WE need to change our dietary protein sources, if we are to significantly reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke and arterial blockages and damages all over our body, all of which make cardiovascular illnesses the number one killer in the affluent societies around the globe.

This most convincing confirmation of the deadly effects of saturated fats and high cholesterol foods (mostly from red meat like pork and beef) came from more than a quarter of century studies on 84,000 nurses, who were studied, tested and followed up for 26 years.

Other studies have shown that consumption of saturated fats (red meats and products with red meat) also increases cancer risk, besides metabolic diseases, like diabetes and arthritis, etc.

The comprehensive investigation (Nurses’ Health Study) was conducted by Dr. Adam Bernstein of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts) and his colleagues, and was published in the Aug. 16, 2010 issue of Circulation. The data from this systematic and meta-analysis on 84,136 nurses, between 30 to 55 years of age, who were all healthy at year one, reported 2,210 incidents of non-fatal heart attack, and 952 deaths from heart attack, involving those who ate red meat regularly.

The multivariable analysis revealed that consumption of red meat and high-fat dairy (eggs, cheese, regular milk, etc.) resulted in elevated risk for coronary heart disease, while greater intake of fish, poultry and nuts was significantly liked to lower risk. One serving per day of nuts led to 30 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to one serving of red meat; 24 percent lower risk with fish; and 19 percent lower risk with poultry, when these are consumed instead of red meat.

Another study by Dr. Renata Micha at Harvard School of public health in Boston showed that processed red meat (bacon, hamburger, hot dogs, etc.) was worse: 42 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease and 19 percent risk for diabetes. Dietary iron from red meat, called Heme iron, and compounds resulting from cooking red meat (heterocyclic amines and advanced glycation end-products) were positively linked to increased risk of heart attack and fatality, not to mention cancer in general.

“Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats significantly reduced the risk of coronary heart disease...When major sources of protein, such as nuts and fish, are used to replace red meat, saturated fat, heme iron, and sodium decrease, whereas intake of polyunsaturated (good) fat increases,” concluded the study.

Our red-meat eating culture is obviously unhealthy. With all the scientific data we now know, it behooves all of us, men and women, and especially children, to re-evaluate our diet, and seriously consider eliminating or drastically cutting down on red meat, and choosing the healthier options of fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable protein sources.

Nuts, the super snack

Nuts, in general, are super food items, which provide the body protein, fiber, minerals, anti-oxidants, cholesterol lowering mono-saturated fats, immune and brain boosting nutrition. Each nut confers different benefits, so it is best to indulge in a variety of them within the week. But don’t go overly nuts on them. Moderation is a key to almost everything. In alphabetical order, they include the following, their serving size and calories:

Almonds — serving size: 23 nuts, calories: 163. Contains the greatest natural calcium, Vitamin E, and fiber among all nuts; they also lowers cholesterol.

Brazil Nuts — 6 nuts, 186 calories. Larger in size than cashew nuts and looks partially peeled, contains selenium, good for the thyroid. Three to 6 nuts a day is good enough.

Cashews — 18 nuts, 163 calories. Provides 10 percent of your iron daily requirement, a good source of folate and Vitamin K, for strong bones and normal blood clotting.

Macademia — 10 to 12, 204 calories. Contains mono-saturated, heart-healthy, fats, good source of thiamine (Vitamin B1). And its taste superb, almost addicting.

Peanuts — a handful, 181 calories. Peanuts are, strictly speaking, not nuts. They do not grow underground, not on trees. They belong to the legume family (beans, peas, lentils), provide mono-saturated fats, folate, Vitamin B, E and fiber.

Pecans — 19 halves, 196 calories. Contains beta-sitosterol, plan sterol that lowers cholesterol and good for prostate health.

Pine Nuts — 167 nuts, 191 calories. Shaped like rice, pine nuts is an excellent source of manganese, which helps in the metabolism of carbohydrate (sugar) and protein. There is a suggestion that pine nuts may actually boost the satiety hormone that curbs the appetite, for better weight control.

Pistachios — 49 nuts, 162 calories. One serving provides about the same amount of potassium from one small banana, has antioxidant lutein, like the one in vegetables.

Walnuts — 14 halves, 185 calories. Great source of magnesium, protein, fiber, has high level of brain boosting omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid.

Calcium and heart attack

Taking plain calcium supplement (without co-administered Vitamin D) has been found to be linked to increase risk of heart attack, according to an article in the July 29, 2010 issue of the British Medical Journal, which reported on 15 randomized trials on 11,921 individuals.

This study justifies the reassessment of calcium supplement for prevention or treatment of osteoporosis, whose efficacy has been called to question, anyway. Since Vitamin D3 is cardio-protective, besides lowering the risk for colon cancer, the calcium supplement, if taken at all, is safer when it comes with, or taken with, Vitamin D3.

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