Tierra Thomas Weight Loss Struggle

I thought it was about time to share some truth and insight to my weight loss success with Nature’s Way of Life (NWOL). I have struggled with sustained weight loss, not because Nature’s Way of Life does not work, but because I have not been on NWOL for almost a year! I have been on a whirl wind in my life and not focused on my health, but now I know that is is time for a change again. Nature’s Way of Life continues to transform my life. Although I veered off course, I am back on NWOL for LIFE!

Weight Regain

Weight Regain of 25 pounds. Total Weight 145 pounds, 5’2

After losing a total of 55 pounds and regaining 25 of those, so many things felt wrong, my job, my home life, my personal life and it all took a toll on my overall health. Not even realizing this was happening I am back to 145 pounds at the height of only 5’2. Although I am not back at my 175 pounds I still fell disappointed in myself. I know it’s time to get rid of my excuses and live the life that will produce the life I want.

I want to share this story because I want to use this as an opportunity to re-channel my energy to transform my life again, spiritually, mentally and physically. As some would say, I lost my mojo and I am ready and willing to get it back. Today I decided to be vegan again, unless I am out with others who are cooking for me, to avoid special request. In addition to that I want to lose 40 pounds by my birthday next year April 22, 2014 coupled with toning up this bod into a solid machine. I tried everything else and I know nothing else will work like NWOL. It’s natural, fresh and will increase my life expectancy.

I believe this happened so I can share my story and strengthen my mind. Time to move forward into a life long journey of feeling comfortable in my skin because I am who I truly want to be.

Soon to come….after pictures.

Quote of the Day!

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love – for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment is it perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you from misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life



New Nature’s Way of Life Program Choices

1 Day Raw Food Vegan Challenge

3 Day Raw Food Vegan-Jump Start Your New Lifestyle

5 Day Vegan Lifestyle

7 Day Vegan Lifestyle

15 Day Vegetarian Lifestyle

Meat Alternative Lifestyle

Replace animal mean with meat alternative for 30 days

Try one of these lifestyle choices today to be on your way to a new healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life.

Tierra Thomas

Fruit Salad & Dark Chocolate

Fruit Salad & Dark Chocolate

  • 2 sliced Kiwi
  • 6 strawberries
  • 8 raspberries
  • 5 blueberries
  • ¼ cup of dried cranberries
  • topped chopped 1-22 table spoons of almonds (optional)

1oz of 75% or more dark chocolate


Deliciously energizing and antioxidant rich!

Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Antioxidant substances include

  • Beta-carotene
  • Lutein
  • Lycopene
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E

Source: Medline Plus


Vegetarian Nutrition

What is a vegetarian diet?

Some people follow a “vegetarian” diet, but there’s no single vegetarian eating pattern. The vegan or total vegetarian diet includes only foods from plants: fruits, vegetables, legumes (dried beans and peas), grains, seeds and nuts. The lactovegetarian diet includes plant foods plus cheese and other dairy products. The ovo-lactovegetarian (or lacto-ovovegetarian) diet also includes eggs. Semi-vegetarians don’t eat red meat but include chicken and fish with plant foods, dairy products and eggs.

Are vegetarian diets healthful?

Most vegetarian diets are low in or devoid of animal products. They’re also usually lower than nonvegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer. 

Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients. However, a vegetarian diet can be unhealthy if it contains too many calories and/or saturated fat and not enough important nutrients.

What are the nutrients to consider in a vegetarian diet?

  • Protein: You don’t need to eat foods from animals to have enough protein in your diet. Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.
  • Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all contain both essential and non-essential amino acids. You don’t need to consciously combine these foods (“complementary proteins”) within a given meal.
  • Soy protein has been shown to be equal to proteins of animal origin. It can be your sole protein source if you choose.
  • Iron: Vegetarians may have a greater risk of iron deficiency than nonvegetarians. The richest sources of iron are red meat, liver and egg yolk — all high in cholesterol. However, dried beans, spinach, enriched products, brewer’s yeast and dried fruits are all good plant sources of iron.
  • Vitamin B-12: This comes naturally only from animal sources. Vegans need a reliable source of vitamin B-12. It can be found in some fortified (not enriched) breakfast cereals, fortified soy beverages, some brands of nutritional (brewer’s) yeast and other foods (check the labels), as well as vitamin supplements.
  • Vitamin D: Vegans should have a reliable source of vitamin D. Vegans who don’t get much sunlight may need a supplement.
  • Calcium: Studies show that vegetarians absorb and retain more calcium from foods than nonvegetarians do. Vegetable greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli, and some legumes and soybean products, are good sources of calcium from plants.
  • Zinc: Zinc is needed for growth and development. Good plant sources include grains, nuts and legumes. Shellfish are an excellent source of zinc. Take care to select supplements containing no more than 15-18 mg zinc. Supplements containing 50 mg or more may lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol in some people.

What meal plans are recommended?

Any type of vegetarian diet should include a wide variety of foods and enough calories to meet your energy needs.

