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Marla Heller and the DASH Mediterranean Diet

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Two of the most studied diets that are successful for weight loss and better health are the DASH Diet and the Mediterranean Diet. In her book The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution, Marla Heller shows us how to use both of these ways of eating to optimize our health.

Allan (1:14): Marla, welcome to 40+ Fitness.

Marla Heller (1:17): Thank you. I’m really glad to join you.

Allan (1:19): I have to say I’ve seen study after study after study and it’s always interesting to me there are certain diets that always end up at the top of the list. I think I first heard about the Mediterranean diet probably 15 years ago or better. It’s a long, long time people have been talking about that diet. The DASH diet is something that’s a little bit newer, and there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. But I have to be honest with you, I never really deep dived into either of them. And what I’ve found with your book was I had a lot of general misconceptions about what they actually were.

Marla Heller (2:01): Interesting. Tell me about those.

Allan (2:05): When I think Mediterranean, I don’t know why, but my thoughts always go to Italy. And Italy is one of the countries that would fit that concept, but I just think about all that pasta and pizza. There’s no way I can eat like that. I’ve eaten pasta before when I was younger. That’s pretty much how I put on my weight. So, if I’m going to eat like the French and the Italians, other than the fact that I know, having been over there, the quality of their food is a lot better than what’s available here sometimes, I just thought I’m not going to eat bread, I’m not going to eat the pasta. That’s the white foods that pretty much I need to stay away from.

Marla Heller (2:51): That is a very common misconception, that it’s all about having platefuls of pasta and lots of bread at the table. Actually that’s not the basis of the Mediterranean diet. That’s a more Americanized idea of what it is. And I will also mention that it’s where people get off-track with the Mediterranean diet, because it’s not absolutely defined. People take their own interpretation and as you say, they may get really off-track with that.

Allan (3:29): I think that’s why I never really dove into those and said, “I’m going to do that.” What I took out of it for my part is that they don’t do as much GMO, they don’t do as much of this other stuff over there. They have access to local produce because they grow it there, so I was thinking more in terms of, they’re eating higher quality foods. And I can sit there and put someone on a high quality carnivore diet and a low quality carnivore diet, and you’re going to see a difference in their health, just based on the quality of the food. But getting into your book, like I said, it opened my eyes to some depth that’s there. Another thing I really liked about the book was that you go with this approach of, “Don’t tell me what I can’t eat. Let’s focus on what we can.” If we’re filling ourselves and getting the nutrients we need from the foods we can, we’re going to be so much better off.

Marla Heller (4:25): What a concept that you should enjoy how you’re eating! And still be healthy. That’s absolutely something. If people can’t enjoy what they’re eating, they’ll never be able to stick with a healthy plan. That was actually one of the things that motivated me. This is my second career, and it motivated me to go back to school and become a dietitian. I was working with people who were having heart attacks at relatively young ages, including in their mid 30s. And after they had the heart attack, they went on living the way they lived because they didn’t think that eating in a healthy way would be satisfying enough that they could really enjoy their lives. And they still wanted to enjoy life. I knew from watching people in Europe, because I was traveling a lot in Europe, that they enjoyed how they were eating but they were still taking care of their health. And I thought somebody needs to bring that where you show people you can enjoy eating and be healthy at the same time.

Allan (5:30): My disconnect with those diets was along the lines of misconceptions. So, I’m really happy to have an opportunity to have this conversation with you. Could you take a moment and go through what the DASH diet is, how it came about, what it includes, and then go about the same thing with the Mediterranean diet?

