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 today I have some even bigger news.
Annual Blood Test Results
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 (the number you want to be high), 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!
What This Means
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 race 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!
55 thoughts on “Shocking Blood Test Results”
My husband, who has always been thin and fairly active, just got an alarmingly high test result for his cholesterol reading at his last physical. While I care about healthy eating, he hasn’t been on board (he eats the healthy homemade meals I prepare but still eats fast food and junk food when away from home or at work). I’ve tried to be relaxed about it (and not force him), but now he really needs to alter his diet to turn his numbers around. One thing that is confusing me though is dairy! And even after reading all of the 100 Days of Real Food posts on milk, I’m still not sure what the best choice is for lowering cholesterol. Every other (conventional) health site recommends low-fat dairy for lowering cholesterol… but in recent years I have thought that whole milk is healthier. So what should I buy for him in terms of lowering his cholesterol? Or should I just recommend he goes dairy free!??? Any suggestions would be great! Thanks! :)
Hi. I know that must be alarming but this is not a question we can answer for you. There is so much conflicting info and you have to research and draw the best conclusion for you. I think you may find this interesting: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean.
Thank you for your reply and for the npr article! :)
We started our real food journey in January 2015 and my total cholesterol went from 225 to 197. I am stocked! First being under 200. It runs in my family, I am healthy, active, very fit but always was above 215 and more recently as I hit the 40’s crept up to 225.
I started your program as a 10 day back on Jan 1, 2015 and after 100 days just kept going. Since then I’ve lost 30 pounds and gone down 3 sizes without much effort. I’ve always been physically active and thought we were eating healthfully but for the first time ever I’ve been able to change the shape of my body. My skin is clear, my eyes are bright and I have more energy than I’ve ever had. My weight loss has been very gradual (10 months) but I believe I will keep it off now and not go back to yo-yoing. My good cholesterol also increased. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!
Hi Judy. Thanks for sharing such good news. :)
I am type 2 diabetic. Will this plan help me?
Hi Sandy. Eating real food is good for everyone but chat with your doctor about how to best meet your dietary needs. Avoiding sugar and simple carbs will still be necessary.
I wish my doctor had explained my good cholesterol that way to me! I have 80 and my LDL is slightly elevated but still in a normal range. All they said was I had high cholesterol and no explanation so my HDL being high I did not know was a great thing! Glad I read this!
Amy Taylor, you said in your 10/13/14 post that citric acid was pretty benign. I looked it up and it’s made from mold growing on corn. I want to use it in sourdough bread to make it more tangy, but after reading that I’m not so sure. The bread recipe calls for 1/2 to 5/8 teaspoon. Will that small amount really make a difference in my healthy eating? Thanks!!!
Hi Cindy. I get your concerns…citric acid/mold/gmo corn but I honestly don’t know a good replacement for a sour dough starter. And, I don’t avoid something if the only additive/preservative is citric acid. That is my opinion and I’ve not found evidence that it is of concern unless you have severe reactions to sulfites. ~Amy
As a dieitian And foodie I am going to weigh in on this one.
1. Mold is not inherently bad — blue cheese is delicious!
2. Citric acid is just vitamin C. Seriously. That is the scientific name for it. So, consider this like adding OJ to your recipe without the sugar.
Not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
Vitamin C is ascorbic acid
You may want to revisit your textbooks occasionally….
No need for rude comments.
Citric acid and ascorbic acid are quite similar and easily confused. http://www.livestrong.com/article/164362-difference-between-citric-acid-and-ascorbic-acid/
I agree with JJ that there is no need to make rude comments. Online forums are a great place to learn and share information and I appreciate Lacey’s input to the discussion.
I’m interested in Amber’s question as well.
We have been trying to transition to real food in the last couple of months. The biggest challenge was just eating at home really, as we are so used to eating out! The thing that has slipped me up the most at home though are premade sauces like teriyaki and sriacha. We eat vegetarian at home so we’ve been having lots of different whole grains and roasted vegetables and beans. So I have a couple questions – are bottle sauces ever okay? Are there any good brands? Both the teriyaki and sriacha have added sugar. Also, I noticed on our first shopping trip for real food that many things would be okay with the exception of one additive (usually citric acid). What is citric acid and is it okay?