  • Keep your intake of sweets and fatty foods to a minimum. These foods are low in nutrients and high in calories.
  • Choose whole or unrefined grain products when possible, or use fortified or enriched cereal products.
  • Use a variety of fruits and vegetables, including foods that are good sources of vitamins A and C.
  • If you use milk or dairy products, choose fat-free/nonfat and low-fat varieties.

Related AHA publications:

  • Easy Food Tips for Heart-Healthy Eating (also in Spanish) 
  • Controlling Your Risk Factors… heart attack and stroke 

Related AHA Scientific Statements:

Source: American Heart Association



New Study Suggest Vegetarians Outlive Meateaters

The Huffington Post UK reported the the preliminary results of a decade-long study, the vegetarian habits of religious group the Seventh-Day Adventists could cause the community to live longer.

According to Huffington Post writer Annie Hauser, early findings from a vast study of 96,000 members of group from across the US and Canada indicates the benefits of a diet free from meat.

Yahoo reports that vegetarian Adventist men live to an average of 83.3 years and vegetarian women 85.7 years (9.5 and 6.1 years, respectively, longer than other Californians).

Hauser says that early findings from the Adventist Health Study 2 suggest:

  • Vegans are, on average, 30 pounds lighter than meat eaters.
  • Vegans are also five units lighter on the BMI scale than meat-eaters.
  • Vegetarians and vegans are also less insulin resistant than meat-eaters.
  • Lean people are also more likely to exercise regularly, eat plants, and avoid cigarettes than overweight people, suggesting that numerous factors are boosting the overall health of these participants.
  • Pesco-vegetarians and semi-vegetarians who limit animal products, but still eat meat once a week or so, have “intermediate protection” against lifestyle diseases.

According to the Seventh-Day Adventist Dietetic Association, members of the group practise a vegetarian dietary lifestyle because of their belief in the holistic nature of humankind.

Breakfast cereal inventor John Harvey Kellogg is one of the church’s most famous founding members.

By: Tierra Thomas

Source: Huffington Post UK

Quinoa Great Nutritional Choice for Vegetarians

Photo Credit: Veghunter

As a vegetarian or vegan, it is a necessity to insure that you meet your nutritional needs in order to sustain a long, healthy life. Rumor has it, that vegetarians and vegans do not receive adequate protein, Vitamin B12, or Calcium. These rumors are completely FALSE. These rumors exist because over time we had to learn how to meet nutritional needs as a vegetarian or vegan. Previously when people became vegetarian, many would simple just take meat or animal products out of their diet, but would still consume many foods that were not nutritious enough to maintain proper bodily function. Essentially, most vegetarians and vegans were not consuming foods that held the nutritional value they needed to not get certain diseases that are caused by deficiencies. This is why vegatarianism is associated with osteoporosis, Vitamin B12 and Calcium deficiencies which may lead to weak bones or vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia is a low red blood cell count due to a lack of vitamin B12.  Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues (Anemia, Medline). This all goes to explain a great source of protein, carbohydrates, essential amino acids and magnesium (the mineral that relaxes blood vessels), quinoa.

Quinoa is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed, but prepared like whole grains like brown rice or barley . Since low dietary levels of magnesium are associated with increased rates of hypertension, ischemic heart disease and heart arrhythmias, this ancient grain can offer yet another way to provide cardiovascular health for those concerned about atherosclerosis.  Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. (Quinoa, WHFoods). An alpha-amino acid that is required for protein synthesis but cannot be synthesized by humans and must be obtained in the diet. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins.Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body because of that it must come from food. The nine essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine (Amino Acids, Medline), all of which are in quinoa. These essentail amino acids break down food, grow, repair body tissue, and perform many other body functions. These are the reasons vegatarian and vegans alike need this complete protein in their diet.


Protein 8g

Carbohydrates 39g

Magnesium 29.6%

By: Tierra Thomas



Quinoa. WHFoods. Retrieve from: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice

Anemia. B12 Deficiency. Medline Plus. Trusted Health Information for You. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000574.htm

***** Disclaimer—Informational Only

Energizer Your Body With Complex Carbohydrates

Recently I have been working out and I felt very fatigued and unenergized, so I knew their was a flaw in how I was getting my nutrition. I understood that our bodies needed certain key elements to maintain function, but in order to gain strength and have more endurance I needed to give my body what it needed to sustain this kind of conditioning. I have had personal training session with a great personal trainer (certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine) that has given me tips to energize my self, gain muscle and strength. Thus far, he (my personal trainer), has been very helpful guiding me through my new journey to improved optimal health and proper exercise.

Some keys tips to energizing your body:

1. Don’t skip meals.

2. Eat protein and sugary natural food items after a intense workout.

3. Eat your complex carbohydrates in the morning to help you keep your energy through the day (it works, I tried it).

4. Move around more often; think and do.

5. Find new ways to energize your body.

Note: A few of the tips above were tips I learned from my personal trainer who has been certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

The other tips are from my experience and new techniques that I have tested and succeeded.

