happily sipping those fitness friendly macronutrients needed to achieve your big transformation goal. Now your only protein shake dilemma is deciding which of these amazing shakes to try first! Remember my recommendation? Want to give it a try? Follow this link or call me to place an order. For $2/day you could be adding top notch protein to your shakes!

Olive Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

Olive Stuffed Turkey Meatballs

Lean, ground turkey paired with Italian seasoning and tender olives, make these meatballs something special. The key to keeping this savory meal healthy is to pair it with a side of vegetables, rather than starchy pasta.

Servings: 5
Recipe courtesy of Diana Keullian

Here’s what you need…

  • 20 oz Italian Seasoned Lean Ground Turkey
  • 30 pitted olives
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  1. Take one tablespoon of ground turkey at a time; flatten it in your hand and form around an olive to create a ball. Repeat with all of the turkey and olives.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and spread around the pan. Add the meatballs.
  3. Turn the meatballs every 3 minutes for 20 minutes of cooking. Remove once all sides are browned and the meatballs are cooked through.
  4. Serve on a platter with any remaining olives.

Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 205 calories, 12g fat, 800mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, and 20g protein.

Easy Spinach Salad

Easy Spinach Salad

Here’s a simple salad that is bursting with flavor and nutrients. Try the simple homemade salad dressing – it’s much healthier than store bought dressings, doesn’t contain refined sugar, and still lends lots of flavor. Servings: 4

Here’s what you need…

  • 6 cups organic baby spinach
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Juice from one lime
  • dash of pepper
  1. Combine the spinach, eggs, avocado and tomatoes in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, lime juice and pepper.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix and serve.

Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals:  170 calories, 10g fat, 337mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, and 13g protein

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