Marla Heller (5:53): The DASH diet was originally developed by people who were working on different kinds of approaches to help people lower their blood pressure without medication, because they knew that some people who ate in particular ways had lower blood pressure naturally, and one of those ways was being a vegetarian. They saw that people who were Seventh-day Adventists, who were primarily vegetarian, had significantly lower blood pressure than most Americans. And they’re eating from the same food supply; there’s nothing different. They had the same kind of lifestyle and so forth, but the vegetarian diet seemed to be very helpful for lowering blood pressure. However, they didn’t I think that most Americans would actually go along with that, because we are a country of meat eaters. So, they wanted to take the best parts of a vegetarian diet and create one that was more flexible. First of all, I must say people could still be a vegetarian and follow the DASH diet, because it really does emphasize lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds. It includes things like mostly whole grains, but not overdoing them, and lean meats – fish and poultry, if you choose to include those in your diet, along with the heart-healthy fats. So, vegetarian or not vegetarian, it’s something that people can really fit into their lives. When they did the first research, they saw that people did lower their blood pressure as much as the first-line medications would do. And it did this in just 14 days. In fact, I have support groups on Facebook who are following this book, and people are seeing their blood pressure drop in as little as seven days. That’s very, very impressive.

Allan (7:51): It is. But you do caution folks about this – if you’re on blood pressure lowering meds and you decide to change the way you’re going to eat, have a conversation with your doctor, because that might be a moment when your doctor needs to know you’re doing this and you may need to be able to call in to him or her and say, “Doc, I’m checking my blood pressure each day. It’s just fallen off a cliff here. What do I do?” And they’ll help you taper down your meds the way that you need to. 

Marla Heller (8:20): Exactly.

Allan (8:22): You say in the book it’s not so much that food is the medicine, but food sets a platform for us to get healthy, if we’re putting the right foods in our body.

Marla Heller (8:32): And that is one thing – when they go around the world and they look at places where people live exceptionally long and stay healthy that whole time, they found that they tend to have similar ways of eating that are really strong on the plant-based foods, but you can also still have some of the fish, meat, lean poultry and so forth. That is something that we really do want to emphasize, that you can stay healthy your entire life.

Allan (9:03): That’s the DASH diet. So, what is the Mediterranean diet and how is it a little different?

Marla Heller (9:09): The Mediterranean diet, the things that are really beneficial are much like DASH – the vegetables, the fruit, heart-healthy fats, which would include things like cold water fish, from which you get the fatty acids, the fish oil, things that actually help to improve your heart health. They also include olive oil all around the Mediterranean, not just in Italy and Greece. All around the Mediterranean olive oil has been the basis of their diets. That’s what they use. One of the things we talked about earlier is that people tend to get off-track and it gets all about having lots of pasta, lots of bread and it’s white bread and so forth. But it’s really those vegetables that make the heart of the Mediterranean diet. So, that’s something that’s kind of interesting. In fact, they’ve even found that on some of the islands in Greece and Italy where they were studying and saw that they did tend to have a lot of people who live to be over 100 and were still very physically active and socially active – they were eating lots of different types of greens. They would actually go out in their fields and collect some things for making a salad and so forth. And they think that that may have been one of the advantages. So having a variety of greens can be a really good thing, hidden benefit. Also the red wine seems to be pretty much protective as well. And it’s not something that people have to go out and start drinking red wine. It is really high in antioxidants, but there are also a lot of other fruits and vegetables that are very high in antioxidants. So, if you do drink wine, a little bit of red wine with dinner is a really great thing, but we’re not encouraging people to start drinking. But you do want to make sure you’re getting enough fruits in your diet as well. Those are some of the hidden things in the Mediterranean diet that most Americans aren’t aware of, and it’s probably one of the reasons why some people may try to follow a little bit of a Mediterranean diet and then it doesn’t feel like they’re getting a lot of benefits. I think it helps to focus on the core foods that are really going to be making you healthier, which would include things like fruits and vegetables, mostly whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry. And again, that’s the same thing as in the DASH diet. And in the Mediterranean diet, they also have a lot of nuts, seeds and beans as well. So the vegetable proteins are also really helpful for keeping people healthier on a long term.

Allan (11:59): Okay. Now, you mash these up to come up with the Mediterranean DASH diet program. One of the things that I saw in there that I have to say was a little surprising was that milk, dairy kind of plays a fairly big role in this.

Marla Heller (12:17): Actually in the first DASH study, they did one group where they didn’t give them extra milk and dairy, and they did not see as much blood pressure benefit as people did who were including a little bit of extra dairy. With the Mediterranean diet when they have dairy, it tends to be fermented, such as with yogurt or cheese. All around the Mediterranean, you’re going to see people using yogurt as a basis for sauces, for salads and so worth. That is something they include a lot of. It’s a little bit of shift in how you might do more of a Mediterranean-oriented DASH, but it’s certainly super delicious. So, that’s a good thing to do.