If you have any tips you would like to add, please do.

Tierra Thomas


22 Reasons to Go Vegetarian Right Now – benefits of vegetarian diet

by Norine Dworkin of Vegetarian Times

Your body, the planet and the animals will thank you for it

Why go vegetarian?

Better yet, why not go vegetarian?

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has said that 70 percent of all Americans are dying from diseases that are directly tied to their eating habits. Stacks of studies confirm that a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and soy is your best bet for living a longer, healthier and more enjoyable life. At the same time, you’re doing the planet a huge favor by helping to preserve natural resources and cutting down on pollution generated by animal agriculture. Plus, you may appreciate your wonderful meals even more knowing that no animals suffered along the way. There are literally hundreds of great reasons to switch to a plant-based diet; here are 22 of the best we’ve heard.

1 You’ll live a lot longer. Vegetarians live about seven years longer, and vegans (who eat no animal products) about 15 years longer than meat eaters, according to a study from Loma Linda University. These findings are backed up by the China Health Project (the largest population study on diet and health to date), which found that Chinese people who eat the least amount of fat and animal products have the lowest risks of cancer, heart attack and other chronic degenerative diseases. And a British study that tracked 6,000 vegetarians and 5,000 meat eaters for 12 years found that vegetarians were 40 percent less likely to die from cancer during that time and 20 percent less likely to die from other diseases.

2 You’ll save your heart. Cardiovascular disease is still the number one killer in the United States, and the standard American diet (SAD) that’s laden with saturated fat and cholesterol from meat and dairy is largely to blame. Children as young as age 3 who are raised on fast food and junk food show early signs of heart disease, according to the Bogalusa Heart Study done at the Louisiana State University. Cardiovascular disease is found in one in nine women aged 45 to 64 and in one in three women over 65. Heart attacks are also deadlier to the fairer sex: 53 percent of women who have heart attacks die from them, compared with 47 percent of men. Today, the average American male eating a meat-based diet has a 50 percent chance of dying from heart disease. His risk drops to 15 percent if he cuts out meat; it goes to 4 percent if he cuts out meat, dairy and eggs. Partly responsible is the fact that fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidant nutrients that protect the heart and its arteries. Plus, produce contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. Incidentally, cholesterol levels for vegetarians are 14 percent lower than meat eaters.

3 You can put more money in your mutual fund. Replacing meat, chicken and fish with vegetables and fruits is estimated to cut food bills by an average of $4,000 a year.

4 You’ll reduce your risk of cancer. A study in The International Journal of Cancer concluded that red meat is strongly associated with breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute says that women who eat meat every day are nearly four times more likely to get breast cancer than those who don’t. By contrast, women who consume at least one serving of vegetables a day reduce their risk of breast cancer by 20 percent to 30 percent, according to the Harvard Nurses Health Study. Studies done at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg suggest that this is because vegetarians’ immune systems are more effective in killing off tumor cells than meat eaters’. Studies have also found a plant-based diet helps protect against prostate, colon and skin cancers.

5 You’ll add color to your plate. Meat, chicken and fish tend to come in boring shades of brown and beige, but fruits and vegetables come in all colors of the rainbow. Disease-fighting phytochemicals are responsible for giving produce their rich, varied hues. So cooking by color is a good way to ensure you re eating a variety of naturally occurring substances that boost immunity and prevent a range of illnesses.

6 You’ll fit into your old jeans. On average, vegetarians are slimmer than meat eaters, and when we diet, we keep the weight off up to seven years longer. That’s because diets that are higher in vegetable proteins are much lower in fat and calories than the SAD. Vegetarians are also less likely to fall victim to weight-related disorders like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

7 You’ll give your body a spring cleaning. Giving up meat helps purge the body of toxins (pesticides, environmental pollutants, preservatives) that overload our systems and cause illness. When people begin formal detoxification programs, their first step is to replace meats and dairy products with fruits and vegetables and juices. “These contain phytochemicals that help us detox naturally,” says Chris Clark, M.D., medical director of The Raj, an Ayurvedic healing center in Fairfield, Iowa, which specializes in detox programs.

8 You’ll make a strong political statement. Each day, 22 million animals are slaughtered to support the American appetite for meat. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to finish a delicious meal, knowing that no beings have suffered [to make it],” says Erik Marcus, author of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating (McBooks, 1998).

9 Your meals will taste delicious. “Vegetables are endlessly interesting to cook and a joy to eat,” says Deborah Madison, founding chef of Greens restaurant in San Francisco and author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Broadway Books, 1997). “It’s an ever-changing parade of flavors and colors and textures and tastes. Everyone can enjoy them, but vegetarians are more likely to think about cooking and eating vegetables.”