Hi Amber. Most store bought sauces are full of not so great ingredients. There are always homemade alternatives such as: http://www.eatlifewhole.com/2013/09/healthy-teriyaki-sauce-made-with-tamari/. You can find organic Tamari soy sauce which is a good choice. Here is a post on condiments which you might find helpful: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/04/17/real-food-condiments-do-they-exist/. Regarding citric acid, as a rule we avoid as many additives/preservatives as possible but citric acid is pretty benign. :) ~Amy
ugh. Timely post for me. I just had my physical after about a year of real-food eating, but sadly I had opposite results. My ‘bad’ cholesterol skyrocketed. Of course my doctor blames it on the (raw)cheese, (real)butter, (whole)milk, and(pasture raised)beef. Her advice is to cut out all animal fats. I don’t think this is the right thing, but I don’t know what else to do. I know you are not a doctor and can’t give medical advice, but if you have any websites or other info to at least point me in the right direction I would be so thankful.
@ Shannon Fanelli – Why not try getting a second opinion from a different doctor or seeing a dietitian? Im not saying you should hunt to find a new doctor until they tell you what you want to hear, but a new doctor/dietitian might see it from a different point of view since you would be a new patient. Just a thought.
Shannon, I am not a doctor by any means… But even though I eat “clean” my cholesterol is still borderline. My HDL is great- 78 at last check in April. But my LDL is 113, which given my familial history, my doctor is displeased with. So… Here is what I am doing… Keep in mind that cholesterol is influenced by genetics, so what works for one, may not work for others.
Cut back on the red meat, butter, and dairy. Try to eat more beans, oatmeal, and greens. Even just swapping out beef for chicken should help a little. I still eat butter, just less often. I try to sub Greek yogurt in recipes, or some coconut oil. Applesauce can work too.
I totally love pasture raised organic beef, it is delicious- but I try to limit it to once a month. (Which is difficult!)
I hope you find something that works for you! I know it can be frustrating.
Hi Shannon, try reading a book ‘primal food’ by Nora Gedgaudus (sp?). I haven’t got my hands on the book yet but I saw a lecture by her. From what I understand, she has scientific research she can quote that suggests cholesterol is not as bad as we think. She also has diet suggestions for addressing some of these issues. Largely, a paleo based diet with lots of vegetables, small amounts of protein, and no grains or legumes. I don’t know the science behind it, but she was very convincing!
I agree with what some of the other people suggested. I don’t think you need to cut out all animal fats, but you can cut down on them by substituting them with other options. For example, using olive oil or coconut oil instead of butter all the time. I’m not sure how much milk you drink, but if it’s a lot, you might want to try almond or oat milk (you can make your own fairly easily so that you don’t have to buy the pre-made kinds with all the preservatives and additives in them). And maybe try sticking to local, organic chicken and turkey most of the time instead of beef or pork. Some people are more susceptible to high cholesterol due to genetics and other risk factors, but I don’t think the answer is to start eating unnaturally low-fat (e.g., more processed) foods.
Strongly recommend Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s, Eat To Live. Yes, eliminate all animal products–that includes all dairy. Also, eliminate any added oil from your diet. Dr. Caldwell Essylstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, also supports the same diet. On this diet my cholesterol dropped from 220 to 155 within two months. All meat is destructive to the endothelial lining of your arteries. A totally vegetarian diet has approximately 10% fat content, a healthy amount of fat to sustain life more than adequately.
Here is a short read from Wikipedia:
Endothelial dysfunction, or the loss of proper endothelial function, is a hallmark for vascular diseases, and is often regarded as a key early event in the development of atherosclerosis. Impaired endothelial function, causing hypertension and thrombosis, is often seen in patients with coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, as well as in smokers. Endothelial dysfunction has also been shown to be predictive of future adverse cardiovascular events, and is also present in inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. One of the main mechanisms of endothelial dysfunction is the diminishing of nitric oxide, often due to high levels of asymmetric dimethylarginine, which interfere with the normal L-arginine-stimulated nitric oxide synthesis and so leads to hypertension.
