First Steps: One Change to Start A Low-Cholesterol Diet

  • Karen Graham
  • December 6, 2012

Beginning a low-cholesterol diet after a lifetime of routine can be very challenging. Here, nutrition experts told us what they would do if they could only make one change to begin a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Write it Out

“List 16 of your favorite plant-based foods,” recommends Carol Ireton-Jones, PhD, RD, LD, Nutrition Therapy Consultant in Carrollton, Texas. “By listing what people like, they can identify things that they can eat in place of processed foods and fats, providing is an easy way to decrease cholesterol and fat intake.”

Select Unprocessed Foods

“Eat whole, real foods and avoid packaged processed foods, which contain added sugars, sweeteners and omega-6 oils that all contribute to increasing inflammation in the body, which can in turn increase cholesterol levels,” says Susan Dopart, Nutrition Consultant in Santa Monica, California, and author of “A Recipe for Life by the Doctor’s Dietitian” (SGJ Publishing, 2009).

Add in Oatmeal

Karen Graham, RD, owner of Integrative Nutrition Consultants in Scottsdale, Arizona, recommends using oatmeal to lower cholesterol levels. “I have been very successful in lowering cholesterol in many of my clients. Many of them have been able to go off of their medications — or never had to start them. I have them eat ½ cup of steel-cut oats five days a week for six weeks. That’s all it takes!”

Regular rolled oats do not have the same effect as steel-cut oats, according to Graham. She explains that this is due to the fact that steel-cut oats contain a large amount of beta glucan (fiber). “This special fiber binds to cholesterol in the body and removes it,” she says. “Steel-cut oats take about 30 minutes to cook. They take that long because of the beta glucan. Regular rolled oats that take 15 minutes to cook have less of this beta glucan — which is why they cook faster, and why they are not as efficient at lowering cholesterol. Instant oats, where you just add hot water, do not have any beta glucan, and hence don’t lower your cholesterol. They now have ‘quick cooking’ steel-cut oats, but again, they have less beta glucan so they do not lower cholesterol as well as the regular kind.”

Add in Beans

In the experience of Jan Patenaude, RD, CLT, Director of Medical Nutrition for Signet Diagnostic Corporation, adding in beans is a wise first move for a low-cholesterol diet. “Years ago, people who thought they were on a cholesterol-lowering diet but weren’t experiencing success sure got their levels to go down once they added beans and nuts to their diets on a daily basis,” she says.

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

  • Karen Graham
  • December 5, 2012

Vitamin D, in the true sense, is actually a hormone, not a vitamin. The human body can synthesize vitamin D as long as we are exposed to enough sunlight. This is why vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin.” We can also get it through specific foods in our diet and supplements.

When UVB rays from the sun hit our skin, an inactive form of vitamin D is produced. This inactive form then travels to the kidney where it is converted to the active form, known as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which the body can use for many purposes.

Health Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency

Researchers have discovered that there are vitamin D receptors in all tissues in the human body. This means that these tissues, including the heart, brain, muscle and intestines, all need vitamin D to function properly.

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

We used to think that the only role of vitamin D was to regulate blood levels of phosphorus and calcium to keep our bones strong and healthy. Over the past several years, however, researchers have discovered that this hormone plays a much bigger role than just bone health. They now know that the sunshine vitamin enhances our immune system by creating a resistance to chronic diseases such as colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s.

In addition, low levels of vitamin D have shown to be a risk factor for cognitive decline in the elderly. One study looked at 6,257 elderly women and found that those with low vitamin D levels had an increased risk of cognitive impairment.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

If vitamin D is so easy to obtain from sunlight, diet and supplements then why is it estimated that one billion people worldwide are deficient in it? Some researchers suggest the fear of skin cancer from UV rays is causing people to avoid the sun or use sunblock, or that our lifestyles have evolved to be indoors more often, all of which prevents vitamin D production. Ethnicity plays a role as well. The darker a person’s skin color, the more sun exposure they need to obtain sufficient levels of vitamin D. For example, in the United States African Americans have been found to have lower serum levels of vitamin D than Caucasians.

In addition, there are limited foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D, mainly wild-caught oily fish (salmon, mackerel, bluefish, and canned tuna) and egg yolks. There are also fortified foods such as milk, baby formula, cereal and orange juice. If these foods are not consumed on a regular basis, levels could drop. Still, experts claim that 90 percent of our vitamin D comes from sun exposure alone.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Bone pain and muscle weakness can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. However, the symptoms are often unnoticeable until a greater complication is present.

Know Your Vitamin D Levels

Now that we know the importance of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels, how do we find out our own levels? Fortunately, there is a blood test which can determine your status.


2.    Slinin Y, Paudel M: Association Between Serum 25(OH) Vitamin D and the Risk of Cognitive Decline in Older Women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2012; gls075v1-gls075.
3.    Holick MF, Chen TC, Lu Z, Sauter E.Vitamin D and Skin Physioology: a D-lightful story. J Bone Miner Res. 2007 Dec;22 Suppl 2:V28-33.

Vitamin D Sources

The best way to get vitamin D is through the sun. We absorb large amounts of vitamin D in a short amount of time when exposed to UVB rays. There are many factors that affect how much vitamin D we can produce from UVB rays, including the time of day, latitude, time of year, skin type and age. Someone above 60 years of age requires four times more exposure than someone in their 20s.

There are also vitamin D supplements. The amount of vitamin D necessary to raise levels from deficiency to a normal range is very controversial and many experts have varying opinions. Again, there are many factors that come in to play such as age, weight, sun exposure, other health conditions, medications and the quality of the supplement. When choosing a supplement, seek advice from a registered dietitian or other health care practitioner.

What works for one person may not work for another. The only way to tell if a certain regiment is working is to have your vitamin D levels measured and then occasionally monitor.

Find the original article on WellnessFX.

Julie Murphy before & after

The Superhero Diet

  • Karen Graham
  • July 1, 2012

Spiderman and Batman are both soaring into movie theatres this summer. They’re buff, tough and ready to kick some serious butt – but doesn’t saving the planet have them starving? Arizona-based dietitian Karen Graham breaks down how much food one day in their super lifestyles would require. The short answer is a lot.

Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker)

Height: 5’10”
Weight: 167lbs

To lift up to 10 tons: Peter requires lots and lots of protein to maintain his Spidey strength. 12 eggs, 3 turkey legs, 3 salmon fillets and 7 breasts a day.

To outrun a fast car: This superhero gets revved up with energizing, high quality carbs like 12 sweet potatoes, 5 cups brown rice and 10 cups oatmeal.

To scale buildings and swing from webs: He gets all his stamina from non stop snacking: 5 bananas, 5 oranges, 5 cups broccoli and 15 cups raw spinach.

Estimated daily calorie intake: 19,052

Batman (aka Bruce Wayne)

Height: 6’2″
Weight: 210lbs

To run Wayne Enterprises and hack into computers: This job is all about optimal brain function, so he needs foods high in omega-3s: 2 salmon fillets, 1 cup walnuts and 2oz. chia seeds.

To keep up his muscle-building regimen: Holy protein, Batman! To build muscle, he’ll want 2 chicken breasts, 6 eggs, 1 cup walnuts, 2 salmon fillets, 2 cups broccoli and 2 cups spinach.

To defeat villains in hand-to-hand combat: High fiber carbs – like 2 cups oatmeal and 2 bananas will booast his energy.

Estimated daily calorie intake: 4,826

Click here for the original article in EveryDay