10 You’ll help reduce waste and air pollution. Circle 4 Farms in Milford, Utah, which raises 2.5 million pigs every year, creates more waste than the entire city of Los Angeles. And this is just one farm. Each year, the nation’s factory farms, collectively produce 2 billion tons of manure, a substance that’s rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the country’s top 10 pollutants. And that’s not even counting the methane gas released by cows, pigs and poultry (which contributes to the greenhouse effect); the ammonia gases from urine; poison gases that emanate from manure lagoons; toxic chemicals from pesticides; and exhaust from farm equipment used to raise feed for animals.

11 Your bones will last longer. The average bone loss for a vegetarian woman at age 65 is 18 percent; for non-vegetarian women, it’s double that. Researchers attribute this to the consumption of excess protein–the average meat-eating American woman eats 144 percent over the recommended daily allowance; the average man eats 175 percent more.

Excess protein interferes with the absorption and retention of calcium and actually prompts the body to excrete calcium, laying the ground for the brittle bone disease osteoporosis. Animal proteins, including milk, make the blood acidic, and to balance that condition, the body pulls calcium from bones. So rather than rely on milk for calcium, vegetarians turn to dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and legumes, which, calorie for calorie, are superior sources.

12 You’ll help reduce famine. Right now, 72 percent of all grain produced in the United States is fed to animals raised for slaughter. It takes 15 pounds of feed to get one pound of meat. But if the grain were given directly to people, there’d be enough food to feed the entire planet. In addition, using land for animal agriculture is inefficient in terms of maximizing food production. According to the journal Soil and Water, one acre of land could produce 50,000 pounds of tomatoes, 40,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 pounds of carrots or just 250 pounds of beef.

13 You’ll avoid toxic chemicals. The EPA estimates that nearly 95 percent of pesticide residue in our diet comes from meat, fish and dairy products. Fish, in particular, contain carcinogens (PCBs, DDT) and heavy metals (mercury, arsenic; lead, cadmium) that cannot be removed through cooking or freezing. Meat and dairy products are also laced with steroids and hormones.


14 You’ll protect yourself from food-borne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that among Americans, there were approximately 80 million incidences of food-borne illness a year–resulting in 9,000 deaths. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 25 percent of all chicken sold in the United States carries salmonella bacteria and, the CDC estimates, 70 percent to 90 percent of chickens contain the bacteria campy-lobacter (some strains of which are antibiotic-resistant), approximately 5 percent of cows carry the lethal strain of E. coli O157:H7 (which causes virulent diseases and death), and 30 percent of pigs slaughtered each year for food are infected with toxoplasmosis (caused by parasites). All of which leads Michael Klaper, M.D., author of Pregnancy,. Children and a Vegan Diet (Gentle World Inc., 1988), to comment, “Including animal products in your diet is like playing Russian roulette with your life.”

15 You may get rid of your back problems. “Back pain appears to begin, not in the back, but in the arteries,” says Neil Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and author of Foods That Fight Pain (Harmony Books, 1998). “The degeneration of disks, for instance, which leads to nerves being pinched, starts with the arteries leading to the back.” Eating a plant-based diet keeps these arteries clear of cholesterol-causing blockages to help maintain a healthy back.

16 You’ll be more “regular.” Eating a lot of vegetables necessarily means consuming fiber, which pushes waste out of the body. Meat contains no fiber. Studies done at Harvard and Brigham Women’s Hospital found that people who ate a high-fiber diet had a 42 percent lower risk of diverticulitis. People who eat lower on the food chain also tend to have fewer incidences of constipation, hemorrhoids and spastic colon.

17 You’ll cool those hot flashes. Plants, grains and legumes–especially soy–contain phytoestrogens that are believed to balance fluctuating hormones, so vegetarian women tend to go through menopause with fewer complaints of sleep problems, hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, weight gain, depression and a diminished sex drive.

18 You’ll help to bring down the national debt. We spend between $60 billion to $120 billion annually to treat the heart disease, cancer, obesity, and food poisoning that are byproducts of a diet heavy on animal products.

19 You’ll preserve our fish population. Because of our voracious appetite for fish, 39 percent of the oceans’ fish species are overharvested, and the Food & Agriculture Organization reports that 11 of 15 of the world’s major fishing grounds have become depleted.

20 You’ll help protect the purity of water. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, but just 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat. Not only is this wasteful, but it contributes to rampant water pollution. A 1997 study by the Senate Agriculture Committee found that 60 percent of American waterways were polluted, and the major reason is animal agriculture. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development lists nitrate pollution (from fertilizer and manure) as one of the most serious water-quality problems in Europe and the United States.

21 You’ll provide a great role model for your kids. “If you set a good example and feed your children good food, chances are they’ll live a longer and healthier life,” says Christine Beard, a certified nutrition educator and author of Become a Vegetarian in 5 Easy Steps (McBooks Press, 1997). “You’re also providing a market for vegetarian products and making it more likely that they’ll be available for the children.”