Have you seen the documentary “Forks Over Knives”? Check it out. After watching that I am starting to cut way back on dairy products and meat. (If you have Netflix it’s on there).
Cholesterol is a very familiar medical term almost to anyone, particularly the middle age group. It is a common thing the word will never be a part of teen-age lingo. The main reason is, most of the dreaded ailments accompanying “high cholesterol” levels are associated with hypertension, heart failure, diabetes and other long term and acquired conditions, which does not could also happen to younger generation as juvenile complications. To make it clear, when the majority is talking about lowering cholesterol, it is all about alleviating the further progress of bad cholesterol.There are two kinds of cholesterol accumulating or present in the human body. ;
My very own blog site
I love this website! I can’t get enough! I have a bit of a sad story. My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about 4 years ago, he was 44. We learned to live with our circumstance quickly, and leaned on our faith. Then, another blow, last Sept. our 20 year old daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy. We had no idea. My youngest daughter, now 17 has struggled with ADHD, and stomach issues for many years. Even when she had her galbladder removed at 14, it didn’t occur to me that it could be our diet. I never felt we ate poorly. Our girls had some fast food, and we did eat highly processed snacks. I just never thought we would be where we are now. I realize that Parkinson’s and Epilepsy are not usually linked to diet, but I can’t help but wonder if “real food” would help. I am looking for more local food sources, my husband is gardening, and we plan to purchase local humane treated meat this fall. We have a long way to go, sodas to give up, and take out to “cut out” but I believe it will only improve our circumstances. I love the ideas on this blog as well as the recipes!! Thank you for sharing with so many of us. I only wish I’d made the connection sooner. Blessings. Joyce
Wow, it sounds like you’ve had your fair share of challenges…wishing you the best of luck!
I started reading the book called pH Miracle and it’s amazing what food can really do for our bodies…I’m a type 2 diabetic with high cholesterol and high blood pressure…since i cut out most processed food for the last 40 days i’m down 20lbs and looking forward to losing more…the detox stradegy book by Brenda Watson was very informative also.
These web sites gave really good info on becoming a healthier person.
Thank yo so much for sharing this. I just happened to stumble into your site from a link on pintrest. Eating clean has always been an idea I have liked, but not been really great at doing. My husband has just has some alarming blood results back and I have been trying to change our diet to bring his #’s down. This is an answer to prayer and this post is very motivating to get me doing what I have always known to be right and good. Your site has been added to my favoties and again, Thank you so much for helping to make a differnce!
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I have to tell you that after eating a life-long diet of “real food”, when I had blood tests for the first time since having my son 7 years prior, the doctor was STUNNED at my HDL number which is 151. Yes, you read right – 151. He said that whatever I was doing, to never stop.
That’s a lifelong relationship with REAL food. When I was growing up, the food companies couldn’t make processed food affordable. My mother was a single mother with 3 children and REAL foods were the cheapest so that’s what we ate. We has fast food ONCE per month because that’s all my Mom could afford. I grew up on a diet of LOTS of fresh fruit and vegetables (because the canned stuff cost the same as a dozen ears of corn on the cobb almost), chicken, fish and little red meat (because of the cost).
I’ve always known that processed food is a “Death in a Box”. Now, just tell my 80 year old MIL who fed my 9 month old son “white sugar on a spoon” because she said it was a “treat”.
My girlfriend and I have been eating only real, whole, food for about 1 year now. We have seen all the same benefits that you have. Itâ€™s great, especially the changes in palate, metabolism, and cravings.
And super-kudos to you for doing it in North Carolina, with kids, and sticking to it while out of the home and away. We are in NYC, have no kids (yet), and give ourselves some wiggle room as long as we can maintain 85 â€“ 90%.
We also took on the added challenge of eating foods that are local (and in season). This winter was a real learning experience, and thank goodness my girlfriend got into canning at the end of last summer. Tomatoes and peaches in February were a nice treat that we never could have had otherwise within our eating scheme.
Weâ€™ve got recipes and discussions of our experience on our site. Love to share!
Always great to meet another “real foodie!” Thanks for reaching out!
I wish I had’ve had a full blood count done before we started eating like this! I would’ve loved seeing if there was any changes. As it is, I have lost 10kgs in just over 10 weeks and have yet to start exercising! (that’s 22 pounds!!)
