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Biggest bang for your nutritional buck

Posted Aug 24 2008 5:44pm

Judging by the conversations here, in the Track Your Plaque Forums, and elsewhere, it's clear that many people are searching for the perfect diet.

Should we reconsider the role of saturated fat? Are there fractions of fatty acids in saturated fat that are more or less harmful? How about the role of fats on cancer risk? How about the role of proteins like casein on cancer risk? Are there flavonoid sources, or combinations of flavonoids, that yield outsized health benefits? Is there a ceiling for omega-3 fatty acid supplementation? Is there a role for linolenic acid sources in cardiovascular disease prevention? And on and on.

All important issues, to be sure, ones that we've all zig-zagged through over the past 30 years.

I also see patients every day, however, who are not interested in micro-managing their diet. Their goals are less ambitious: lose 20 lbs, feel good, raise HDL, reduce triglycerides and small LDL, all while meeting all the other responsibilities in their lives, like children, spouses, maintaining a household and jobs.

So, if your interest is not to consider whether we should distinguish myristic acid sources from palmitic, or if epigallocatechin is better when combined with quercetin, then the biggest bang from your nutritional buck can come from one single strategy:

Eliminate wheat flour products

Secondarily, avoiding corn starch products and "goodies" (candy, fruit juices, fruit drinks, cookies, potato chips, etc.--you know what they are) is important, as well.

It means weighing your diet more heavily in favor of vegetables and fruits; lean meats; healthy oils; and raw nuts and seeds, all in unlimited quantities . Dairy products should be limited, however, because of sugar effects.

Of course, this advice clearly contradicts the pronouncements of the USDA Food Pyramid (6-8 servings of grains per day), the American Heart Association, and the diabetes-causing American Diabetes Association diabetic diets.

But, follow this approach, a diet strategy that appears too simple to be effective, and the majority of people lose dramatic amounts of weight, raise HDL, reduce triglycerides, reduce small LDL, reduce C-reactive protein and other inflammatory measures, reduce blood pressure, and raise self-esteem.

It's also a lot easier than it sounds (after habits are broken) because the appetite stimulating effect of wheat is removed. Many, if not most, people also experience increased energy, including elimination of the afternoon "slump," improved sleep, less mood swings, less intestinal problems.

It may not be perfect, but if your interest is to get the most with a modest amount of effort, it works like a charm for the majority of people.

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