Up till now we have thought that it’s pretty impossible to get rid of dangerous blood vessel plaque build-up without a rotor-rooter. I remember a physician told me just at the beginning of this year (2013) that he has never seen plaque reverse. Well, researchers in Spain measured the thickness of plaque in patients consuming varied diets and they found one food group, that if added to a healthy diet, reversed plaque.

Several handfuls of nuts a day won the prize. Adding mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts) significantly reversed dangerous plaque-build up.

The research showed that consuming the healthy Mediterranean Diet (This is a robust consumption of olive oil, beans, whole grains, fruits, veggies, with an emphasis on fish, cheese and yogurt and less on meats, along with moderate wine) slowed down the used-to-be-considered inevitable progression of heart dangerous plaque in blood vessels as we age. This diet without adding generous amounts of nuts, did not reverse plaque build up. This diet with the nuts, did.

Interestingly enough, folks not consuming either a healthy Mediterranean Diet or nuts, suffered the inevitable progression of nasty plaque. If you don’t eat healthfully, the grim reaper comes and clogs your arteries. But, with proper food, your blood vessels keep ‘self-cleaning’.

With the addition of mixed nuts to the Mediterranean Diet, there was actually a reversal of build-up of dangerous calcium and ‘mature’ plaque in the blood vessels compared to controls that were not on a healthy diet nor consuming nuts. EAS 2013: The 81st European Atherosclerosis Society Congress

Which diets did what –

·      Regular diet without olive oil or nuts = thicker plaque over time

·      Mediterranean Diet without nuts = slowed down plaque build-up

·      Mediterranean Diet with nuts = reversed plaque build-up

Look at all the good things nut munching does for a body!

·      Stabilizes insulin levels

·      Reduces plaque build up in blood vessels

·      Decreases risk of heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses

·      Decreases hunger

·      Helps lose weight

·      Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013

Best way to eat nuts: raw and if salted, with sea salt. If you are just developing a taste for raw, mix half roasted with half raw. Or you can add a few non-sugared non oiled dried blueberries, or cranberries, or cocoa nubs, for a bling burst in your mouth if you would need these added boosts to make sure you consume these health-boosting nuts.

Nuts help us lose weight!

If nuts were a drug we would be begging our docs to write us a script!

Sometimes reality is nuts. And here it is with actual nuts like cashews and almonds. It sounds counter intuitive, but quite a number of previous studies demonstrate an inverse association between the frequency of nut consumption and body mass index (BMI).

This means that even though nuts are high in calories and fats, eating them in sensible amounts helps us loose body fat. When I say this to patients that want to lose weight they get this skeptical look on their face. We have been taught that the more calories and fat, the more likely we are to gain weight. But in the last several years we have learned critical information about calories. It turns out that the quality of fat is more important than the number of calories of fat. Nutritional science has been observing this for the past few years with chocolate, avocadoes, olives, and also, with nuts. These foods are high in fats, but the type of fat boosts healthy metabolism.

A thorough analysis of 31 studies worldwide, (reviewing a large body of studies to look for trends is called a meta-analyses), found not only that most of the studies don’t show that patients gained a significant amount of weight – but that nuts – as part of a healthy, balanced diet – help stabilize insulin and suppress hunger which all contributed to losing weight healthfully.

The study authors conclude that: “Diets enriched with nuts did not increase body weight, body mass index, or waist circumference in controlled clinical trials.”

Nuts help us lose weight and they tamp down appetite! Sign me up. I am a a big fan of nut pate’s which I write about in Retraining Your Tongue. Stay tuned for more exception, delicious and easy to make nut pate recipes like this one.

Brazil Nut Pate’ (high in selenium and good for healthy thyroids)

Fill half a Vita-Mixer with raw Bazil nuts

Squeeze in 2-3 organic limes (only the juice)

1 teaspoon of organic granulated garlic

1 TB of gluten free soy sauce

Sea salt to taste

Blend till creamy and put in fridge tightly covered, stays fresh for up to 2 week

Salad Dressing Trick!. Nut Pate’ clean up magic.

Now your Vita-Mixer has to be cleaned but it has some great nut pate’ on the side walls you can’t get all out.

Add a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and blend.

This allows you to use the rest of what was left to make a great salad dressing.

Waste not, want not. Yum!

Just how powerful are daily habits? What’s the worst? The Best?

Circulation is everything. Plaque building up inside blood vessels, especially mature plaque that is not only fibrous but also made harder with dangerous deposition of bits of calcium, threatens circulation and puts us at risk of heart attack, stroke and premature death.

So anything that will slow down the build up of plaque and block more calcium being laid down inside of that plaque is welcome. (PS that’s why we don’t want to take too much vitamin D as it can lay down more calcium in plaque, and we also want to take vitamin K as it helps direct calcium to bone rather than to plaque).

Living well adds up. A 3-year study has shown that ‘living well’ (healthy habits) slows down plaque growth, calcium deposition, and even slows down the risk of death from all causes.

This Johns Hopkins Hospital study did coronary artery calcium screening on 6229 US adults, aged 44 to 84 years old, and again 3.1 years later. So these patients’ arteries were looked at over a 3-year period. But, also how they lived was evaluated.

The conclusion: the healthier the lifestyle, the greater the protection against heart disease and death.

Individuals who lived all 4 healthy habits—exercised, ate healthily,  maintained normal weight, and didn’t smoke—had 80% less risk of dying as early as folks who ate more junk food, were heavier, didn’t exercise and smoked.

If you did everything right but you still smoked, you still were worse off than people who did nothing else right but stayed away from cigarettes. This highlights how smoking trumps, in a bad way, all other habits.

The healthiest habits that offered huge protection:

·      A Mediterranean based diet

·      Keeping weight at healthy levels

·      Exercising sensibly (150 minutes of moderate-intensity/week = less than an hour 3 times a week

·      No smoking (even passive exposure) American Journal of Epidemiology 2013

You can’t pick your genes, your age, what illnesses you have faced in the past, but you can start eating better and moving smarter, today!

This means that our choices, our habits, translate into better health, longer life, or moving more elegantly through whatever the messiness of life serves up on the plate in front of us.

I have lived consciously for years. Yet, I was exposed, when merely an  undifferentiated, vulnerable fetus in my mother’s womb, to the most powerful hormonal carcinogen every produced. So I still got cancer. There are no set outcomes, and not all disease is caused by negative thoughts.

But the resilience to what shows is huge. It helps one move more elegantly to whatever life dishes up to you.

So trying to live well most of the time, is a noble pursuit and an essential part of an examined and purposeful life; an approach I honor and hope to inspire.