22 Going vegetarian is very easy to do. Vegetarian cooking has never been so simple. Supermarkets carry packaged convenience foods like tofu hot dogs, veggie burgers and soy yogurt, milk and cheeses. There’s greater availability of vegetarian options in mall and arena food courts. Many more restaurants specializing in vegetarian food have opened, and others have added “veg-friendly” dishes to their menus. Even traditional fast food chains now offer salads, veggie burritos and vegetarian pizza.

You’ll also find vegetarian recipes on the Internet, and bookstore shelves are loaded with cookbooks devoted to vegetarian cuisine, demonstrating ease, diversity and good taste.

So rather than asking why go vegetarian, perhaps the real question is, Why haven’t you gone vegetarian?


* Vegetarian Times’ Vegetarian Beginnet’s Guide (Macmillan, 1996)


* 101 Reasons Why I’m a Vegetarian by Pamela Teisler-Rice (Viva Vegie Society, 1995)

* Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus (McBooks Press, 1998)

* 365 Good Reasons to be Vegetarian by Victor Parachin (Avery Publishing Group, 1998)

* World Watch Vital Signs (W.W. Norton, 1998)

* The Perfectly Contented Meat-Eater’s Guide to Vegetarianism by Mark Warren Reinhardt (Continuum, 1998)

* The Vegan Sourcebook by Joanne Stepaniak, M.S., E.D. (Lowell House, 1998)

COPYRIGHT 1999 Sabot Publishing
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

Bibliography for: “22 Reasons to Go Vegetarian Right Now – benefits of vegetarian diet”

Norine Dworkin “22 Reasons to Go Vegetarian Right Now – benefits of vegetarian diet“. Vegetarian Times. FindArticles.com. 19 Apr, 2012.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Sabot Publishing
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

Understanding Cholesterol: Guidelines for Lowering Blood Cholesterol

Eliminate Cholesterol from the Diet
Cholesterol is found only in animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs. There is no cholesterol in plant foods. Cholesterol in food increases the LDL concentration in your blood.2

There is no “good cholesterol” in any food.

Reduce Fat in the Diet, Especially Saturated Fat
Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels. These fats are found predominately in animal products, such as all types of meat, eggs, and dairy products, so it’s important to avoid these items.

Saturated fats are also found in a few vegetable oils, such as palm oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated oils, and chocolate. Some processed foods, including many baked goods and snack foods, contain trans fats, which also stimulate your body to produce more cholesterol. To find out if a food product has saturated fats or trans fats, read the Nutrition Facts panel.

Go Vegetarian
People who adopt vegetarian diets typically reduce their saturated fat intake and achieve a significant drop in cholesterol levels.3 The best diets for lowering cholesterol are vegan diets, that is, diets with no animal products at all. They are the only diets that include no cholesterol and no animal fat. Studies have also shown that replacing animal protein with soy protein reduces blood cholesterol levels, even when the total amount of fat and saturated fat in the diet remain the same.4

Increase Your Fiber Intake
Soluble fiber slows the absorption of cholesterol and reduces the amount of cholesterol the liver makes. It?s easy to increase your fiber intake. Oats, barley, beans,5 apples and some other fruits, and vegetables such as okra and eggplant are all good sources of soluble fiber. There is no fiber in any animal product.

For extra cholesterol–lowering power, choose from a “portfolio” of healthy, cholesterol–lowering foods: oats, soy products, and nuts combined with a plant–based diet can lower cholesterol nearly as much as a typical statin drug. 6

Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Losing weight helps to increase levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol). Carrying excess weight can raise blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Here are some tips on healthy weight loss.

Eat Frequent Small Meals
People who eat frequently throughout the day have lower cholesterol levels. In one study, men consumed either three meals a day or 17 snacks a day. The snackers experienced a significant reduction in cholesterol levels in comparison with the three–meal–a–day group.7

Reduce Stress
Mental stress causes an increased release of adrenaline, which may elevate blood cholesterol levels. Relaxation techniques such as stretching, deep breathing, or meditation help lower blood cholesterol.

Aerobic exercise raises HDL cholesterol concentrations. Exercise can also help reduce stress. A daily half–hour walk is helpful.

Avoid Tobacco
Tobacco poisons your heart as well as your lungs. Smoking decreases HDL levels, increases blood pressure, and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It is a major cause of coronary artery disease.

Understanding Cholesterol: Making Positive Changes

A low–fat vegan diet is the best way to lower your cholesterol level. Coupled with exercise, smoking cessation, and stress reduction, this kind of diet can even reverse heart disease for many people.8 But making only modest changes yields only modest results.

Healthy eating is easier than you may think.

Understanding Cholesterol: References

1. Pooling Project Resource Group. Relationship of blood pressure, serum cholesterol, smoking habit, relative weight and ECG abnormalities to incidence of major coronary events: final report of the Pooling Project. J Chronic Dis 1978;31:201–306.

2. Johnson C, Greenland P. Effects of exercise, dietary cholesterol, and dietary fat on blood lipids. Arch Intern Med 1990;150:137–41.

3. Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, Brown SE, Gould KL, Merritt TA, Sparler S, Armstrong WT, Ports TA, Kirkeeide RL, Hogeboom C, Brand RJ. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA. 1998 Dec 16;280(23):2001–7.

