Is the Beyond Meat Burger Good for You?

Is the Beyond Meat Burger Good for You?

What is the Beyond Meat Burger?

Vegan eating seems to be more and more prevalent these days.  Most people go vegan for health reasons whether it is to lose weight or decrease inflammation and then the few who just don’t want to eat meat.  What’s funny is that even though vegans and vegetarians want to avoid meat, they still want burgers.  Go figure.  Before you judge, I am not against vegan or vegetarian eating.  In fact I think it could be helpful in reducing inflammation and healing people who are chronically sick.  None of us eat enough vegetables, so this style of eating would force more vegetables into the diet.  However, does that mean that processed food, even though it is vegan, is good for you?  Let’s continue…

A brand called “Beyond Meat” has developed a burger that is being touted as tasting just like a real burger!  Although they are not claiming any health benefits by eating their burger, according to Harvard Health Publications, vegetarians believe that they are healthier by avoiding meat.1 Is that necessarily true?  Can you eat this meatless burger without any health consequences?  Let’s breakdown these ingredients and see!

Beyond Meat: The Beyond Burger ingredients: Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Water, Yeast Extract, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors, Gum Arabic, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Succinic Acid, Acetic Acid, Non-GMO Modified Food Starch, Cellulose From Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Beet Juice Extract (for color), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Annatto Extract (for color), Citrus Fruit Extract (to maintain quality), Vegetable Glycerin.

OK!  Seems like a lot of effort and ingredients to get a burger versus beef, and I’m a believer that less is more.  Now, let’s see what the purpose and function is of each ingredient in regards to food.

The Ingredients: Broken Down

Pea protein isolate: an almost complete protein that is the main source of protein in the product.1

Expeller pressed canola oil: Canola oil is extracted from rapeseed, a plant in the cabbage family.  Adds fat and texture.2

Refined coconut oil: extracted from coconuts then bleached and deodorized to eliminate flavor and smell.  Used for fat and texture.3

Water: colorless and odorless substance.  Used for moisture.

Yeast extract: Hydrolyzed yeast containing free glutamates. Also known as monosodium glutamate (MSG).  Flavor enhancer.4

Maltodextrin: white powder derived from corn, rice, potato starch or wheat.  Used as a thickener or filler.5

Natural flavors: The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.6

Gum Arabic: This is a complex polysaccharide (carbohydrate).  Used for fiber and texture.7

Sunflower oil: An omega-6 oil derived from sunflower seeds.  Used for texture and preservative.8

Salt: flavor enhancer and preservative.

Succinic Acid: A colorless crystal with an acid taste.  Used in perfume esters. Used in food as a buffer and neutralizing agent.9

Acetic Acid: A product of ethanol.  Used as an antibacterial and counterirritant.10 Gives products a vinegar type flavor.

Non-GMO Modified Food Starch: Usually developed from corn.  Used as a stabilizer in food providing desirable texture, consistency and storage ability.11

Cellulose from Bamboo: Obtained by bleaching and chemically treating bamboo.  Used as a stabilizer, fiber and for texture.12

Methylcellulose: Derived from a plant origin.  Used to add bulk to the product and is not digested.13

Potato Starch: Derived from potatoes.  Used as a binder.14

Beet juice extract (for color): Derived from beets. Used as food coloring and sweetener.15

Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color): Commonly used as a preservative.  In this case to maintain color.16

Annatto Extract (for color): Extracted from annatto seed.  Used for color.17

Citrus fruit extract (to maintain quality): Extract from citrus.  Used as a preservative.18

Vegetable Glycerin: Made from vegetable oils during production of soap or biodiesel.  May be used as a thickener or wetting agent.19

How Good are They for You to Consume?

I’ve laid out the unbiased research of what the ingredients are, so now let’s take a look and see how healthy these ingredients are to consume.