You are so right about the benefits of eating clean (what I call it). I was diagnosed last year with an autoimmune and upon further research, this is linked back to toxin overloads in my body. I went on a clean diet several months ago and I feel so good right now. I have even eliminated a lot of the pain I was having. Spinach has become my new best friend, along with flax seed. Keep up your wonderful blog. I enjoy getting new ideas!
Good for you…thanks for sharing!
That is great, I am 34 and dealing with high cholestrol, low energy levels and sleep problems. I had been thinking it is because I dont manage my time well which leads to trying to get things done at the last minute, leaving me drained, and stressed, which affects my sleep.
Now I have to turn this whole mind-set around…Congrats on WFAE piece. It is how I found you!
Changing to a real food diet would definitely help things…thanks for the comment!
CONGRATS! That’s awesome numbers!!
That is awesome!
This is good evidence to use to convince myself (and my husband) to try this. He’s always working on getting his cholesterol down, and I have a test coming up so I’d like to see where I’m at/compare it to future numbers as we attempt this journey. Just had my first of your “mochas” this morning and I can’t believe I just enjoyed a cup of coffee WITHOUT agave or raw sugar!!!
Good luck! Let me know it goes once you get started!
That’s awesome! Isn’t that quote “Let food by thy medicine”? I love that because it makes so much sense, and your experience is proving it :)
I think you can fix so many things with diet! And it kills me how doctors will sometimes easily hand out a prescription before they will talk to you about what you are eating. We had the same experience with my daughter’s constipation, which was 100% cured when we changed her diet.
Yes! My brother in law has high blood pressure because he only has one working kidney and he told me just recently he started drinking a concoction of lemon juice and garlic among other things first thing in the morning and his blood pressure has been down since starting that! After a little research I find that garlic is an amazing natural medicine for high blood pressure. Imagine if doctors prescribed foods instead of prescription medicines. We’d all be so better off!
When you say “processed” foods, do you also include low-fat and diet foods? I’ve been convinced for several years that such foods are actually worse for you, but I’d be interested to hear what your experience was with them.
You are exactly right…most low-fat and diet foods are no good. Pollan did a whole chapter on how the whole “low-fat” diet is just a hoax! Often times fat is taken out, but sweeteners and other additives are added back in to compensate. So they usually end up being much more processed than the full fat version.
WOW! I am stunned by your results! Your analogy comparing eating processed foods to smoking really helped me see the big picture. I’ve never been a smoker but the movement in mass culture to provide awareness about the dangers of smoking helped click in my mind how terrible it is to eat processed foods. Thank you for sharing your results! This furthers my interest in eating “real food!”
Emily – You couldn’t be more right…the cigarette industry is commonly compared to our current food industry. And it I think it is encouraging to look at how people’s views were changed in regards to to smoking. I believe we can do the same when it comes to highly processed food!
I’m just starting my real food journey & did tests with a Natural Doctor (don’t have the results yet tho’). I think I’m pretty healthy, but I guess I’ll find out soon. I plan to also do a regular physical too to see how this 40-yr-old body is doing. (EEK!) I have had low HDL in the past…low LDL too, so I haven’t worried about it. I was encouraged most by your HDL results. My husband has some heart issues, and my son has an autoimmune condition (PANDAS: Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep…it’s a little known physical illness that causes mental illness symptoms…and yes, it’s triggered by strep). Most of the reason I’m going to real food/organic is for them…I am hoping to benefit as well. Thanks for sharing your path & letting us tag along.
Good luck with your journey, and I hope you see some improvements as well!
Congrats on such amazing results! I was able to drastically reduce my cholesterol by significantly changing our eating habits to more “real” food within a year. I am high risk for cholesterol due to genetics, but I beat the numbers and dropped my total down 100 points in 9 months. I doubled my HDL and cut my LDL and triglycerides in half. I still have a lot of changes to make to be entirely “real” food, but even the small changes I have made have already given me huge rewards!
Wow that is very impressive! And the wonderful thing is that the majority of health problems caused by eating highly processed foods can be reversed once the right changes are made!