4. Carroll KK, Giovannetti PM, Huff MW, Moase O, Roberts DC, Wolfe BM. Hypocholesterolemic effect of substituting soybean protein for animal protein in the diet of healthy young women. Am J Clin Nutr 1978;31:1312–21.

5. Swain JF, Rouse IL, Curley CB, Sacks FM. Comparison of the effects of oat bran and low–fiber wheat on serum lipoprotein levels and blood pressure. N Engl J Med 1990;322:147–52.

6. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, Faulkner DA, Wong JM, de Souza R, Emam A, Parker TL, Vidgen E, Lapsley KG, Trautwein EA, Josse RG, Leiter LA, Connelly PW. Effects of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol–lowering foods vs lovastatin on serum lipids and C–reactive protein. JAMA. 2003 Jul 23;290(4):502–10.

7. Jenkins DJ, Wolever TM, Vuksan V, et al. Nibbling versus gorging: metabolic advantages of increased meal frequency. N Eng J Med 1989;321:929–34.

8. Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? Lancet 1990;336:129–33.

Nutrition MD. Making Sense of Foods. Understanding Cholestorol. Retrieved from: http://www.nutritionmd.org/nutrition_tips/nutrition_tips_understand_foods/cholesterol_references.html

Salt, Shaving Salt, Saving Lives

Shaving Salt, Saving Lives

by Bonnie Liebman, April 2010

In 2005, high blood pressure was responsible for one in six deaths in the United States,” says a new report from experts at the Institute of Medicine.1That’s because hypertension boosts your risk of dying of a heart attack or stroke more than smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, or any other risk factor does. And excess salt is a major cause of high blood pressure.


What’s more, salt may damage the heart, kidneys, and other organs above and beyond its effect on blood pressure. “Salt is costing us too many lives and too many dollars,” says physician Stephen Havas.


Here’s why you—and, more importantly, the food industry—should hold the salt.

1. Less salt means lower blood pressure and less disease.

It’s no surprise that cutting salt lowers blood pressure. That has been shown in studies that compare higher- versus lower-salt diets in both adults and children. 2,3

And a recent meta-analysis of 13 studies found not just lower blood pressures, but a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events among people who cut their salt intake.4

For example, in the Trials of Hypertension Prevention studies, some 2,400 people with pre-hypertension were randomly assigned to either cut their sodium by roughly 750 to 1,000 milligrams a day or to follow general guidelines for healthy eating for 1½ to 4 years.5

Ten to 15 years after the studies ended, researchers found a 25 to 30 percent lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, or other cardiovascular events in the group that cut salt.

“A decrease in sodium in the diet, even among those with only modestly elevated blood pressure, lowers risk of cardiovascular disease later in life,” says investigator Nancy Cook, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

2. Nearly everyone gets high blood pressure.

Why worry about salt if you haven’t been diagnosed with high blood pressure? Odds are, you will be.

“Over time, 90 percent of people in this country develop hypertension,” says Havas, a former Vice President of Science, Quality, and Public Health at the American Medical Association.

That’s because—unless you live in a society where people eat very little salt—blood pressure rises as you age. In the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, which followed more than 15,000 Americans aged 45 to 64, average systolic blood pressure (the upper number) jumped five points in five years.6

“Blood pressures drift upward as people get older and they’re exposed to longterm excess sodium,” explains Havas. “That’s why almost all adults are going to get blood pressures that put them at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.”

3. Risk rises before your blood pressure is “high”

Doctors consider prescribing drugs when your blood pressure is high—that is, it’s at least 140 over 90 (see “How High Is Too High?”). But it’s a threat to your blood vessels before it crosses that line.

“People don’t realize that blood pressure higher than 120 over 80 is associated with increased risk,” says Havas.

“Between ‘normal’ and ‘hypertension’ you have a huge number of heart disease and stroke deaths attributable to excess blood pressure,” he explains.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) calls those in-between blood pressures “prehypertension.” Roughly one out of three American adults has it. Another one out of three has hypertension.

Researchers aren’t sure how elevated blood pressure raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes. One possibility: it may accelerate the clogging of arteries.

“The progression of atherosclerosis is much higher in the face of hypertension,” explains hypertension authority Norman Kaplan of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“The heart beating at a higher pressure may lead to damage in the blood vessel wall, and that could allow cholesterol and inflammatory cells to enter.”

4. Hypertension harms the heart, brain, and kidneys.

High blood pressure doesn’t just raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It also boosts the risk of heart failure, which affects 5.8 million Americans.

Some brands of chicken are pumped up with salt water. This store brand has 550 mg of sodium in a quarter-pound serving.

“It can mean that the heart’s pump has deteriorated and can’t push the blood out,” says Kaplan, author of Kaplan’s Clinical Hypertension, a reference for physicians.

And high blood pressure is a leading cause of chronic kidney disease, which strikes one out of nine Americans. Also troubling is the growing evidence that hypertension raises the risk of dementia.

