“HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU ALL,” my doctor, an internist and cardiologist, wrote in an email that he broadcast to his patients in January 2012. I returned the wish and requested ideas for subjects for my blog, which he followed.
To my delight he replied with some pithy titles, the first of which was “Foods that raise HDL.” HDL is “the good cholesterol” in your lipid profile. He was interested because my HDL had almost doubled from 43 average to 78 average since he suggested that I begin eating Very Low Carb (VLC) 10 years earlier. And he observed the changes.
The desired range for men is ≥40mg/dl, and for women ≥ 50mg/dl. Before I started to eat VLC my HDLs averaged 43 (16 values over 22 years: 48, 44, 61, 53, 50, 42, 41, 39, 38, 37, 38, 38, 39, 41, 39 & 42). Since I began eating VLC my HDLs have averaged 78 (14 values: 67, 92, 78, 71, 78, 81, 86, 91, 98, 67, 57, 63, 79 & 86). I don't know what has caused my HDL to go up since I started eating Very Low Carb, but it's gotta be the foods I eat. What else?
The other lipid test that has dramatically improved over the same period is triglycerides. Before I started Very Low Carb, my triglyceride average of 21 previous lipid tests was 137. My triglycerides average for the last (most recent) 21 lipid tests has been 54. I attribute this dramatic improvement mostly to taking fish oil supplements (4 grams/day initially, then down to 2 grams/day). I also eat a can of sardines packed in olive oil almost every day for lunch.
At the time (2012), for breakfast I ate 2 fried eggs, 2 strips of bacon, and a big cup of coffee with full cream and two Splenda. For lunch I usually ate a can of sardines in olive oil and some Splenda sweetened iced tea. Note: both meals, all protein and fat; No juice or fruit or bread or cereal or jelly or milk or sugar, all high in carbohydrates.
I ate no snacks mid-morning or mid-afternoon. I didn’t need them. I wasn’t hungry. The fat and protein provided satiety and supported my other needs. My body was running on fat, my fat, both the fat I ate and my body fat. I was now a ‘fat burner,’ not a ‘sugar burner.’ The body gets the small amount of glucose it needs from the small amount I eat and from ketone bodies from the breakdown of fat cells (triglycerides) and from gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis occurs when the amino acids from the protein I ate that was not taken up by muscles, etc. is stored in the liver and is then reconstituted as glucose (“gluco-neo-genesis”) when the body needs it.
For dinner I ate a small portion of protein (roasted, baked or broiled, not deep fried), a selected vegetable, and sometimes a glass or two of red wine. I avoided carrots, peas, corn or beets. They all contain too much sugar. And, of course, I don’t eat pasta or starchy root vegetables like potatoes, or winter squash, or grains like rice and couscous. I also try to avoid everything made with or cooked in vegetable oil, -- any “vegetable” (seed) oil. The oils I use are olive oil, butter, ghee and coconut oil, a very good “Medium Chain Triglyceride,” It’s a saturated fat, but because of its medium chain length, it ‘burns’ quickly and easily for energy, instead of being stored as body fat.
I intentionally select fatty meats and fish, eat chicken with the skin on (the skin is mostly monounsaturated fat), and like to slow cook (braise) grass-fed cuts of meat (brisket, osso bucco, shanks, hocks, etc. I do not limit dietary saturated fats or cholesterol. I eat all the shrimp and liver and free-range, pastured chicken eggs I want. And the result? Well, go back to the beginning of this Retrospective. My HDL has gone from 43 to 78 and my triglycerides from 137 to 54, on account of what I eat. My LDL and Total Cholesterol have both remained essentially constant.So, doc, my answer to your question is that I really don’t know what SPECIFIC foods have raised my HDL and lowered my triglycerides. My answer is it’s the Way of Eating YOU SUGGESTED 10 years ago after you read Gary Taubes’ cover story, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie” in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. You told me that after you read that article, you tried the diet yourself for 6 weeks and lost 17 pounds. You then suggested I do it too. And, as you know, I lost 170 pounds!