Every chance I get I try to mention all of the amazing health benefits we’ve experienced since our switch to real food almost a year ago. Even though we started gradually transitioning our diets at the beginning of 2010 we still continue to notice new and wonderful ways it has affected our health. I just recently shared a detailed list of the changes we’ve experienced thus far, and even since then I had sort of an epiphany about my increase in energy. I’ve realized that I’ve also been sleeping better too, and that could very well part of the reason for all of my extra energy. I suppose I always used to blame my kids on a bad night’s sleep, but even when they only came in our room for a minute I used to lay there awake for an hour (or two or three) trying to fall back asleep. Can anyone relate? When I had my epiphany the other day I realized that now if one of our girls comes into our room (which unfortunately happened the night before last), I fall back asleep the minute they are back in their bed. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had one of those frustrating nights where I lay awake unable to sleep…and I hate to admit that I used to struggle with that quite frequently.
Aside from all this wonderful energy and sleep business I have some even bigger news. I just had a long awaited meeting with my doctor to sit down and compare my blood test results from a physical that took place at the end of 2009 (before we made the switch to real food) to a physical I just had last month. I say it was long awaited because my insurance wouldn’t allow me to get another physical until it had been at least a year since the previous one. Once I finally got my hands on both sets of results I briefly attempted to make sense of the numbers, but realized I would need the expertise of my doctor.
Some numbers on my chart fluctuated only a little like my risk for diabetes, which of course went down, thanks to a slightly decreased glucose level (from 78 to 71, or a 9% decrease). My liver test also looked a little better than it did over a year ago, but it was already pretty normal to begin with. The shocker of all tests though was my cholesterol. And I am not talking about LDL (a.k.a. the “bad”) cholesterol because I have always been okay in that department. My LDL level barely even fluctuated 2 points. But the good cholesterol, which is also known as HDL, increased drastically over the last year. I think my doctor was even surprised. In late 2009 my HDL Cholesterol level was 52.9, and at the beginning of this year it jumped up to 79. That is almost a 50% increase!
And while a big jump in numbers sounds impressive, it actually means something pretty exciting as well. An increase in HDL cholesterol means you have a decreased chance for heart disease, but listen to exactly how my doctor broke it down for me. If your HDL level is above 60 (which mine was NOT in 2009) then it is considered to be a “positive risk factor” when it comes to your cardiac risks. A level above 60 would essentially cancel out a “negative risk factor” like smoking cigarettes, for example. So as you can see in my case, consuming processed foods was basically equivalent to smoking (and eating real food) when it comes to having an increased risk for heart disease. Shocking, huh?
There are also a few other things I want to mention about the timing of my original test. In late 2009 I was oblivious to the difference between real food and highly processed food, but I did THINK we were eating somewhat fairly healthy items (boy was I wrong). You see we’ve always cooked a lot at home, avoided pre-made frozen dinners, and did our best to incorporate fruits and vegetables into each meal. We used to eat fast food on occasion, but it was never a regular occurrence for us. I did used to bake cookies a lot (from scratch), but it was not like we were eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…they were reserved for an evening dessert. I was also training for a sprint triathlon at the time of my original test so there is no question that I was in good physical shape. My absolute weakness at that time was definitely all of those refined ingredients like white (enriched) flour and white sugar. And it is not that I simply had sugar as a part of my diet it is the quantity in which it was consumed. When you are buying items that were made in some factory you usually don’t consider how much sugar they are adding (or salt or oil for that matter). And I promise that in some cases they are adding a lot more than you would if you were making it at home. And we are not just talking about Little Debbie Snacks, Fruit Loops, and soda pop (because I swear I NEVER bought those items!), we are simply talking about every day items like flavored yogurt, white sandwich bread, pre-made sauces, etc. So needless to say, I am even a little shocked that I would experience such a dramatic increase in my “good” cholesterol from our change in diet. Yet another good reason to believe in our new way of life and continue to march forward with it!