You’ve heard over and over for the past fifty years that eating grains is the best way to avoid heart disease. But look what happened when millions of Americans followed this misguided dietary: rates of heart disease (and diabetes) have skyrocketed over 900 percent.
In other words, the massive shift to a grain-based diet has been a wholesale health disaster. That’s why I’d like to give you some advice on what you should really eat for lifelong heart health.
The USDA’s “food pyramid” says you should eat 6-11 servings of grain-based foods every day, including rice, pasta, bread, and cereal. The one thing all these foods have in common is that they’re starchy and high in carbohydrates.
Starchy, high-carb foods spike your blood sugar levels. This kicks your pancreas into gear, ramping up your blood insulin levels.
Insulin’s a hormone. It tells your body that the “eating is good” so it may as well start storing those excess calories – as fat. So the more insulin your body makes, the more fat your body stores. The more fat your body stores, the more pounds you pack on. The more pounds you pack on, the harder your heart has to work getting you up those stairs.
It’s not hard to see what this does to you over time. If you’re “spiking” with high-carb foods six to eleven times a day like the government tells you to, you’re doing some real damage to your health. And your heart’s the main victim.
This is a clinically proven fact. Researchers at Harvard recently looked into the effects of a grain-based, high-carbohydrate diet on heart health. It was the largest study of its kind ever, with the results published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. They tracked the eating habits of 80,000 women over the course of two decades. Their finding? Women who ate a low-carb diet cut their risk of heart disease by a whopping 30 percent.
This really shouldn’t come as such a surprise. All you have to do is imagine yourself as a pre-historic hunter-gatherer, 13,000 years ago, before humans figured out how to make grains into something edible.
If you saw a patch of wild berries, you’d eat them. If you came across a bunch of vegetables, a grove of nut-bearing or fruit trees, or a plant ripe with seeds, you’d eat those, too. And occasionally you’d enjoy a windfall of meat and fat from a successful hunt.
But if you came across a stand of wild wheat, what would you do? If you were lucky, you’d see some deer or antelope munching on it and go after them. But it wouldn’t occur to you to even try eating those wheat stalks. They’re indigestible, they have no flavor, and they’d just give you cramps – or worse. There’d be nothing appetizing about them.
For the vast majority of the millions of years human beings have roamed the earth, we’ve survived on meat, berries, seeds, aboveground vegetables, and seasonal fresh fruits – not grains. Our physiology evolved around this basic diet. And in evolutionary terms, the amount of time since we started eating grains is a blink of the eye.
The archaeological record shows that the modern epidemic of chronic diseases appeared at the same time we switched to a diet based on agriculture. The evidence for this cropped up in ancient burial mounds in the Illinois and Ohio River valleys – right in the middle of modern farm country.
Archaeologists looked at 800 skeletons of these native peoples and found that when corn became the staple of their diet, they also experienced a 50 percent increase in malnutrition, a four-fold increase in iron-deficiency, and a three-fold increase in infectious disease compared to their hunter-gatherer ancestors.
So what should you do about grains? As far as overall diet goes, stick to the foods our ancestors ate: lean meat, fresh fruit and produce, seeds, and nuts. Go for minimally processed foods –organic, free-range meat and poultry, wild-caught fish, and organic produce. Eat less carbs.
And when it comes to eating carbs, consult something called “the Glycemic Index.”
The Glycemic Index ranks foods on how rapidly they spike your blood sugar levels. They’re rated in percentage terms. So a food with a glycemic index of 50 percent will cause half of the rapid rise than pure natural sugar (GI rank: 100 percent).
Since you don’t want to spike your blood sugar levels, simply stick with foods with that rank low on the Glycemic Index.
Here’s a sample of common foods and their ranking:
Rapid Blood Sugar Producers
80-90% Corn flakes, Carrots, maltose, honey
70-79% Whole-grain bread, millet, white rice, new potatoes
Moderate Blood Sugar Producers
60-69% White bread, brown rice, shredded wheat cereal, bananas, raisins, Mars Bars
50-59% White spaghetti, sweet corn, All Bran cereal, peas, yams, sucrose, potato chips
40-49% Whole wheat spaghetti, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, navy beans, oranges, orange juice
Slow Blood Sugar Producers
30-39% Butter beans, black eyed peas, apples, ice cream, milk, yogurt, tomato soup
20-29% Kidney beans, lentils, fructose
10-19% Soybeans, peanuts
Adapted from Dynamic Nutrition for Maximum Performance (1997) by D. Gastelu, F. Hatfield
If you look at the table carefully, you can see that sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than potatoes, even though they’re “sweeter.”
You may also be surprised to see that:
- § Whole wheat bread raises blood sugar levels more than white bread.
- § Corn flakes raise blood sugar twice as much as orange juice.
- § You get more blood sugar from pasta than you do ice cream.
Pay attention to this chart. Reduce (drastically if you can) the amount of foods that score high. Substitute lower-scoring foods.
You’ll shed pounds, ramp up your energy levels, improve overall health – and avoid heart disease for life.
Dr. Al Sears has written over 500 articles and seven books in the fields of alternative medicine, anti-aging, and nutritional supplementation.
His book, The Doctor’s Heart Cure, is transforming the lives of men and women everywhere by providing a clinically-proven plan of breakthrough health secrets that helps you build a powerful, disease-free heart. To learn more about Dr. Sears and his book, The Doctor’s Heart Cure, click here.
Dr. Al Sears is fast becoming the nation's leading authority on longevity and heart health. His cutting edge breakthroughs and commanding knowledge of alternative medicine have been transforming the lives of his patients for over 15 years.
Dr. Sears currently owns and operates a successful integrative medicine and anti-aging clinic in Wellington, Florida with over 15,000 patients. Over the course of his career, he has developed his own approach to heart health, longevity and anti-aging medicine - combining the best of modern medical science with natural holistic techniques and treatments.