Pea protein isolate: This is an allergen-free protein that is lactose, egg and meat-free.  Often consumed by vegetarians and those with allergies.  Pea protein has a mostly complete amino acid profile and has been shown to be just as effective when compared to whey protein for increasing muscle mass.1, 20

Expeller pressed canola oil: This is an oil that is highly advertised as being heart healthy, and may be acceptable if non-GMO and organic. However, you should know this oil is highly processed and higher in erucic acid than most other oils.  More recent and older studies show that canola oil can cause heart issues, inflammation and lower vitamin E which is an effective antioxidant.  Despite the positive health claims, studies show that consuming this oil can be harmful to your health.21

Refined coconut oil: Coconut oil has recently taken some heat by the press and American Heart Association as a possible risk factor to heart disease.  Despite the minimal research and empty claims, coconut oil has been shown to reduce inflammation and decrease body fat.22,23 All that said, refined coconut oil comes in many forms and this product does not specify how it is made.  Also, burgers are usually grilled at temperatures above 450 degrees, the point at which refined coconut oil burns and could become toxic.24

Yeast extract: Despite what most online bloggers say, and even I am against the use of MSG because of how I feel and have seen others feel, there is no scientific evidence of MSG causing symptoms.  While some people do have symptoms follow consumption of MSG, at this time the literature does not support it.

Maltodextrin: Is relatively safe depending on where it is derived.  It does however, spike blood sugar as it is a polysaccharide and has a glycemic load higher than table sugar.26 Therefore, I would not deem it safe especially for those who have blood sugar management issues.

Natural flavors: We really don’t know what is being used as a “natural flavor”.  Some flavors can induce food cravings and others can be hiding another flavor.  While there are no direct links to health issues, consumers really don’t know what is being used so they are best to be avoided.27

Gum Arabic: This carbohydrate is a mixture of polysaccharides, oligosaccharides and glycoproteins.  Gum Arabic has been shown to decrease body fat.7  However, those with gut issues specifically SIBO, could find that this ingredient will irritate the gut because of the different saccharides.

Sunflower oil: Like canola oil, this oil is high in omega-6’s which have been shown to be inflammatory2,8 and consumers don’t always know the source of the seed used which could be a health concern.

Salt: This could be a health concern depending on your current state of cardiovascular health.

Succinic Acid: This additive is regarded as safe as long as the amount used in food in in accordance to the FDA.9 Like some other additives, this is a chemically derived substance for consumption.

Acetic Acid: Regarded as generally safe.

Non-GMO Modified Food Starch: Regarded as safe.  However, the process in which this starch is made involves chemicals and bleaching.  So, this is a highly processed starch.

Cellulose from Bamboo: This is primarily a fiber and therefore generally safe to eat.

Methylcellulose: Although regarded as safe for consumption, it does act as a laxative and could cause digestive distress.28

Potato Starch: Generally safe.  Potato starch is a resistant starch and could be good for improving gut health through feed good bacteria.29

Beet juice extract (for color): While beet juice extract has potential health benefits,30 beet juice extract for color is basically harmless and has no impact on health in this product.

Ascorbic Acid: is a form of vitamin C and is generally safe.  Having too much of this ingredient could cause digestive distress.31

Annatto Extract: Although just a food coloring, there are some reports of this product causing irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and rare cases of anaphylaxis.32,33 In general, I would avoid unnatural food coloring.

Citrus fruit extract: As a preservative, this is nothing more than an antioxidant to prevent rancidity.34 It is regarded as safe.

Vegetable Glycerin: Generally safe although because it is a sugar alcohol could elicit gastric issues such as diarrhea, bloating or nausea.19

Final Thoughts

Beyond Meat has developed a vegan option for those who want to avoid meat in their diet.  They have released what’s called the Beyond Burger as a viable option.  While this product is vegan friendly, I have some reservations about the ingredients.  Most of the ingredients are highly processed and chemically treated.

Although the FDA regards most of these ingredients as generally safe, I have reservations when it comes to any product containing so many processed ingredients.  While they are generally safe individually, we need to think about the combined load of the products.  What are the health effects when all of these processed ingredients are consumed at one time?  Can the body handle the processing of so many chemically produced ingredients?  Other than the pea protein, the top 5 ingredients are highly refined and processed and have been shown to cause a negative reaction in the body according to the studies I’ve referenced.

That said, I would not recommend this product as a viable alternative to beef burgers.  There are no issues with being a vegan or vegetarian.  As a practitioner, I think it can be very helpful in reducing inflammation and living a healthier lifestyle.  Therefore, I recommend adhering to that lifestyle and eating real food within the guidelines of the vegetarian diet.  If one day you want a burger, I recommend eating the real thing as it will be healthier for you than this chemically made food.


Picture Source:

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  1. Expeller-Pressed RBD Canola Oil. Pacific Coast Canola. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. What is Refined Coconut Oil? Coconut Oil Facts Website. Updated July 27, 2017. Accessed August 2, 2017.
  1. Questions and Answers on Monosodium glutamate (MSG). U.S. Food & Drug Admin Website. Published November 19, 2012.  Accessed August 3, 2017.

