Tag Archives: cardiovascular health

10 Ways To Ditch Your Cravings for Sugar, Salt, and Fats


According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Food Corporations Turn to Chefs in a Quest for Healthy Flavor,” Big Food companies like PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and even fast food giants like Taco Bell, are changing their ways in response to the increasing public demand for healthier food options. To improve their image as healthy food manufacturers, Big Food corporations have called upon top chefs to help them create healthy menu makeovers, infusing real, fresh, whole food into old recipe favorites.

Why is this happening now? Intense pressure brought on by politicians and their constituents (you and me!) has given these food manufacturers no choice but to respond to the public outcry for healthier food. It’s no longer enough for these companies to earn a profit by selling food that tastes good. People are beginning to use the power of the pocketbook to show these companies that the food they sell must also be nutritious.

That’s because people everywhere are waking up. They are beginning to see the dangers of genetically modified ingredients and all the sugar, salt, and fats hidden in our food supply. From fancy restaurants to fast food chains, chefs are catching on that people want their food to make them feel good, not just while they are eating it but hours, days, and years afterward.

Really, this news shouldn’t make the headlines. This is common sense! Paying for food that makes us sick is as crazy as shooting ourselves in the foot. It just doesn’t make sense.

Big Food is finally getting the message and getting on board.

But remember, no processed or fast food option will ever be better than a healthy home-cooked meal. The best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, most nutritious food possible is to prepare your own food in your own kitchen. We are all chefs. You don’t have to be trained at Le Cordon Bleu to know your way around a kitchen. You just need a little knowledge, some imagination, and a sense of adventure.

A desire for real food is a fundamental part of our basic biological blueprint. Given the chance, our taste receptors will naturally gravitate toward the inherent sweetness found in vegetables, fruits, and even nuts and seeds.

So, how do you reprogram your taste buds to ditch the cravings for sugar, salt, and fats? You can start by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Avoid fake, commercialized foods that come in convenience packages or are made in a lab.

Here are 10 more tips to get you excited about ditching the sugar, salt, and fats:

  1. Sauté or roast your veggies to bring out their natural sweetness. Properly searing your chicken or meat brings out the inherent sweetness by way of the Maillard reaction. This is a fancy name for what happens when you create that nice, brown crust on your meat. Want more cooking tips like this? Check out The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook!
  2. Play with herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and oregano to add flavor and phytonutrients! Finish a meal by adding fresh herbs before plating or serving. This last-minute addition kicks the flavor up a notch!
  3. Healthy fats found in avocado, coconut, and tahini not only increase the flavor of your meal, they also add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich foods. See for yourself just how healthy and tasty desserts can be by trying my Dark Chocolate Silk Pudding from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook!
  4. Try creating a savory, umami (Japanese for “delicious”) flavor. Add moderate amounts of tamari, umeboshi plum paste, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried mushroom, or sea vegetables to your next stew, soup, sauce, or stir-fry.
  5. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and even cayenne or chipotle pepper powder are all extremely flavorful additions to a meal. Spices like these excite your taste buds and grab your attention. This is helpful, because, as studies show, when we are focused on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up, we actually need less food to feel satisfied.
  6. Befriend some kitchen must-haves like real vanilla extract or vanilla bean or coconut butter. Or use common, every-day foods like lemons in some creative ways. For example, use lemon zest to add real zing to any meal!
  7. For the most flavor, eat seasonally and locally. Canned or packaged foods or foods that have traveled great distances in the back of a truck just can’t compare to the succulence of a fresh piece of locally grown fruit.
  8. Check your hydration. Digestion starts in your mouth with your saliva, which helps us taste all the magnificent flavor in food. If you are dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, you won’t really be able to enjoy your food.
  9. Check your medications. Believe it or not, most medications interfere with the body’s ability to taste and smell. Some of them can even create an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. Wondering how you might decrease the number of pills you take? Learn more about functional medicine.
  10. Got nutrition? Nutrient deficiency is an important cause of improper taste perception. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can markedly impair your ability to smell and taste food. Most Americans have several nutrient deficiencies, but there is one in particular that can especially keep you from enjoying your next meal: zinc. Try adding foods like oysters, pecans, sunflower seeds, and lentils to increase your daily intake of this important mineral. Try the recipe for Hearty Lentil Soup from The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. If you are deficient, you might also need to take a zinc supplement. Work with one of my nutrition coaches to ensure your nutrition status is up to par.

