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More Fish, More Good Cholesterol

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More Fish, More Good Cholesterol

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Here’s some positive news from Finland, land of the midnight sun: eating lots of fatty fish can pump up your HDL, the “good” cholesterol believed to protect against heart disease and heart attacks. Not only did a fishy diet increase the number of HDL particles in the blood of participants in a study from the University of East Finland, it also made them bigger, which is definitely a good thing. Big HDL particles are believed to be the ones capable of sweeping deposits of other types of cholesterol off blood vessel walls, where they otherwise might build up enough to clog the artery and block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. Unlike the protective big HDL particles, small ones are not so helpful and may even be harmful.

The Finnish researchers reported that the fish that did the most good were the fatty ones like salmon, rainbow trout and herring, the very same fish that are loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. (You can add mackerel, halibut, albacore tuna, lake trout and sardines to that list.) In addition to their heart benefits, omega-3s play key roles in brain function, growth, development and disease prevention. They’re called “essential” fatty acids for good reason: the body can’t make them on its own. You have to get them from fish, but because it can be difficult even for people who love fish to get adequate amounts of omega-3s, I recommend taking a daily omega-3 supplement.

Can You Eat Fish 3 or 4 Times a Week?

The Finnish study, published online on February 28 by the journal in PLOS ONE, showed that eating fish for three to four meals a week led to positive changes in HDL. The study didn’t address the benefits that might have been gained by eating low-fat fish such as perch or a fish known in Finland as zander (a species resembling perch and pike). The Finnish researchers also looked at the effects of eating whole grains and bilberries (a berry similar to our huckleberries) on HDL but concluded that the HDL benefits seemed to stem mainly from the fish.

As you may know, The Brain Warrior Diet is very big on fish. Try my recipe for Baked Salmon with Roasted Leeks, or Cedar Plank Salmon. They’re delicious. Try all my other recipes for fish on this site and in my book “The Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook”.

There’s more fishy news to come from Finland – a study now underway is probing the health effects of both fish and plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the health effects of eating both fatty and low-fat fish, which previous research at the Finnish University suggests may help lower blood pressure. I’ll report the findings when they become available. Stay tuned.

The latest on food addiction comes from a study published in January 2014 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that 8.4 percent of 134,000 women enrolled in the long-running Nurses’ Health Study may be addicted to food. The researchers from the University of Michigan and the Harvard School of Public Health reported that these were women, ages 45 and 64, whose addictions were determined by their scores on the Yale Food Addiction Scale. Yes, there actually is a scientifically validated questionnaire that can expose food addiction! In addition to the midlife women whose food addictions were revealed, 2.7 percent of tested women between the ages of 62 and 88 qualified as food addicts. The questions on the addiction scale focus on eating — and over-eating — habits as well as on the foods that trigger over-eating.

Now here’s the big surprise: not all the food-addicted women were overweight or obese! The researchers reported that some were of average weight or underweight. They were more likely to be unmarried and were not current smokers. Also, they were more likely to live in the south and Midwest than other areas of the U.S. However, I definitely was not shocked to learn that the foods the women found most addictive were those high in fat, sugar and salt. We’ve known for some time that these foods trigger the brain’s pleasure and reward centers.

Do you suspect that your relationship with food qualifies as addictive? You may be able to set your mind at ease by answering the questions on the Addiction Scale. I’ve written about my own struggles with food. Over time, they led me to the Omni Diet, but I chased a few red herrings and fell into a rabbit hole or two on the way. Believe me, I know from first-hand experience how cravings can control you — it took me about three months to develop absolute control over my most serious trigger foods. I also know that the Omni Diet can help you overcome your cravings faster than you may imagine. You can break your addiction to sugar and simple carbs by removing them from your diet completely! The best way to shift your diet into the healthiest gear possible is to jump the canyon with both feet. You can’t cross a canyon in small steps! Replace the sugar and simple carbs with small amounts of protein and healthy fats and increase the volume of your meals by adding a lot of vegetables and a little fruit to your diet. Abundance not deprivation! That’s the Omni Diet. You will be amazed at how fast your cravings will disappear if you follow this formula.

If you’re looking for a supplement to help manage your cravings, try the BrainMD Craving Control supplement.

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