5.     Is Maltodextrin Bad for Your Health? Authority Nutrition Website. Accessed August 3, 2017.

  1. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. U.S. Food & Drug Admin Website. Published April 1, 2016.  Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Babiker R, Merghani TH, Elmusharaf K, Badi RM, Lang F, Saeed AM. Effects of gum Arabic ingestion on body mass index and body fat percentage in healthy adult females: two-arm randomized, placebo controlled, double-blind trial. Nutrition Journal. 2012;11:111. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-111.
  1. The Shocking Truth About Sunflower Oil. U.S. News & World Report. Published January 3, 2014. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database; CID=1110, Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database; CID=176, Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Lanciers S, Mehta DI, Blecker U, Lebenthal E. The Role of modified food starches in baby food. J Lab State Med Soc. June 1997;149(6):211-4.
  1. Zhang J, Song H, Lin L, Zhuang J, Pang C, Liu S. Microfibrillated cellulose from bamboo pulp and its properties. Biomass and Bioenergy. April 2012;39:78-83.
  1. Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Methylcellulose. U.S. Food & Drug Admin website. Published 1973. Updated October 15, 2015. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Potato Starch and Derivatives. Food Processing- Technology website. Published January 30, 2014. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Beet (betacyanins, Betanins, Betalalains). The Colour House website. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Home Canning: Ensuring High-Quality Canned Foods. National Center for Home Food Preservation website. Updated February 2, 2017. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. U.S. Food & Drug Admin website. Updated April 1, 2016. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. GRAS Notices; GRN No. 475. U.S. Food & Drug Admin website. Published May 8, 2014. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Glycerin (Glycerol). Nutrients Review website. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Babault N, Paizis C, Deley G, Guerin-Deremaux L, Saniez M, Lefranc-Millot C, Allaert F. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. January 2015; 12:3.
  1. Fallon S and Enig M. The Great Con-ola. The Weston A. Price Foundation website. Published July 2002. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. St-Onge MP and Bosarge A. Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. Am J Clin Nutr.March 2008; 87(3), 621-626.
  1. Intahphuak, P. Khonsung & A. Panthong. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2010;48(2).
  1. Cooking Oils: Which One When, and Why? University of Rochester Medical Center website. Published June 15, 2015. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Williams AN and Woessner KM. Monosodium glutamate ‘allergy’: menace or myth?. Clin Exp Allergy. May 2009;39(5):640-6.  doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2009.03221.x.
  1. Chronakis IS. On the molecular characteristics, compositional properties, and structural-functional mechanisms of altodextrin: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. Oct 1998;38(7):599-637. DOI:1080/10408699891274327.
  1. Woerner A. What are natural flavors, really? CNN. January 14, 2015. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  1. Hamilton JW, Wagner J, Burdick BB, Bass P. Clinical evaluation of methylcellulose as a bulk laxative. Dig Dis Sci. August 1988;33(8):993-8.
  1. Grabitske HA & Slavin JL. Gastrointestinal effects of low‐digestible carbohydrates. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. April 2009;49(4):327-60.
  1. Clifford T, Howatson G, West DJ, Stevenson EJ. The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease. Nutrients. 2015;7(4):2801-2822. doi:10.3390/nu7042801.
  1. Ascorbic Acid. MedlinePlus: U.S. National Library of Medicine website. Updated October 1, 2010.  Accessed August 4, 2017.
  1. Nish WA, Whisman BA, Goetz DW, Ramirez DA. Anaphylaxis to annatto dye: a case report. Ann Allergy. February 1991;66(2):129-31.
  1. Floch MH. Annatto, diet and the irritable bowel syndrome. J Clin Gastroenterol. December 2009;43(10):905-6.
  1. Rehman Z. Citrus peel extract- A natural source of antioxidant. Food Chem. 2006;99(3):450-454.
Is Organic Food Worth It?

Is Organic Food Worth It?

Is It Worth the Extra Money to Get Organic Food?

This article is going to help you save money and eat organic when necessary!  There is always a lot of talk about whether we should buy organic at a higher price or save money and buy non-organic groceries. Why spend extra when you can save on regularly cropped foods?

Well, you don’t have to buy all organic.  Although I highly recommend you do if you can.

The good news is that we have advocates and one of the biggest is the Environmental Working Group.  The Environmental Working Group is an independent, non-profit organization who’s mission is to “use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.” They use research to bring to light public health concerns such as pesticides on our crops and the damage it can do to our bodies.

