Thursday, May 31, 2012

Walnuts: The Easy Super Food

When was the last time you had some walnuts? What if I told you that walnuts had the ability to:

-Reduce inflammation (always good for asthmatics)
-Control weight  (stop steroid weight gain!)
-Improve cholesterol (bad cholesterol is a side effect of steroids)
-Fight cancer (steroids increase insulin response, cancer feeds itself on insulin)

Would you eat them now?

Amazingly, just 5% of the population regularly consumes any kind of nut, which is a shame. They are packed with health, brimming with nutrients that can restore our bodies.

Here's a case study for you: me! Let's look at my cholesterol before I incorporated walnuts into my diet on a daily basis:

Total Cholesterol: 183.

This is not high, it's within range, but it's still a heart attack waiting to happen. Here's why:

HDL: 34                           Way too low
Triglycerides:165               High
LDL: 128                          Borderline
Non LDL: 149                  Not good
Total Ratio: 5.38               Too high
HDL to LDL Ratio: 0.266 Too low

Pretty much everything that isn't supposed to be high, is high and the HDL is low when it should be closer to 60. This is dyslipidemia, which I call 'cholesterol by steroids'.  Asthmatics, over the course of the disease, can easily be exposed to enough steroids to induce insulin resistance which leads to distorted heart attack cholesterol.

What is insulin resistance? It's what I call the 'triple calorie effect' of steroids. Calories are seemingly multiplied by a factor of three when on steroids, and, take them long enough, you'll have permanent metabolic changes due to steroid use (I do).

Prednisone puts your body into weight gain mode. With good nutrition and some planning, you can prevent weight gain, but no patients I know have ever received any nutritional guidance on how to do that (hence the raison d'etre for this blog).

Diet and nutrition are so critical for anyone taking steroids. If you don't counteract their impact on your physiology, steroids will ravage your health. Short term, they help asthmatics breathe. Long term, they mess up our entire body chemistry.

And the impact of steroids on cholesterol can be hard to fix. At least it was for me. I had lost weight, changed my diet, gained weight, exercised, stopped exercising--everything--and nothing touched my cholesterol. For years and years.

Then I started eating walnuts. Every day for a month.  And here's what happened to my cholesterol numbers:

Total Cholesterol: 151         Within range.
HDL: 43                             Improving!
LDL: 81                             Optimal!
Non LDL: 108                   Improved, but needs more walnuts.
Total Ratio: 3.51                 Good!
Triglycerides:137                Normal!
HDL to LDL ratio: 0.531   Normal!

While I want to get my HDL higher, for the first time in almost ten years, my cholesterol is trending toward normal.

This is the power of just a month of walnuts. "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." (Hippocrates)

Of course, keep in mind, I didn't eat walnuts and then chow down on refined, processed foods. My entire diet supported my health and set up an environment where the walnuts could work their mojo.

It's not just about any one food, it's about the symphony of nutrition at play in your body.

In my next post, I'll discuss how to eat more walnuts. Including recipes!

Until then, take a moment to imagine how your health could change if you took a medicinal approach to nutrition. Start today by eating some walnuts.

More about cholesterol ratios.

More about walnuts.

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