For example, in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which took MRI brain scans of 1,400 women over age 65, those with high blood pressure had more abnormal brain lesions eight years later.7

“Even moderately elevated blood pressure is associated with silent vascular disease in the brain that contributes to risk of dementia,” conclude the study’s authors.

5. Drugs haven’t solved the problem.

So what if you get high blood pressure? Can’t you just take a drug to lower it?

“You don’t want to wait until your blood pressure crosses that magic threshold of 140 over 90 because by that point you’ve already done a fair amount of damage to your heart, vascular system, kidneys, and brain,” says Havas.

What’s more, 42 million Americans have uncontrolled hypertension. That’s because 28 percent of those who have hypertension don’t know it, 11 percent know they have it but aren’t being treated, and 26 percent are being treated but not enough to get their blood pressure below 140 over 90. That means 65 percent of Americans with hypertension don’t have their blood pressure under control.8

Why? “Hypertension is a chronic condition that doesn’t make the patient feel anything,” explains Kaplan. “If people with, say, rheumatoid arthritis don’t take their medication, they hurt. So they’ll take that medication. But people with hypertension don’t experience anything obvious.” So they stop.

“A number of surveys have shown that if you put 100 people on treatment, in a year’s time only half will still be taking their medication,” Kaplan notes.

Doctors may also share some of the blame. “Some physicians will put patients on anti-hypertensive medication, and then say ‘Okay, I’m done,’ without monitoring to see if the patients’ blood pressure is still elevated,” says Kaplan.

But eating less salt would make blood pressure drugs more effective in those who need them. “With lower sodium intakes, you see a greater fall in blood pressure,” says Kaplan. “That’s particularly true for diuretics, but it’s been shown with other drugs as well.”

In fact, researchers recently tested the impact of a lower-salt diet on 12 people who had resistant hypertension—that is, their blood pressures were still high even though they were taking an average of 3½ different drugs every day.

When doctors told them to not just take the drugs but to also eat a lower-salt diet (1,050 milligrams a day), their blood pressures were dramatically lower (by an average of 22 over 9 points) than when they were on a high-salt diet (5,750 mg a day).9

The authors’ conclusion: “High dietary salt ingestion is an important cause of resistant hypertension.”

6. Assume that you’re sensitive to salt.

“For certain individuals who are salt sensitive, excessive consumption of sodium can increase blood pressure,” says the Salt Institute, which represents the salt industry. 10 Certain individuals?

“Some people react to sodium more quickly than others,” says Havas. “But 90 percent of people in this country develop hypertension and the principal cause is exposure to excess sodium, so most people over time don’t do well with high salt loads.”

What’s more, “there is no predictor or test of salt sensitivity,” he adds. “So one has to assume that almost all of us are sensitive to long-term sodium exposure.”

That’s why expert panels recommend no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day if you’re middleaged or older, are black, or already have high blood pressure. Everyone else should shoot for 2,300 mg a day. But “everyone else” turns out to be just 30 percent of U.S. adults.

7. Other factors are no excuse to ignore salt.

Cutting excess salt isn’t the only way to lower blood pressure. Getting more potassium also helps, and Americans average far less than the 4,700 mg daily target. Eating a DASH diet—which is rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods— knocks down blood pressure (see Nutrition Action, Oct. 2009, cover story). So does staying trim, daily exercise, and limiting alcohol to no more than two drinks a day (for men) or one drink a day (for women).11

“All of those factors affect blood pressure,” says Havas. “I don’t think anyone would argue that you should only work on one front.” But cutting salt is still key.

Sometimes, he adds, other factors are “a smokescreen that the food industry throws out to confuse everybody.” In fact, it may be easier to change the population’s salt intake than anything else.

“We can’t get people to lose weight and maintain the weight loss over time, though we should try because some people will do it,” notes Havas. “We can’t get people to exercise regularly and maintain it over time, though it’s worth trying because some people will do it.”

And it’s not easy to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables. “Consumption has been going up very gradually,” says Havas. “If the average American eats 3 or 4 servings a day and we need to get to 8 or 9 or more, it’s going to take a long time.”

In contrast, the government can stop companies from dumping so much salt into packaged and restaurant foods. “Getting sodium out of the food supply is the easiest because you can engineer that,” explains Havas. “You can’t engineer more fruits and vegetables, greater weight loss, and more exercise.”

8. Salt’s harm goes beyond blood pressure.

Salt appears to damage the heart and blood vessels above and beyond its impact on blood pressure.

“With most animals, if you give them a high intake of salt, their blood pressure will go up, they develop cardiovascular disease, and they die prematurely,” explains researcher Norm Campbell of the University of Calgary in Canada.

“But if you genetically breed animals so you can feed them salt and they have no increase in blood pressure, they still develop cardiovascular disease prematurely. That suggests that salt has direct toxic effects on the heart and blood vessels.”