The Dirty Dozen

Many of us don’t know what we should buy organic and what we can buy non-organic, so the EWG compiled a list of foods that are safe to eat non-organic and a list of foods that need to be bought organic based on pesticide levels. They call this list The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15.

The Dirty Dozen consists of foods most highly contaminated by pesticides, so you will want to buy these organic.  Highlighted facts include:

  • Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, followed by apples (98 percent) and imported plums (96 percent)
  • As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce, with 64 different pesticides.
  • A single bell pepper sample was contaminated with 15 different pesticides, followed by a single sample of celery with 13.

At the top of the list are apples, celery and bell peppers.  They even added two more foods to the list because pollutants have gotten so bad recently.  Kale/greens and green beans have made it to the list because they are contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. These insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade. But they are not banned and still show up on some food crops.

The Clean 15

The Clean 15 are the top foods that are least likely to test positive for pesticides.  Therefore, you can buy these foods non-organic.  Some highlighted facts:

  • No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen had more than 5 types of pesticides detected.
  • Avocado, sweet corn, and onions had no detectable pesticide residues on 98 percent or more of the samples tested.
  • Of the Clean Fifteen vegetables, no single sample had more than 5 different chemicals

The EWG has a PDF file of the list that you can download, an app for your phone, and a complete guide online at their website.

There is a huge nutritional difference between organic and non-organic crops because of soil, pesticides, and quality.  Many people wonder if we need to supplement our diet with vitamins and minerals even if we eat a nutritionally balanced diet.  Stay tuned for a future article discussing the differences and why taking supplements can make you healthier.



Diet and Nutrition: Does What You Eat Matter?

Diet and Nutrition: Does What You Eat Matter?

“You are what you eat.” We’ve heard that statement all our lives. But is it true? Diet and nutrition are the base of our health—for better or worse. The true question, then, is if what you eat does matter, what should you be eating to optimize health?

Misleading, Conflicting Information

Just when we think we have this whole diet and nutrition game figured out, someone changes the rules. Earlier this month, US Today ran a story stating that the American Heart Association suggests removing coconut oil from your diet. This comes after hearing for years of the benefits of coconut oil.

It’s been the same story for as long as any of us can remember: First, we’re told that a particular food or diet is good for us, only to be followed years or decades later with the news that, ooops, we were wrong! It can be challenging to determine what the best diet lifestyle is to reach your goals, whether those are to lose weight, be healthy, maintain weight, or get into competitive mode.

We Are Not Created Equally

Another important consideration in the diet and nutrition game is the ability to know yourself. Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all diet that works universally. One person can feel amazing on a vegan diet, whereas another person feels lethargic when not consuming animal protein.

How do you know which diet is right for you?

Sometimes, it comes down to trial and error. And sometimes, you need the help of a professional. The sad truth is that most Americans have been taught to eat what’s on their plate, and they aren’t as attuned to their bodies as they should be. And that can lead to all kinds of issues.

How Diet and Nutrition Affect Our Bodies

When it comes to nutrition, it’s pretty simple: food fuels our bodies. We use the three big fuels—our basic macronutrients carbohydrates, protein, and fat—in different ways as they’re being digested. Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel because they are easily and quickly converted into immediate (glucose) and stored (glycogen) energy. During low- to moderate-intensity activity, your body will use fat as fuel, and it will also turn to fat stores when your body is depleted of glycogen, such as in a low-carb diet. Protein feeds your muscles and is responsible for about 5–10% of your overall fuel.

When you change your diet, you change how your body gets fuel. And that can work really well in certain circumstances and with certain people. For instance, a ketogenic diet forces the body into ketosis by depriving it of its preferred fuel, carbs, and forcing it to use fat as energy. Another example is a bodybuilder loading up on proteins over fats and carbs to fuel muscle building and metabolism. And, if you’re the average person, you may strike a balance among all three fuels. All of these approaches can work depending on your goals and individual hormones and needs.

Which Diet Is Right for You?

It’s impossible to make a blanket statement and say, “The (fill in the blank) diet is the right diet!” Since we are all a little different, there are many factors to consider: lifestyle, goals, hormones, fat and muscle distribution, activity levels, etc. If you know your body well enough, you may be able to determine which diet and nutrition program is best for you, but if not, it might be time to get some help.

Functional medicine is the practice of focusing on the optimal functioning of the body through a holistic approach. You don’t have to be sick or even facing any particular issues to benefit from working with a functional medicine practitioner. In fact, some athletes choose to include a functional medicine practitioner on their team to ensure they are in prime condition at all times.

