Expert Q&A: Heart-Healthy Eating
An interview with Dean Ornish, MD.
Are any fats good for you?
The truly good fats are not so much the unsaturated fats as the omega-3
fatty acids you find in fish oil and salmon and in some plant-based foods like
flax. Part of the problem when you eat unsaturated fat is that much of the
unsaturated fat people consume is rich in the omega-6 fatty acids, which
promote inflammation and autoimmune responses. The truly good fats are not so
much unsaturated fats as omega-3 fats.
And you don't need that much of it. You can take 3 or 4 grams a day of fish
oil and that is really what most people need. And you can also buy the fish oil
that has all the bad stuff in fish removed -- the omega-6, the PCBs, the
dioxins, and the mercury. Then you get all the benefits of eating the fatty
fish but without the extra toxicities that are found in most fish these
Why is fiber an essential component of a heart-healthy diet?
Soluble fiber, in things like oat bran, is important for lowering
cholesterol levels. It has a direct effect on cholesterol metabolism in your
bile and in your liver.
Insoluble fiber is important for two main reasons: First, because it helps
to push food through the intestinal tract faster. Second, fiber affects your
The difference between refined carbs and complex carbs is that the complex,
fiber-containing carbs aren't just not bad for you -- they are truly good for
you. When you go from white to brown rice or from white flour to whole-wheat
flour, you are going from bad carbs to good carbs.
That does two good things from a weight standpoint. You fill up before you
get too many calories. And you slow the absorption of foods into your
If you eat high-fiber carbs, your blood sugar level goes up a little and
stays there -- so you're getting a good source of energy. But bad carbs get
absorbed very quickly. Your blood sugar is going to zoom way up. Your pancreas
pumps out insulin to bring it back down, and the insulin accelerates the
conversion of sugar into fat.
This causes all these swings in energy. Your blood sugar doesn't just go
back to where it started before it got too high -- it goes way down. That
increases your carb craving, and you're stuck in a vicious cycle.
It is not necessary to avoid bad carbs altogether, but to limit them and use
them in combination with other foods. If you're going to have dessert, have it
after a high-fiber meal. Don't have it on an empty stomach.