Allan (13:05): It is. So what we’re saying here is you put these all together and the basis of it, like you said, is going to be fruits and vegetables. The bread that you eat is going to be whole grains. And one of the dangerous myths that you have in the book is that it’s not 12 servings per day.

Marla Heller (13:23): That was something that actually came out in the late ‘80s in the United States. They recommended that people have between 6 and 12 servings a day of bread, or some kind of grain food. That is a lot, and that was precisely at the time when people were becoming much less active in their lives. So, we ended up with this epidemic of obesity based on these food guidelines of eating lots of grain and cut back on the amount of protein foods that you eat. And actually the one thing that we’re not getting enough of, and especially as we get a little bit older, is the protein-rich foods. You need that to maintain muscle, because the more muscle you have as you age, the younger your body is.

Allan (14:11): We’re going to get some of the protein from the vegetables. That’s one of the things that I’ve really been looking into lately. If you’re eating leafy greens, there’s protein in there. Now, your body’s got to get the other essentials that it’s not getting from that, and it’ll get those from other food sources. So, you can include lean meats in there with this. You’re going to get some protein from the dairy that you’re going to be eating. Like you said, for the most part it’s going to be fermented. If you’re getting cold water fish, you’re going to get fish oil and then also adding the olive oil, which I think most people know if they’re getting good quality olive oil, they are getting the right things their body needs. You put those altogether and now here’s this Med DASH program. But we started down the road of talking about these dangerous myths, and one of them was the 12 servings of grains. I think Kellogg’s or General Mills drafted that one and said, “Shove this one in here. Let’s make this the base of the pyramid.”

Marla Heller (15:08): It was actually based off people in some primitive areas whose blood pressure stayed at a normal level even as they got older, and they stayed healthy that whole time. They thought that part of the reason is because they were eating all these grains. Most Americans aren’t doing a lot of whole grains. Also, they stayed healthy because they were very physically active and they were not eating huge amounts of calories. So, combining easy access to food and lots of quantity, that turned out to be a really bad combination to have those recommended 6 to 12 servings of grain every day. That was really off-track.

Allan (15:52): There were others in there. Can you go through a few of, for a lack of a better word, favorite nutrition myths that are out there? I have a couple I’ll probably follow up with as well.

Marla Heller (16:03): Okay. One thing is that if people are thinking about losing weight, and at this time of year people are thinking about, “I ate too much during the holidays and I want to lose a little bit of weight”, they think that the weight loss itself is the goal. And it really is not. You want to lose fat, but you don’t want to lose muscle because if you lose muscle, you slow down your metabolism and it also can make you feel a little bit weaker. You actually want to focus on losing fat. And that’s one of the focuses that has been off-track. Actually having a diet that’s high in those grains, as we get older and if we’re not too physically active, it will tend to build fat. So the grains actually get broken down in digestion to sugar, and that sugar we don’t need for our activity gets stored around our belly, especially as we start going over the age of 40 or so. That can really get people off-track. We’d like to get rid of that excess belly fat especially, because that seems to be associated with a whole lot of diseases, but you want to maintain muscle. That helps you define what kind of foods you’re going to eat.

Allan (17:30): Absolutely.

Marla Heller (17:32): Another thing that we’ve all been way off-track on is thinking that if you just cut calories and you’re a little bit more active, you’re automatically going to lose weight. If people are in an ideal situation – for example, they have places where people can go in to lose weight and they’re trapped in the location and they’re very limited in how much they can eat and they do watch what they’re eating. But most of us are free living, free range people, and we can go around and do whatever we want to. It really helps to think about there are certain kinds of foods that actually will help us burn a little bit more calories. They have recently found out, although some researchers knew earlier, that when you’re digesting proteins, it takes a little bit more calories to actually digest it. You don’t get quite the same impact in terms of increasing your weight if you’re having enough of the protein foods as compared to if you’re having a really high starch or high sugar diet. So that’s a really helpful thing for people to know. And that was one of the things that was off-track, let’s say, in the ‘90s where as a dietician, we were trained to cut calories proportionally across fats, starchy sugary foods, and the protein foods. Actually you want to cut the starchy sugary foods and maintain the protein-rich foods and the heart-healthy fats, because they actually help to quench your hunger. And the protein helps to keep you feeling full longer. They really weren’t focusing in on how people work in a real life situation where they’re trying to moderate their food intake and to have it be something that they can actually sustain in the long run. So they would get off-track, they would not feel that they’re being successful in the diet, so they said, “I might as well go back to the way I was eating because this isn’t working.”

