By Richard P. Holm, MD
The other day, I was on a run with a scientist friend who recently had suffered a small heart attack. During our run, we talked about cardiac rehabilitation and safe running practices that could help his recovery. He was happy to be back running, and as I was recovering from cancer surgery, I was also happy to be back running. If not over-done, we know that those with or without heart disease benefit from regular exercise. I could feel the run was rebuilding my strength and savored the social time with my friend. When we finished, energized and happy, a short cool-down walk brought us to his home.
There, his wife prepared a light morning breakfast of two eggs, nicely spiced with salt and pepper, a small patty of pork sausage, sliced fried bell-peppers, pieces of fresh melon on the side, and coffee. It was delicious and just the right amount. Twenty years ago, having eggs and sausage for breakfast was thought to be a big no-no. Now, new science has discovered it is NOT the fat and protein in a diet that causes atherosclerosis, but rather the excessive calories. What is more treacherous than the type of food is actually the quantity. If this doesn’t shake your world enough, we have also learned that processed carbohydrates are bad, while a balanced diet of proteins, fats, and small amounts of non-processed carbohydrates are good. For example, large helpings of carbohydrates like potatoes, pasta, pancakes, bread, or donuts can be harmful. Smaller amounts of foods like eggs and sausage are safe. That morning, the calorie count for each of us was about 300 and we both felt great.
Every day there seems to be another study that advises the opposite of what we used to think: eat less salt, now salt to taste unless the heart is weak; don’t eat butter, now butter is caloric but safe; don’t exercise too much, now do it every day; don’t drink alcohol, now a daily glass of wine is good; don’t eat fatty meals, now eat fewer calories and avoid processed carbohydrates. That being said, we have always known about the health benefits of friendship, and no one has refuted that.
In summary, researchers have made headway in understanding what is good for us. May we embrace the science that supports eating fewer calories, less processed carbohydrates, and more fruits and vegetables. If we can also find time for 30 minutes of daily exercise and some quality time with friends, then we have the perfect formula for good health.