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For more ways to use your kitchen to take back your health, check out The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook. Get tips and tricks for making healthy and tasty meals. Learn what foods you should eat to boost your metabolism, balance your blood sugar, and lose weight. Try more than 175 tasty recipes that appeal to a variety of budgets, taste preferences, health goals, and lifestyles.

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

This 12-Year-Old is Seriously Fed Up with Unhealthy School Lunches

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 11.24.43 AMIf your child came to you and asked if he could starting bringing lunch to school instead of eating cafeteria food, what would you say? What if the school lunches were free and the school district promoted them as “healthy and delicious” with mouth-watering photos and descriptions?

Zachary Maxwell was in 4th grade when he decided his days of school lunches were coming to an end, but his parents weren’t convinced. “It’s free! And it looks pretty good on the online menu.” Zachary would not back down, though, and went undercover to expose the inconsistencies in his school’s lunch menu as compared to the actual food that was served.

Oh, and Zachary is hilarious and so smart. Check it out!

“Yuck” is right! Would you eat that food?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more that one third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. Though there may be some genetic factors associated with weight, nutrition and physical activity play a major role in maintaining a healthy weight and cardiovascular health. No matter how you look at it, pizza and cheese sticks do little to help kids stay healthy, let alone give them the nutrients and energy needed to get through a demanding school day.

Do Zachary’s school lunches look like something you’d want to feed to your kids? Is it really too expensive or inconvenient to offer children healthy eating options? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Larry King’s 25-Year Campaign for Heart Disease Awareness

557px-LarryKingSept10_(cropped)Much has changed since 1988, when Michael Jackson topped the billboard charts, Ronald Regan occupied the White House, and Mikhail Gorbachev launched perestroika. Then, as now, Larry King’s interviews have illuminated the notable personalities, popular culture, and geopolitics of our times. It was also back in 1988 that Larry King began shining a light on another kind of big presence in many lives: heart disease.

After surviving quintuple bypass surgery in 1987, thanks to excellent doctors and a good insurance plan, Larry King felt grateful. He knew that others weren’t so lucky and so, to help those less fortunate, he founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation (LKCF). For the past 25 years, the Foundation has helped uninsured individuals with heart conditions receive life-saving treatment. To date, thousands of families have benefited.

Over the past quarter decade, the healthcare landscape has shifted dramatically, however. Here in the United States, we face daily news about the soaring rates of adult and child obesity. In the backdrop of this, the Affordable Care Act is set to reshape the issue of the uninsured. Regardless, one thing that’s absolutely clear is that winning the battle against heart disease will require us to marshal the forces of collective action on a whole new level.

The good news is that there are countless organizations and individuals who are making a positive impact on heart heath in small and large ways – from physicians and hospitals to organic farmers, moms, and neighborhood walk organizers. With that inspiration in mind, Larry and his wife LKCF Chair Shawn King are expanding the scope of their original mission to shine the light on these everyday heart heroes, while still providing direct services to heart patients.

The Kings recognize that providing emergency cardiac care is the end game – i.e., the critical difference between life and death for some. But boosting prevention and healthy habits is the very definition of universal care for each and every one of us. We know so much more now about how to reduce the risk of heart disease. Plus, we are more keenly aware of the dire economic impact to families and our nation as a whole of doing nothing to turn the tide.

From First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to local activists all across America, we have the tools and troops we need to meet the prevention challenge. The LKCF wants boost that grassroots energy and spread it far and wide. To do so, the Kings will leverage the power of – and their access to – digital, social, and traditional media to spread the word and accelerate the impact of innovators, who are saving hearts everyday through the promotion of better nutrition, more exercise, stress reduction, and other positive steps to healthier living. By using creative outlets to expand the national conversation, the LKCF will give as much airtime and applause to everyday heart heroes as can be mustered.

