Healthy Fats

Why Fat is Good For You

Sugars and fats have been under scrutiny for what seems like forever. For the last 40 years, the idea that fats had a bigger impact on health compared to sugar was the consensus, until recently. We now know that fat is very healthy, and is actually necessary for optimal health.

Now that fats have gained much earned popularity, there should be more of a discussion about what is a good fat versus what is a bad fat. This is truly important because our bodies need fat, but not all fats are equal. Certain classes of fats can be unhealthy. Trans fats can contribute to a buildup of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the bloodstream, the kind that can contribute to heart disease. Also, fats like canola, corn and soybean oil have been shown to contribute to inflammation so you want to avoid these at all costs. Certain healthy saturated fats play a role in keeping healthy levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decreasing the risk of heart disease.

These beneficial fats include:

Avocado Oil / Avocados
Macadamia nuts
Coconut Oil
Olive Oil
Pasture raised beef and poultry
Organic, pasture raised eggs
Wild caught salmon, sardines, and herring
Chia seeds
Hemp seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Flax seeds / Flaxseed Oil

All of these foods have a healthier fat content, naturally. Good quality nuts, seeds, and animal proteins should come from healthy sources using sustainable and organic methods. It is also important to eat organic whenever possible because these foods have higher nutrient profiles and grow without the use of harmful pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs or steroids.

Olive and avocado oil, both omega-9 fatty acids, are common cooking and dressing oils that are among the healthier fats. Their monounsaturated fat content has been shown to help with reducing inflammation and supporting heart health. These oils are great for sautéing at medium heat and for creating dressings for salads and vegetables. Avoid frying at high temperatures with these because it can destroy all the beneficial nutrients they have. Always look for extra virgin and organic.

Flaxseed oil, derived form flax seeds, is a wonderful source of plant based, omega-3 fatty acids. It boasts a plethora of benefits contributing to healthy skin and hair, and aiding in the reduction of inflammation. Flaxseed oil is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the only omega-3 that is found in plants. Other plant sources of ALA include hemp seeds, flax and walnuts. Always choose organic and cold pressed. This oil should only be used cold, never heated.

Like olive and avocado oil, coconut oil is high in compounds that can lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. It is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCT) and high in beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. It’s one of the best for high temperature cooking because it tolerates heat well and the nutrients don't oxidize as easily, making it very stable. Coconut oil, taken in its raw form by the teaspoon, can be a quick source of energy for your body. It contains anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, as well as anti-viral. Coconut oil can be used as a great skin and hair moisturizer, too. When purchasing coconut oil, look for organic and extra virgin.

Humanely raised meats come from animals that are raised and fed properly, on pastures, without the use of steroids or antibiotics. This creates a much healthier animal. Animals that are raised in stressful environments have altered metabolisms because of the stress hormones that their bodies consistently produce. This changes the nutrient profile of the meat, including the fat. Sustainable farming practices where animals are allowed to roam freely creates a more natural environment for the animal to grow and develop before harvesting.

Consuming good fats and vegetables as a large part of your diet is vital for good health. In addition to the benefits mentioned, fats play a very important role in hormone production and metabolism. So it turns out that eating fat doesn't make you fat after all. All the more reason to add these delicious and healthy options to your daily diet and lifestyle.

Magnesium rich foods

Magnesium - Why It's So Important

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals that is used by the human body for many functions. Although it seems like a simple nutrient to obtain through food, many individuals are actually deficient. The benefits of a balanced level of magnesium are many but, unfortunately low levels of magnesium can contribute to a plethora of symptoms that can be linked to several health issues.

Even more concerning is the deficit of magnesium in people who have elevated stress levels. High stress, can activate the fight-or-flight thus depleting B vitamins and important minerals, such as magnesium. This in turn can also alter digestive and immune function, further preventing the absorption of magnesium.

Magnesium is responsible for supporting bowel regularity, aiding in the absorption of calcium, supporting the heart muscle and helping to regulate blood sugar levels. Without magnesium these functions would be severely impaired.

A few signs you may be deficient in magnesium:

  • Muscle cramps / tight muscles
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Headaches & migraines
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
  • Elevated stress levels
  • Blood sugar fluctuations
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings/ Depression

The need for magnesium can increase due to extended periods of high stress, malabsorption and autoimmune disorders. Magnesium is also an essential component in many of the brain’s functions.

Magnesium rich foods include:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds and almond butter
  • Seaweed
  • Leafy greens
  • Chocolate (cocoa powder, unsweetened)
  • Flax seeds

In addition,  magnesium deficiency can be treated through supplementation. The body can benefit greatly from this as you can take calculated amounts without having to estimate how much you might be getting from food in order to meet your daily intake.

The benefits of a balanced diet is important. However, measuring the amounts of nutrients you're getting through your diet can be validated through further testing. Consider getting your magnesium levels checked by your healthcare practitioner. Once that has been determined, the type of magnesium that is needed can be chosen, dependent on your specific needs. Exploring this with your medical practitioner may, in fact, make a tremendous difference in your health.