Allan (19:50): I agree. I’ve seen that. My thoughts on that one are that technically, yes, we are going to expand calories and if we’re not getting enough food, our bodies will begin to burn fat for that excess energy. But our bodies are really designed well to make sure that we don’t starve to death. So, what’s going to end up happening is your body will say, “You’re not eating enough, so we’re going to start cutting off certain processes that we don’t need as much. We’re not going to produce as much of this enzyme or we’re not going to make as much of that hormone. We’re going to start cutting out systems that don’t keep us alive.” So, your metabolism actually slows down.

Marla Heller (20:35): Actually it can happen that you do cut off things that are essential for survival. One of the things I’ve noticed is if people go through a really rapid weight loss and they’re not getting enough protein, your body will start breaking down even heart muscle, and that can be a problem. Actually, since you mentioned the starvation – when they set the RDAs for protein, it was based on preventing starvation in Sub-Saharan Africa. It wasn’t based on people who are not as physically active and eating a more sufficient diet. So, the protein RDA is a lot lower than it actually needs to be, and they recommend now that most people should probably have about… I know I’m getting into dietician talk, but instead of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram, it should be up around 1.2. Or if people are physically active and as they get older it could go up to 1.6. So it’s a fair amount higher than what we were recommending in the ‘90s.

Allan (21:49): To put that in pounds, roughly what I would say is you’re going to need to eat somewhere between half a gram of protein per pound of body weight, and maybe just a little higher than that. That’s about the same range when you’re talking about kilograms.

Marla Heller (22:04): The minimum that they had from the old guidelines, for an average woman it would be about 65 grams per day. First of all, I will say people don’t eat grams of protein; they eat real food. So I tend not to emphasize the components of the food and really talk about getting a balanced diet, because when you sit down to eat, you want to enjoy it, you don’t want to be having to think about all these other components in the background. But if you get in the habit of having a variety of foods, you’re automatically going to be getting the right stuff.

Allan (22:42): Your body is pretty good about that. Once you sit down and you start putting your food together, you realize you’re going to need a protein source. A serving of fish or a serving of chicken is going to roughly give you about 25 to 30 grams. If you’re eating that about three times a day and maybe having a little bit of protein with your snacks, like cheese…

Marla Heller (23:04): Some yogurt or cheese or hardboiled egg for breakfast.

Allan (23:09): So thinking through that you’re getting protein with each meal is going to help with the satiation. Not being afraid of olive oil, because it’s not the bad fats for you. It’s actually very good for you if you’re getting a good quality actual olive oil. I hate reading those stories where they go into the grocery stores and test what’s on the shelves and find that a large portion of it doesn’t actually have olive oil in it.

Marla Heller (23:33): That is pretty scary.

Allan (23:34): I just shake my head. One that I found very interesting, because I recently had another guest on and he is a big fan of smoothies, so I tried his smoothie recipe and it’s actually pretty good. I made some adjustments to it and tweaked it a little bit here and there. And what I saw was this is a great way for me to get in a full five ounces greens, which would be difficult with just sitting down and eating them like a salad. I add some spirulina and chlorella in there, so I’m getting more greens, some celery or cucumber or something like that to bulk it up a little bit more, because there’s more fluid there now. But in your myths – I really have to ask you this – does the blender actually break down the fiber in the plants to a point where you’re not getting the benefit of that fiber?

