Monday, June 16, 2014

ALL the Vegetables and a Bit of Meat

Is it weird that I'm excited to go to the doctor for my yearly general check-up?  Well, not so much the check-up itself but rather the blood work.  I wanted to see the results of my last 4 months of nutritional experiments.  Last February I started cutting out wheat, grains, and all other extraneous carbs from my diet and increased the healthy fats and at the start of May I increased the vegetables.  These days I'm all about the vegetables.  Lots and lots of vegetables.  Vegetables with my vegetables.  Covered in lots of lovely fat.  Healthy fats of course.  Cream sauces, sprinkles of cheese, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, butter.   Mmmmmmm butter.  ALL the butter.  I've also managed to introduce some fish into my diet - wild caught salmon and some shrimp and scallops.  Even had some red meat for the first time in 30 years.  That took some bravery because I'd read that you lose your ability to digest red meat after several years of giving it up and indeed I had gotten sick once from a 'friend' inviting me to dinner and feeding me ground beef in the lasagna without telling me.  Even though he knew I was a vegetarian.  Thankfully I figured it out pretty quickly and didn't eat too much but my boyfriend, also a vegetarian, gobbled loads of it down and was sick as a dog, throwing up all night.  And I have another vegetarian friend who gets sick to the point of throwing up if he has meat.  So I was hesitant.  It's taken me years to work up the nerve.

Last week the local grocery had grass fed sirloin on sale for $6.99 a lb, about half the cost of wild caught salmon on sale, and I finally felt good about taking the plunge.  I bought 5 oz and cut it in half for my first try.  Fasted until lunch so I was good and hungry and looked up how to cook sirloin on the internets.  Good old internets.  Did some re-framing about how healthy this stuff is for me and how I'm going to feel good after eating it.  Mixed it in with a nice big salad so the majority of food was something I felt comfortable with.  And it actually tasted sort of, kind of good.  When I was done I put it out of my mind so I wouldn't mentally make myself sick.  And I was totally fine.  Phew!  The second piece a few days later did cause a little bit of G.I. issues but nothing too serious.  Yay!  I didn't have the red meat until after my blood work so it didn't effect the results.

Anyway, back to the lab work.  I was expecting to see triglycerides go down from last year and they did, from 61 mg/dL to 42 mg/dL, a huge improvement (normal range is 35-135), very happy about that.  Having low triglycerides is a very very very good thing.  Was a little concerned that bad cholesterol (LDL) would go up which they did by 2 points but they went up to 68 mg/dL which is still 2 points below the normal range of 70-100 mg/dL.  And non-high density lipoprotein actually went down from 78 to 76 mg/dL which is also well below the normal range of 90-129.  HDL (good cholesterol) remained the same at 68 mg/dL with normal being 40-95.  Overall LDL/HDL risk stayed the same at 0.4 with normal being 0.2-1.0.  The point being that lots of healthy fats, even saturated animal fats which I mostly have in the form of dairy (eggs, butter, cheese, cream, full fat yogurt, sour cream) do not necessarily give you high cholesterol as long as you eat keep the carbs low and don't eat processed food/sugar and eat lots of vegetables.  IOW, lots of plants, plenty of good healthy fats, little to no processed food, sugar or grains, healthy whole foods that don't come out of a box works pretty well.  At least for me.  Of course we're all experiments of one but this result does fit with much of the current research.

All other blood work was pretty awesome as well-protein, creatinine, hemoglobin, glucose (74 mg/dL with 70-100 being normal).  Vitamin D was 59.9 ng/mL with 30-100 being normal.  Thank you Colorado sunshine.  My weight is good too, 118.6 lbs at 5'-4 1/4" (about what I weighed when I was on the track team in high school) puts my BMI at 20.2 with normal being 18.5-25.9.  I won't bore the internets with any more details than that.

Time Magazine just published a cover story called, 'Ending the War on Fat', and the cover features a plea to, 'Eat Butter'.  And while I'm happy that we're finally having a national discussion about the wrong-headed vilification of healthy fats I also worry that Americans will miss the point without the equally important message about the harm of processed foods, grains, sugar, etc.  You can't eat lots of fat and lots of carbs and sugar and processed food.  The message here is not to start spreading loads of butter on your oversized blueberry muffin.  Or to start chopping loads of bacon into your pancake batter.  It's important to take the wide view when looking at nutrition.  What does your total diet look like?  And if you look at the diets of the current leading voices in nutrition - not typical doctors and registered dieticians but folks who are on the front lines of actually helping people.  Folks who've healed themselves with nutrition.  Whether they're promoting paleo or low carb/high fat or ketosis or even veganism the common theme is loads of vegetables with healthy fats thrown in (and supplements if you're vegan).  The bulk of the meal is veggies and the meats and/or fats are the side dish.  I laughed hearing one paleo guy saying his diet was 70% vegan while discussing with a vegan friend the big similarities between their diets.  I don't fall into any particular camp, I'm all about whatever foods and percentages of macro-nutrients work for a particular individual.  Quibbling over the details as many in these camps do is pointless in the face of the huge health crisis the world faces (and this problem is global).  Hopefully the Time article will have people re-thinking and overhauling their diets or at least becoming interested and looking into the research and experimenting for themselves.  After all everybody deserves to feel so good that they look forward to their yearly physical.

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