When you are tired of struggling with which diet and nutrition program is right for you, maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the overall picture. My Health Detective can do that. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation and get on the path to better health.

How Much Should I Eat?

How Much Should I Eat?

How Much is Enough?

One the first topics my clients ask me about when wanting to loose weight is, “how much should I eat?”  Should I eat 4oz, 8oz or 12oz of meat and how many vegetables?  What about fruit?  How much is enough?  The answers are relatively simple; however, they have been over analyzed and broken down so much that the American people are utterly confused. (more…)

Is a Gluten Free Diet Bad for You?

Is a Gluten Free Diet Bad for You?

Is a Gluten Free Diet bad for You?

With the release of another research study done to denounce gluten and the gluten free dieters I felt I needed to chime in about this topic.

I’m actually humored by the types of propaganda being promoted such as:

“Dangers of a gluten free diet”

“Most People Shouldn’t Eat Gluten Free”

“The data prove it: Choosing to go gluten-free is bad for you”

Here’s How a Gluten-Free Diet is Actually Bad for You”

How a Gluten-Free Diet Can Be Harmful”


Really?  Can we be any more dramatic about this topic?  Honestly, I don’t want to go into the science of what gluten is and how it effects the body because this is about giving you relevant information and reading beyond the headlines.


These articles reference either statements found on PubMed or research that doesn’t tell you the whole story.  Am I saying the research is wrong?  No, the research performed revealed exactly what the researchers wanted.  What happened is that media ran with a half-ass statement based on their own interpretations.


Let’s use the most recent study published.  “Long Term Gluten Consumption in Adults without Celiac Disease and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: prospective cohort study”.  I’ll spare you the over-scientific details and get to the point.  This study was done over 26 years using almost 110,000 subjects, male and female.  Good so far!  Incredible actually.  The researchers gathered their data from estimated, self-reported questionnaires that were mailed to the subjects.  There’s quality control issue number one.  Speaking of controls, there were none.  Yeah, no controls!


If you remember anything from high school science, you need a control and a test subject for research to be validated.  This is just a standard.  The Journal of the American Medical Association and its readers usually boo-hoo any study that isn’t a double blind placebo, the gold standard.  The FDA doesn’t pass a pharmaceutical through unless it is a double-blind placebo.  And even then…well that’s a whole different topic of discussion.


Back to the study.  After tallying these so-called results, here is the exact verbiage from the study:


Conclusion: Long term dietary intake of gluten was not associated with risk of coronary heart disease. However, the avoidance of gluten may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk. The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.


Great, so gluten is not associated with heart disease.  I’m not sure anyone was disputing that fact.  However, they continue to state that avoiding gluten or grains may result in beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk.  This may be true, but isn’t proven. Then they continue to state this assumption as fact.  Here’s where it feels like the Wild West and anyone can just start making assumptions.


If you choose to read the entire study, you will find that the correlation they are talking about with whole grains being detrimental to heart health has to do with fiber intake.  So, are the authors stating that the only way to get fiber is through whole grains?  What about vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc?  Is there no fiber in these foods and no nutrient density?


You see, these claims are empty and without support.  It is lazy media or whatever classification you want to put it in that are not telling you the whole story.  According to them, a burger bun has more beneficial nutrients to your diet than eating unprocessed, real, whole foods.


There is a reason why almost everyone feels better on a gluten free diet.  That is because gluten has been linked to autoimmune disease, leaky gut, inflammation and more.  I’m not going to re-write the wheel on this one since Dr. Amy Myers did a great job explaining it all here.


Please, do yourself a favor and don’t get manipulated by empty claims.  Click on the links that they are basing their articles on and read the actual content!  The actual studies are very specific and media blows it out of proportion.


I usually don’t write articles like this, but this topic is a hot button and I’m tired of seeing good people trying to be healthy only to be further confused by falsified reports.  You know reports such as: eggs were bad for you, and beef, and saturated fat, and butter.  Everything that was bad is now good.  Just eat real foods and you can ignore the chatter.


What Increases Cholesterol Levels in the Blood?

What Increases Cholesterol Levels in the Blood?

Controversies Over What Raises Cholesterol

The answer to what raises your cholesterol should be a simple one, but even today there are conflicting opinions.  I would like to shed some light on the subject not with my opinion but with fact… ok some opinion. 

