I was discussing with a friend on how to attack his cholesterol through nutritional strategies and I started thinking of all the tips over the years that I’ve picked up on this topic. As I started rattling off foods and ideas it dawned on me that I was recommending the RBC program.
Once you have a powerful grip on the RBC lifestyle, I believe you’ll also have your best foot forward in the fight against “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and in boosting your “good cholesterol” (HDL). Also, I believe this to be one of the healthiest and highest fat burning ways to eat…so let’s get started.
First things first: eat clean foods in their natural state. This means that most of your diet should come from foods that look just like they did when they grew out of (or into) the earth. If all you did to fight fat and cholesterol was to focus on having a majority of everything you eat be a plant based food (plants meet this rule obviously better than any other foods) then you’d have an awesome game plan.
Let’s focus on some of the powerful fat fighting/cholesterol attacking foods:
Can carbs lower fat and cholesterol? You bet! Here’s another area where we’ve just gone wrong as a society. First fat was evil and bad, and then it was carbs. Well, I hope you’re still not living in that darkness. Just like fats, carbs are very important for a healthy diet and a crucial part of the RBC; however, the type of carbs you eat is what really matters. The RBC does not recommend a “low carb diet” but rather a “slow carb diet.” What this means is focus on foods that digest slowly. How do you know if a carb digests slowly without doing research on everything you eat? Think FIBER (fiber is a carbohydrate)!
That’s right; high fiber foods are the best. If it has lots of fiber and is low in sugar then that fiber will slow the digestion of the carbs and help your body avoid insulin and blood sugar spikes (and crashes). High fiber foods are ones that usually take a while to chew up, therefore giving us a chance to realize we’re full (good for fat loss) and fiber, soluble especially, has been shown over and over as a cholesterol fighting champion. Also, high fiber foods that are “live” such as vegetables are usually our best source. If most our diet came from vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts and some whole grains we’d be doing awesome.
A few plant based foods have gotten a bad image over the years it seems, but while I hear things about certain fruits and vegetables being bad for this or that, it’s amazing how simple sugars, artificial sweeteners, and highly processed foods still keep sneaking their way into our diets. My friend was eating a “healthy breakfast smart bar” every morning. When I looked at the label, I couldn’t find hardly one thing on there that I knew what it was. The stuff I did recognize were bad fats, simple sugars, a low fiber content and yet because it only had a couple hundred calories and said “smart and healthy” on the label, he fell for it. All of that processed crap is way worse than any piece of fruit or vegetable.
With that being said, here are some of the big dawgs in the fiber arena (best for fat loss and cholesterol lowering):
Vegetables: There are just too many to list! A diet consisting of a variety of colorful veggies is one that increases fiber, fullness and health. This leads to more energy, less bodyfat and lower cholesterol. Everything from kale, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes and romaine make for a powerful serving of fiber and health. If you’re not sure if you should eat it but it’s a vegetable, you’re probably fine! This list could go on for quite a while. Buy organic whenever possible.
If you’ve struggled getting veggies into your diet, start small. Try getting a big head of romaine or spinach and just get through that one bushel through out the week. Over time, add more variety and color. The more the better here and portion sizes are not important when it comes to non-starchy veggies. With vegetables like sweet potatoes and yams, just stick to the size of your fist for a serving.
Beans: You can’t go wrong having some of these in every meal you can. (This includes all kinds of beans, chickpeas and lentils.) Beans have more potassium than bananas, have a decent portion of protein, are loaded with vitamins and fiber, and to top it off, they’re cheap. So eat some beans for every meal. They really are the magical fruit!
Fruits: For cholesterol and blood sugar reasons some fruits may be better than others and (once again) they’re all better than processed carbs, but here are some of the heavy hitters:
Berries (snack on these and add them to your raw milk or Greek yogurt; high in fiber; make sure to try and get organic with these whenever possible as they tend to be a big sponge with pesticides)
Guava (powerful antioxidants and great source of fiber)
Cherries (Eat these post workout or for dessert as a special treat that is delicious and crazy healthy; also best when organic)
Kiwi (works like aspirin as a blood thinner and has twice as much vitamin C as oranges)
Avocados (more potassium than bananas, high in healthy/essential fats and they help block cholesterol)
Apples, grapes, grapefruit, dates, coconuts, and on and on…
Note: For blood sugar, insulin and/or diabetes concerns just eat these in moderation and check out the glycemic load of your favorite fruits to see if you should avoid them or not. And yes, fruits have sugar, so don’t sit around slamming fistfuls of grapes and oranges all day, but instead, enjoy as a snack between meals or a small serving with some Greek yogurt to fix a sweet tooth.
Whole Grains and Live Grain: Quinoa (have you tried this yet?), Oatmeal and Brown Rice (in moderation) are best. Also, for a great live food that falls in this grain category, try sprouted grains. In the freezer section of your health food store you can find sprouted whole grain breads and tortillas. These are minimally processed, are loaded with nutrition and are high in fiber and very low in sugar. Do stick to proper serving sizes on all whole grains and live grains.
Make sure to avoid “quick” oats and rice as these are junk. If they cook fast then they metabolize fast (remember: sloooow carbs, ok!). Most breads, pastas and white colored carbs are NOT part of the RBC program because of their glycemic load (rise in blood sugar and insulin) and this is true with “whole wheat” bread vs. white bread, almost all cereals, and even brown rice vs. white rice (hence why even brown rice should be used in moderation). Processed breads, pastas, and cereals will never have any comparison to that of non-starchy vegetables when it comes to low calorie, high fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Within the grain category, the RBC program recommends a fist size serving because while the above listed foods are great for you, the calories can still add up, but that doesn’t mean to avoid them. A cup of oatmeal every day can go quite a ways at filling you up and hammering on some bad (LDL) cholesterol at the same time. These foods tend to do better for people earlier in the day, as you’ll be needing the energy they provide, but start cutting back on them in the afternoon. By the time an afternoon or evening workout comes around you’ll have the energy you need in your system from the carbs you ate earlier, and by bedtime it’s not like you need a whole lot of energy to sleep, so stay away from them at that time.
Finally, if you really can’t go without a bowl of cereal or a slice of bread, shoot for low sugar and high fiber (again). Here’s a generic rule we shoot for in our house when it comes to things in boxes and bags: at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. An occasional slice of toast or high fiber cereal is much better than you denying all your cravings and ending up at Dairy Queen in the middle of the night. I’ve never done that, but I’ve heard of people who have ;-). Also, as these carbs are a little quicker in their digestion, so shoot for one of these (if you must) right before or after a workout as they can be used as quick energy and/or recovery. …stick to portion sizes and do NOT rely on these for your main source of energy/carbs. The high fiber, live foods listed above do a much better job and provide much better nutrition too.
That’s it for today. Tune in next time for Part 2 where we’ll focus on proteins, fats and other fun foods!