Marla Heller (24:30): Yes. Again, I’ll apologize for getting maybe a little bit too chemically oriented, but the molecular weight of the fiber is really essential to allowing it to do its job. And along with pulverizing the vegetables, especially the longer you go, it actually does cut up those fiber molecules and makes them so that they’re much less effective. I will also say it’s a great property of vegetables and fruits that they are bulky and filling, and it is hard to overeat when you get a lot of them in your diet. That’s a benefit. And that’s one of the things we’re missing when we go towards the smoothies and so forth. We’re missing the whole point. And one of the things I really focused on with this book is re-teaching people how to eat. You might be thinking, “I know how to eat. I know how to put things in my mouth.” But it’s that balance between having some foods that are bulky and filling and relatively low calorie, like the vegetables and whole fruits, and having along with that something with some protein, something with some heart-healthy fats, because those give you that satiety that allows you to stay full longer. Bulky, filling to get filled up, and then the protein and the fat to feel full longer. That helps people with avoiding overeating without having to think about it.

Allan (26:10): I do agree with that. If I sit down and I have a salad, I’m usually pretty basic with my salads. I might chop up a boiled egg and put some olives on there, and I’ll make my own vinaigrette, and that’s it. Or I’ll do a can of tuna or something like that on a salad. So it’s fairly basic foods the way that I eat salads, but they fill me up. I could still take that same five ounces; it’s just really tough to get it all in. What I found with the smoothie was the convenience that I can sip on it over the course of an hour or so while I’m working. It’s portable.

Marla Heller (26:52): On the other hand, then you never know when you’ve had enough. People will say, “I’m a grazer. I like to graze.” But you have to stop and think, how do you know when you’re done? If you’re always continually eating, how do you know how much you’ve actually consumed? Whereas if you sit down and have a snack and let’s say you have an apple and a yogurt and maybe some nuts, you’re going to finish that up and you’re going to feel satisfied for a long time. That’s a way of making it really easy to stay with your goals of getting the right foods. And those happen to be things that are all on the DASH diet, all on the Mediterranean diet, so you’re automatically eating the right things.

Allan (27:40): Okay. You had another one in here that shocked me a little bit because it kind of goes contra to what I think most of the advice out there is, and that was that small changes are best.

Marla Heller (27:52): That’s been the philosophy for, I would say almost 30 years, but people get discouraged so easily. Sometimes making a big change can make it much easier to sustain. Actually that’s one of the reasons that we have the jumpstart portion of the plan in this book, because we want people to refocus on how they eat. And that is one thing I keep hearing over and over again from my online groups. People say, “I’m not hungry” or, “I don’t know how I can fit in all of this food.” Whoever heard of a diet plan that you’re saying, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got too much to eat here”? So, that really can be a big help in getting people going. And what they start to see is their blood pressure goes down right away, that they’re starting to lose weight around their waist and all of a sudden their clothes fit much better. That’s reinforcement to keep going.

Allan (28:56): I think that’s one of the cores of this, and that’s where it hit me. We tell people to take a small step, it’s better than nothing. It’s like if you want to start a walking program, maybe you’re doing five minutes the first day and that’s all you can handle. That’s a step, and then you’re going to do a little bit more. But what you’re saying, particularly as we start looking at food is, let’s do something drastic so we see that payback and we’re reinforced fairly early, and we don’t have those drag-on effects and things. We just finished up a Sugar Challenge as this episode’s going live. When I deal with the differences of people, I’ve always had three levels in that. I know these numbers are going to scare you, but one of them is to cut your sugar to 50 grams per day. And for some people that’s already drastic enough. Then I have a 30-gram level, which is the intermediate, and then a 20-gram, which is the advanced. So I say we’re going to get our bodies to be able to understand and taste the sweetness of foods already. I remember as a kid, we would get strawberries and we would put extra sugar on the strawberries. And today I can’t even fathom doing that, not because I think that sugar’s inherently evil. When I eat a strawberry, it’s about as sweet as I can take. I really don’t want to add anything to sweeten the strawberry, because it’s already perfect.

Marla Heller (30:26): Exactly. That was something that was completely common, and now you can’t understand at all why they would do that. Actually I will say one of the things with sugar that comes from whole fruit is that you’re going to absorb that more slowly because you do have the fiber and the cells and so forth, and they hold trapped things and help it digest a little bit slower. So, having the whole fruits doesn’t give you the same impact as having a Snickers bar, for example.