People doing yoga for exercise

Neurological Benefits of Exercise

Your body was meant to move. Your body is an energy burning machine. Our cooling systems were developed to run long distances, our muscle fibers can be built to handle incredible weight, and our minds become sharpened by the consistent work that our bodies do. Maintaining a habit for exercise clearly helps your body and your brain in many ways.

1.  Exercise works out your brain.
The brain is a muscle just like the rest of the body, but it has specific areas in charge of information processing and bodily functions. For example, the front part of the brain is the frontal cortex, which is responsible for the reasoning that humans use to make rational decisions. The rational decision to exercise following a good night’s rest is an example of the first part of the brain’s exercise. The neurons inside your brain create a command to send through the electrical impulse pathway that is the central nervous system to activate the muscle fiber. The muscle fiber contracts and the joints move in concert with the brain’s eye coordination. With exercise, the brain is literally utilizing the pathways created to move the muscles. Like a muscle in your arm, if it is not used, it is generally not maintained, as the body will not commit resources to it. So, exercise maintains the pathways and strengthens the brain. Consistent exercise can increase the amount of gray matter in the brain, which is the general term used for brain tissue.

2.  Exercise increases the efficacy of neuroplasticity.
Picture the brain as a network of neural pathways, each pathway is a road for a potential electrical impulse to travel as it performs its function within the body. These pathways are vast, and connections and intersections exist in every portion of the brain. Neuroplasticity is the idea that, if there is an injury in the brain, and part of the brain cannot function correctly, the brain will heal and alternately find other neural pathways to send the message it needs to. Through neuroplasticity, the brain will deliberately identify “detours” with which the electrical impulse can travel through the body and mind, completing its function. These detours allow the body to function, but using different neurological pathways, and exercise is the active processing of more pathways. Neuroplasticity is evident in patients who suffer from spinal injury that recover and are able to move again. The body and mind are relearning the way to move, including the development of new pathways where electrical impulses can move and a brain’s commands can be sent.

3.  Exercise prevents some serious neurological damage from occurring.
Consistent cardio improves the overall blood flow in our bodies. The vascular system consist of the pathways where our body moves the nutrients and energy that is used to maintain all of our bodily functions. If our body’s neurological pathways were an electrical and communications grid, the blood vessels and arteries would be the roadways that move the steel, the fiber optic wire, and the laborers that build the grid. Consistent exercise maintains those blood vessels and arteries, or roadways.

Common high risk injuries to brain tissue and neurological function are clogged arteries and blood vessels, whether through a blood clot or plaque building up from excess bad cholesterol. Exercise can help improve vascular health and reduce the risk of stroke.

Exercise, when varied and including cardio and weight training, can produce a host of other mental, neurological, and cognitive benefits. It is not a magical cure-all, but when combined with an integrated lifestyle, often improves your entire well being. Consider all of the benefits of exercise, and physical activity, and feel the improvement that can benefit your life through a good workout.

Heart Test

This Little-Known Test Could Save Your Life

Sean E. Heerey ND, MA, CCC/SLP

Lipoprotein(a) and Heart Disease
According to the CDC, Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Close to 610,000 thousand people die of heart disease every year. The most common type of heart disease is Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), which kills over 370,000 people a year.

Elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking are all known risk factors for heart disease. Almost half of all Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Obesity and diabetes are additional risk factors.

A standard cholesterol panel, e.g., total cholesterol, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“good” cholesterol) and triglycerides can give some valuable information, but does not tell the whole story about your true risk of heart disease and stroke. Almost 50 % of heart attack patients have normal LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

There is another lesser known test called Lipoprotein(a), Lp(a), that can potentially save your life. Lp(a) is a blood lipoprotein with a lipid composition similar to LDL cholesterol.

A 2013 article in the Journal of Internal Medicine, stated that based on genetic evidence provided by studies conducted over the last two decades, Lp(a) is currently considered to be the strongest genetic risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD).

A 2016 article stated that high Lp(a) values also represent an independent risk factor for stroke (which is more relevant in younger stroke patients), peripheral artery disease (PAD) and hardening of your heart valves.

Additionally, high Lp(a) levels seem to be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events in patients with chronic kidney disease. Statin drugs, which can lower total cholesterol and LDL, do not decrease Lp(a) concentrations significantly.
Fortunately, naturopathic doctors combine advanced laboratory testing and analysis with individualized treatment recommendations to uncover and manage an individual’s risk for heart disease.

Some ways to lower the inflammation caused by Lp(a):

1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids- This is fish oil. Take 2-3 grams per day.

2. Vitamin C and L-lysine in high doses can be helpful. This therapy was recommended by Dr. Linus Pauling.

3. Restrict eating processed foods, grains and sugar in your diet.

These are just a few tips to get you started, but please work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive plan to lower your cardiovascular risk.

Please consult with your health care professional before beginning any supplement regimen or dietary plan. This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information.