How Safe Is Your Heart From Attack? (Part II)

After the shock of what happened with our friend Noah, Chris and I took hard looks at our own genetic predispositions for heart disease. As I mentioned, both my parents have had bypass surgery, as well as Chris’s father. So we resolved to immediately begin eating in a more heart-healthy way.

Noah’s doctor recommended he read the The South BeachDiet by Arthur Agatston, M.D. I bought a copy and devoured it in only a couple of days (an amazing feat as I’m about the slowest reader on the planet). I found the information it contained really interesting!

I’d heard of the South Beach Diet (SBD) before, but since I’ve never been into what I perceived as “fad diets,” I hadn’t paid much attention to it. I figured it was some sort of body building trend for looking good on the beach. It seems I’m not the only one who had misconceptions about it. Many have mistakenly thought it was a low-carb, or low-fat, or even high-fat/high-protein diet.

None of these are accurate.

The diet’s creator, Dr. Agatston, is a cardiologist. He developed the diet back in 1995 specifically to help his cardiology patients improve their heart health. He lives in Southern Florida’s Miami Beach area (thus the diet’s name). After following his diet, his patients not only experienced, significant improvement in their blood chemistry and heart health, but they achieved phenomenal weight loss benefits as well. As a result, word quickly spread and the diet gained national attention.  

But bottom line, his diet started out all about the heart.

The SBD recalibrates the way your body responds to food, sugar in particular. You do this by going through the diet’s three phases, avoiding foods with a high glycemic index (high sugar!), and by:

1. Eating lean sources of protein (chicken, lean beef, fish, etc.)

2. Relying on “good” carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits and whole grains) and “good” fats (olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil)

3. Avoiding bad carbs and bad fats found in most processed foods like white bread and white rice, as well as pasta and potatoes.

Chris and I both wanted the heart health benefit, and he hoped to lose some weight, so we started the plan. For Chris, this diet wasn’t that much of a hardship. He’s a natural veggie lover. For me, on the other hand…well, I’m a sugar monster. I love dessert, donuts, pastries, chocolate. Oh mama, love me some chocolate! Ahem. Sorry, I digress. I figured if this diet actually removed my cravings for my beloved foods, well, that would be all right. I was doubtful, but decided to give it a try. I’ll post our progress periodically on the blog here.

In the meantime, through my SBD reading I discovered some unexpected foodie facts. I thought I’d share five of them with you today.

Five Heart Health Facts You Probably Never Heard Before

1. Starches such as white bread and white potatoes increase blood sugar levels faster than table sugar does. In fact eating a slice of white bread is worse for you than eating ice cream!

2. Immediately after eating a meal high in saturated fat, your arteries become predisposed to constriction and clotting. In essence, if the circumstances are right (or more accurately, wrong!) eating a high-saturated fat meal can actually trigger a heart attack.

3. Instant oatmeal is not a good choice! It’s too processed and thus has less fiber and more bad carbs. If you love oatmeal (Chris does, although I could never understand this), choose the slow-cooking kind and steel cut is the best.

4. Beer is not a good choice either! It’s made from maltose (maltodextrins), this sugar form increases blood sugar faster than any other type.

5. Most people who suffer heart attacks have average cholesterol levels! (It’s your ratio of LDL to HDL that plays a much more significant role.)

Have you ever tried the South Beach Diet? When thinking about your own health, how important do you think it is to pay attention to heredity?

Image by: Mostafa Zamani