The Origin of the Eating Strategy

There are plenty of ways to go about lowering your cholesterol through diet. For there’s the Mediterranean diet (high in fat, but mainly the heart-healthy kind), the Ornish diet (extremely low in all types of fat), the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet, known as DASH (rich in grains, fruits, vegetables, and nonfat dairy), and the American Heart Association’s Step I and Step I diets (relatively low in fat and protein). In many ways the success of these diets and the expert findings and opinions behind them help map out a common ground of healthful eating habits. While mary experts in the field may defend their particular view or territory, we believe the greatest benefits lie where the territories overlap—a moderately low total fat intake, a healthy balance of “good” and “bad” fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and a moderate amount of protein. This overlap area also happens to correspond almost perfectly with what we know about how our early ancestors ate, which you’ll read more about in a minute.

The eating strategy is not a special “diet” you follow for a couple of moriths until your cholesterol levels improve. Any diet you need to get “on” implies and then what? Rather, this is the way to eat for life, one we think you’ll find enjoyable enough to embrace permanently once vou give it a chance.

Blending Evidence and Evoiution

If you capture a wild animal for a 200, what kind of diet do you feed it? Something like what it ate in the wild, of course. The Live Jt Down eating strategy is unique because it’s based on the way humans were meant to eat, the way we did eat back before there were drive-throughis, pig farms, or frozen food. When grabbing dinner meant chasing dinner, whether it was a deer, a mammoth, or a squirrel. When the bulk of the diet came from plant foods, and processed or refined foods were as foreign as computers. When grains were eaten largely intact, not stripped of their nutrients and fiber to become pale shadows of their former selves. Ironically, it has taken us just a few decades to change the human food supply more than it had changed over all the millennia before.

The diet the hunter-gatherers ate is the diet we’re genetically programmed to consume, the one humans ate for 99.6 percent of their time on earth. While it varied depending on geographic area, the basic breakdown looked like this:

  • Up to 30 percent of calories from protein.
  • Between 45 and 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates (all complex carbohydrates high in fiber),
  • Between 20 and 30 percent of calories from fat (primarily unsaturated).

Our ancestors certainly ate meat, when they could get it, suggesting that meat by itself is not a bad thing. But the meat they ate came from wild game, not cows penned into small spaces, chickens raised in miniscule pens, or pigs crowded into corrals. Because that game grazed in the wild or on grasslands, its meat had more of the beneficial unsaturated fatty acids, called omega-3 fatty acids (which you’ll read more about later),Today, becaus most animals raised for meat are fed diets high in processed feed—instead of grazing on grass or bem fed the grains, nuts, seeds, and algae critical for the formation of omega-3 fatty acids—they contain very few of these essential nutrients. Also, wild animals have a low total fat content: around 5 percent of calories, compared to the 30 percent found in today’s corn-fed domestic cattle. Because they ate every bit of the animals they killed, including the bone marrow, liver, and other organ meats, our ancestors got quite a bit of cholesterol—even more than is found in the typical American diet. They ate lots of eggs (sometimes raiding the nests of birds), and those who lived by the sea consumed a great deal of shellfish, all high in cholesterol. But you can bet they didn’t have cholesterol levels off the chart. (How do we know? For one thing, modern hunter-gatherers and indigenous peoples of preindustrial societies don’t have high cholesterol.) That’s why the  Plan doesn’t focus on limiting your intake of cholesterol. While the evidence is still mixed on whether or not we can simply ignore dietary cholesterol altogether, particularly in people at high risk for heart disease, there is increasing evidence that when your overall diet is good, the cholesterol in your food has little impact on the cholesterol in your blood.

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