And there’s evidence that salt is toxic to humans. “By and large, these human studies show increased cardiovascular event rates on typical high-salt diets independent of blood pressure,” notes Campbell.

How might salt harm the body beyond its impact on blood pressure?

  • Left ventricular hypertrophy.High blood pressure can thicken the muscle in the chamber of the heart that pumps blood throughout the body.“The presence of left ventricular thickness is a very-high-risk situation because it contributes to most cases of heart failure,” explains Kaplan. But some studies suggest that a highsalt diet worsens the damage caused by high blood pressure.12 And cutting back on salt may reverse the muscle thickening, he adds.
  • Stiff arteries. Stiff arteries are often an early sign of heart disease. When researchers put overweight or obese people with normal blood pressure on a diet with a typical sodium intake (about 3,500 mg a day), their arteries were stiffer than when they ate a lower-salt diet (1,150 mg a day).13“These findings suggest additional cardioprotective effects of salt reduction beyond blood pressure reduction,” conclude the researchers.
  • Kidney disease.High blood pressure damages the kidneys. But salt may make it worse. In some studies, people who consume more salt excrete more protein in their urine.14 That’s a sign that their kidneys are under stress.“The presence of protein in the filtering surfaces of the kidneys is associated with inflammation and damage,” notes Kaplan. For people who have kidney disease, “a reduction in sodium can reduce protein in the urine.”
  • Osteoporosis. High-salt diets increase calcium losses in urine. “When there’s excess salt in the kidney’s tubules, it draws out the calcium,” explains Kaplan. But only a few studies have looked at salt’s impact on bone.15 Stay tuned.

9. Cuts in salt can save lives and dollars.

“The average American woman consumes roughly 3,000 milligrams of sodium a day. The average man consumes more than 4,000 mg. What would we save by cutting those intakes by 1,200 mg? That’s what the University of California’s Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo and colleagues estimated.16

“We modeled small reductions in salt across the whole U.S. population—not getting everyone to recommended levels, but to eat just slightly less salt,” she explains. Recommended levels are less than 1,500 mg a day for most people.

“We found that lowering salt would result in many fewer heart attacks, strokes, new cases of heart disease, and deaths each year. Even small changes in blood pressure across the whole population would have very dramatic health benefits.”

Cutting salt by 1,200 mg a day “would save more lives than lowering the body weight of all obese people by 5 percent, which is difficult to achieve and maintain,” notes Bibbins-Domingo. Trimming salt would save about as many lives, heart attacks, and strokes as “treating everybody who’s already hypertensive with blood-pressure medications.”

Cutting salt would also cut costs “because of money not spent on hospitalizations for heart attacks and strokes,” notes Bibbins- Domingo. “We would save lives and health care costs.”

And the true savings may be even greater. “If salt raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes above and beyond its effect on blood pressure, it could have a gigantic impact,” says Havas. “It’s a double whammy.”

10. It’s tough to cut salt on your own.

“I’m a physician,” says Bibbins-Domingo, “and it’s always striking to me how hard it is for my patients to cut salt.”

That’s because 75 to 80 percent of the sodium we consume is added to food before we open a package or walk into a restaurant. So unless you make everything—including breads, crackers, cereals, soup, pizza, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing—from scratch, you can’t easily avoid the salt.

“You can take all the salty snacks out of your diet—the nuts and the chips and everything else, but much still remains,” says Bibbins-Domingo. “So many patients come to me thinking they’ve made healthier choices and they’re oftentimes consuming the same, if not more, salt.”

And restaurants make supermarket salt levels look low (see “Salt on the Menu”). “People eat more and more in restaurants,” says Havas. “They have no idea how much sodium is in those foods.”

Like the governments of the United Kingdom and Finland, Washington could pressure—and, if necessary, require—companies to cut salt and could require warning labels on high-salt foods.

The food industry isn’t going to trim salt on its own, says Havas. “It’s been eight years since the American Public Health Association called on food companies and restaurants to cut sodium levels in half. If they had, we could have saved 150,000 lives a year—that’s at least 1.2 million lives since 2002.

“We can’t just keep saying, ‘Let’s try a voluntary approach.’ Too many people are dying or becoming disabled.”

How to Defuse A Salt Mine

As long as the food supply stays salt-laden, the easiest way to reach target sodium levels is to make your own.

Okay, it’s not easy to bake your own raisin bran, but you can easily whip up your own salad dressing and season your own rice, couscous, or pasta. You can also buy no-saltadded canned beans (try Eden), tuna (try Bumble Bee), and tomatoes (try Pomì). And you can dust off your old copies of Nutrition Action and rediscover Kate Sherwood’s amazing Healthy Cook recipes, which trim sodium but not taste.

But on days when there’s no way you’re going to make your own, try this: add salt-free vegetables, beans, or grains to high-sodium packaged or restaurant foods.

You not only cut the salt in each serving, you boost the potassium. What’s more, you save money by stretching costlier packaged foods or restaurant take-out. It’s a win-win. Here are a few examples:

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