Paleo and Keto diets are quite popular in Crossfit, health and fitness and even functional medicine. This is because they reduce body fat, lower blood markers, and stabilize blood sugar. This ultimately reduces inflammation and improves health.  At least that is the goal.  These diets rely mostly on high-fat, moderate protein and low-carb ratios. 

So, How Does Your Cholesterol Get High and How Much Control Do We Have Over It? 

Let’s start with how Americans used to eat before processed foods, added sugars and food substitutes.  What I understand from my parents and grandparents is that they cooked with fat, ate the whole egg, drank unpasteurized whole milk, didn’t know the difference between GMO and Non-GMO or organic versus non-organic, and ate a variety of food based on the season.  They ate meat, all kinds, without worrying about LDL or triglycerides and fruit without thinking it would cause weight gain. There was no food timing or carb cycling.

To be fair, I do understand many things have changed since then. We have cell phones, cars, and a coffee shop on every corner, and stressors coming from every direction.

What are older generations always saying about today’s health?  I don’t remember so many health issues growing up!  And you know what?  They are right!  There has been an exponential increase in chronic disease since the evolution of food.

What Does Cholesterol Do and Why Do We Need It?

Cholesterol is the base for so many functions in the body.  Here are a few that may interest you.  Cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone, estrogen, cortisol and progesterone. 

These are the hormones responsible for sex drive, female hormone balance, energy, sleep, muscle mass, blood sugar control and so much more.  Cholesterol is essential for neural function and the formation of other hormones and absorption of nutrients.  So, cholesterol is really important.

Our liver makes about three-quarters of our cholesterol, leaving the rest to be consumed through diet.

By the way, I still can’t find a study proving that consuming high amounts of cholesterol will increase bad cholesterol and put our body into a state of disease.

Low Fat and High Fat Diets

We tried the low-fat trend and around the same time we saw increases in obesity, heart disease and a number of autoimmune disease.  What does a low-fat diet consist of?  High amounts of sugar because food without fat tastes horrible.  So, manufacturers added sugar to make food taste better.  Of course, most of it wasn’t real food anyway.

Having high triglycerides is known to be associated with disease, obesity, and diabetes.  Triglyceride levels are high, usually as a result of high blood sugar and the liver converting excess carbohydrates into fat.  The low-fat diet or any processed low-fat foods are high in carbohydrates which could result in increased triglycerides. 

Newsflash: Saturated fat and cholesterol have never been proven to cause harm!  And, the American Journal of Managed Care released a statement rescinding cholesterol’s bad name.

Looking at a Keto diet or a Paleo diet which is also traditionally a low-carb, high-fat diet there have been no substantial evidence that these diets increase blood cholesterol.

In fact, risk factors decrease when on these types of diets.  One of the most famous is of Gary Taubes, writer of best-selling book, “Why We Get Fat, and What to Do About It,” who is a proponent of high-fat and protein eating. When questioned about his blood markers by Dr. Oz.,  Gary did not respond on camera as he didn’t know, but later got his blood measured and they were optimal

Not only have I seen this repeated with my own clients, but also on myself.  I have patients who tell me stories about how their doctor can’t understand how they got their markers into optimal range without drugs.  Weird, eating real food works.

What Really Causes High Cholesterol?

We touched on this earlier with the higher sugars and processed foods impacting cholesterol as a risk factor for disease.  I want to go a little deeper.  Since studying functional medicine and clinical nutrition, I’ve found the true backlash comes from stress and metabolic chaos impacting the stress hormones and eventually the gut and metabolism.  Once our bodies get stuck in the cycle of blood sugar roller coasters this cycle turns disaster and is hard to reverse without some help.

Most of the studies defending the low-fat diet are compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which as the acronym states, is a really sad diet. Really, anything different would be an improvement. The only diet that has been proven through research to be effective or at least accepted by conventional medicine is the Mediterranean Diet.

SO what really causes high cholesterol is an overstressed lifestyle, diets high in carbohydrates and refined sugars, and the perpetual ups and downs in blood sugar causing metabolic chaos in the body.

How to Reverse High Cholesterol Without Drugs

First and foremost, change your eating habits!  I prefer ketogenic diets and Paleo diets.  However, vegetarian diets and the Mediterranean Diet can be equally effective.  The point is to stop eating the Standard American Diet.  If changing your diet hasn’t helped, it may be time to dig a little deeper with a functional medicine practitioner. Together, you’ll find the root cause of your cholesterol and ultimately your health issues.

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