As the new LKCF president, I’m excited to help refine what it means to have a heart to heart, and get the word out. We hope you’ll do your part in ensuring a more vital future by sharing these stories and watching them grow. Here are a few that deserve a big shout out:

Heidi Katherine Uzelac is a recent high school graduate who spearheads a wonderful annual event that turns fundraising and information sharing around heart health into a team effort. June 1st will be Heidi’s second annual Heartchase Scavenger Hunt. It’s a city-wide race in Beverly Hills that sends groups of 2-5 out across the community to complete “heart healthy” challenges. If you can’t join the fun in person, consider jumping in online with some support. Game On!

Francie Randolph founded Sustainable CAPE to demonstrate the direct link between local food, wellness, and protection of precious land and water resources. She also uses games to educate school kids and families to become agents of change, who take charge of their own health and the health of the planet. These things are, of course, connected, and events like the Zucchini 500 vegetable race bring delicious together with sustainable and joyful. Tasty goodness!

For a bit more on happy steps to a good life, check out Spirit of Women, which uses dance to encourage more women to stay healthy, get moving, and participate in health screenings. Day of Dance events happen all across the county – learn the moves, live longer, and smile doing it!


Related Articles:

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Why Cooking Will Save Our Lives in the Face of Obesity, Diabetes, and Addiction

Deepak Chopra: The Path from Heart Disease to Heart Health

 You might have heard the expression “You’re as young as your arteries,” and it’s true. But keeping your arteries young can seem like a mysterious thing for many people, as much as they feel inundated by an unending stream of research findings. Now some clarity is at hand, and it’s worth pausing to consider.

The cardiovascular continuum is a way of stepping back and thinking about cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), as being later complications in a long chain of events. These events begin with risk factors for cv disease, such as smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, diabetes and high blood pressure. The risks can start early, even in childhood. If these risk factors aren’t addressed, your cardiovascular health gets progressively worse over a period of decades. It’s a long but inexorable road, and at the end you won’t be as young as your arteries but, sadly, as old.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that since cardiovascular disease is mostly the result of having an unhealthy lifestyle, unhealthy choices can be turned around. Usually the process of slow, accumulating damage can be prevented. The earlier in the continuum it’s caught and treated, the better your outlook.

Danger Signals Most of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease involve damage to your arteries. Some risk factors can be modified, and some can’t. The more cardiovascular risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop cardiovascular disease.

• Unmanaged high blood pressure causes your arteries to stiffen and thicken to defend against the abnormally high pressure inside them.
• Poor diet, like eating too many refined carbs, trans fats and processed foods, wreaks havoc with your blood glucose levels and creates inflammation in your arteries.
• Unmanaged diabetes creates high levels of blood glucose (blood sugar). At high levels, glucose is toxic to your arteries and capillaries.
• Smoking allows toxins like carbon monoxide and nicotine into your delicate lung tissue and bloodstream, damaging your arteries and all the tissues of your body.
• Being physically inactive causes you to lose muscle tone, promotes weight gain, weakens your heart and lungs, and makes your joints stiff and prone to injury.
• Obesity increases the workload of your heart and creates systemic inflammation. Childhood obesity has become an 

Healthy Heart Steps As you can see, it’s a good idea to take your cardiovascular health seriously. If you do, the chances are excellent that your heart and blood vessels will last you a long, healthy lifetime.

Here’s what you can do to prevent cardiovascular disease or stop it in its tracks:

Lose weight. When your weight is at a healthy level, you have a lowered risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, some forms of cancer and many other disorders and diseases.

Eat whole foods. Avoid eating “white foods” — white sugar, white flour, potatoes, white rice — and trans fats, found in commercial baked goods and fried fast foods. Instead, eat whole grains and lots of whole fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber and keep carbohydrates from breaking down too fast in your body. Choose lean proteins, like fish, lean meat and soy products, such as tempeh. Use olive oil for cooking and dressings. Nuts and seeds aren’t low calorie, but they contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation and improve your blood lipid profile.

Quit smoking. Just one year after quitting, risk of coronary heart disease is reduced to half that of a smoker. You’ll feel better, look better, smell better — and you’ll regain your sense of smell, too.

Be activeExercise not only lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease, it also reduces stress and helps prevent many other diseases, including cancer. Being physically active also regulates your metabolism, improves your body’s use of insulin, helps keep your weight normal and benefits blood pressure. If you really don’t like to exercise, there are plenty of others ways to get moving, like playing sports, dancing or taking the stairs.

Manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Both can damage blood vessels and cause heart disease if uncontrolled. If you have diabetes but control your blood glucose levels, you reduce your risk of having any cardiovascular disease event (such as a heart attack) by 42 percent. Know where you stand by having regular checkups and keeping track of your blood lipid levels and blood pressure readings.

Relax. For the sake of your health and happiness — particularly your cardiovascular health — make some form of relaxation a regular part of your daily schedule. When you relax, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to counter the effects of your sympathetic nervous system — if your sympathetic nervous system is an accelerator, then your parasympathetic nervous system is the brake. Cortisol levels drop and your heart rate slows, blood vessels dilate, breathing slows and deepens, and blood pressure drops to normal.

Oxytocin enhances this process. It acts as both a hormone and a neuropeptide, released from the bloodstream and also by nerve centers in the brain. Oxytocin triggers reactions that enhance your ability to de-stress and also to behave calmly in stressful situations. Not only does it immediately relieve stress symptoms, like high blood pressure, but it’s also been found have long-term calming effects — up to three weeks. Animal studies have revealed that the heart tissue has oxytocin receptors. Dopamine is a hormone and neuropeptide associated with pleasure and reward. Evidence has been found of dopamine receptors in the human heart as well — more evidence of the strong link between your brain and your heart.

There are many ways to relax. Meditation can be an adjustment at first, but continued practice will bring a sense of peace and joy that will carry over into your entire day. Meditation lowers levels of the “stress hormone,” cortisol. Meditation has also been found to lead to increases in the size of areas of the brain involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing and perspective taking.

Yoga and Tai Chi can relieve stress while improving your strength and flexibility. Aerobic exercise can be a great stress reliever. It’s been found to raise your brain’s levels of endorphins, natural opiates that are responsible for the “runner’s high.”








Treat yourself well. Your cardiovascular health is in your own hands!


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PHOTO (cc): Flickr / sbluerock

Weekly Health Tip: A Big Fat Question


Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com

After our recent post about the dangers of trans fats (Weekly Health Tip: Why Trans Fats Are the Bad Guys) , a reader named Merrymaven posed a very good question: How does one reverse the effects of trans fats? Those of us who ate margarine, commercial baked goods and other trans fat-laden foods before we knew how harmful they could be can certainly change our habits now. But what about the damage trans fats may have done already? There is some evidence that such damage can be improved. In a study in Italy, patients at high risk of heart attack or stroke followed the Mediterranean diet, which is high in olives and olive oil, fresh produce, healthy grains and fish, while another group followed a different diet. After two years, those on the Mediterranean diet had fewer signs of inflammation in their arteries. In a smaller but lengthy trial in the U.S., the Ornish Lifestyle Heart Trial, men with moderate to severe coronary artery disease followed an extremely low-fat vegetarian diet. They also participated in exercise and stress management programs, and other far-reaching lifestyle changes. A control group was taking medication to lower their blood lipids. After 5 years, the men who had changed their diet and lifestyle had decreased narrowing of their arteries. Those of the control group had worsened. It seems that changing our ways can have a real impact.

Now the big fat question is, What should I eat? There is no universally successful menu plan for perfect heart health just yet. Researchers have found evidence of improved cardiovascular health among study subjects who followed low carbohydrate diets, or low fat diets, or low calorie diets. Some common factors among the most successful plans are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and forgoing saturated and trans fats in favor of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats–including olive oil and other plant oils, nuts, seeds and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Beyond that, seek balance and variety among the foods you know are healthful. Diets that severely restrict certain food groups over long periods of time are hard to sustain. Keep reading nutrition labels and thinking carefully about what you put in your body, and get plenty of exercise. Such choices improve your odds of avoiding heart disease, no matter what choices you made in the past.

See how one person’s lifestyle makeover improved his health:

TheVisualMD.com: I Need a Miracle

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