Allan (31:01): So you’ll go online and you’ll look up the sugar in that and say, “Would I be better off eating the Snickers bar than I would be eating this fruit?” And that’s not actually true. You actually would get more beneficial nutrients, phytonutrients.

Marla Heller (31:14): It’s going to stay with you longer if you had the whole fruit.

Allan (31:18): There’s still a lot to be said about “You are what you eat”, because your body is remaking your cells all the time and food is affecting how your genes are expressed. Do you really want Snickers to be the one giving those signals?

Marla Heller (31:35): It doesn’t mean you should never have something like that, because you still have to have a real life. But there are many ways to satisfy that sweet tooth. In fact, if you keep the right foods on hand, if you’ve got your refrigerator full of fruits and vegetables and so forth – you may think you’re getting up to get a snack, “Maybe I would like to have a candy bar or something.” But then you go open the refrigerator and you see some whole fruit and some raw vegetables, you’re thinking, “I could do that instead. I could have this yogurt.” That really makes it super easy to stay on hand, when you keep the right foods on hand.

Allan (32:18): Absolutely. Now, there was something else you put in the book and I want to talk about this a little bit. I didn’t really put it on the plan, but it was in my thought process as I was going through this, because we’ve talked about yogurt a lot. You walk into the grocery store and the low fat yogurt or zero fat yogurt, they typically add sugar to it to sweeten it up or make it taste good enough for someone to want to eat it. But you said in the book that not all of that sugar is digestible or available, because of the bacteria. Can you talk through that process, because I really didn’t absorb it the way I wanted to?

Marla Heller (32:58): Okay. When you take milk to make yogurt, they have bacteria in there that help to digest the lactose. Lactose is the milk sugar. It helps to digest that and it breaks it down and it turns it into lactic acid, which is what gives you that “Tang!” when you’re eating the yogurt. The same thing also happens during manufacturing cheese. So, when you look at a food label of yogurt, it still shows the amount of sugar that was in the original milk. That gets really confusing because it really isn’t sugar anymore. However, they are changing the food labels, so now they will show you how much is added sugar. And it’s not all sugar that you want to avoid. Like I said, with whole fruits you still want that. But if you can look at the yogurt on one of the newer food labels and see regular milk would have 15 grams of sugar and this one has 23 grams of sugar and it shows me that eight grams are added sugar – that makes it a lot easier to understand. Again, with the yogurt it’s really confusing because they make the manufacturers say that it’s sugar, even though it isn’t anymore. So you have to go on faith and try to choose one that has low added sugar.

Allan (34:31): Okay. Now, in the book you do give plans. So, if someone is really concerned about not knowing what to eat, because there’s a lot of variety of what you can eat… I like that that’s part of the focus of this whole thing, is what you can eat. You do go through a period of what you call the “jumpstart”, but you make that optional. Can you explain what the jumpstart is about, why it’s optional and how it would fit into the ongoing plan after that? Because this is not just a diet; this is really a lifestyle.

Marla Heller (35:05): Yes. One of the things that happens in most people’s daily lives is they have a breakfast or something and then their blood sugar crashes and they’re hungry again. You kind of get on this sugar rollercoaster. I will also say that starch breaks down to sugar as well, so it’s not just raw sugar that makes a difference. It’s also how much starchy foods you’re eating that causes blood sugar to surge and then to crash. So, during the first week or two you can do this jumpstart program that gets you off the sugar rollercoaster and it also teaches you to eat in a way that is filling and satisfying. I really focus in on the vegetables, learning how having some protein along with the bulky filling foods helps to keep you feeling satisfied longer. That’s what people say when they start going through this after a few days, that they’re not as hungry and they’re not eating as much of their meals as they used to. It is a natural way of keeping your blood sugar on a more even keel and keeping your energy level more consistent throughout the day. So, people can do that and that becomes a foundation when you start adding back in the fruits, some whole grains, things like that, because you’ve already learned how satisfying it can be when you combine those healthy foods.

Allan (36:47): Basically we’re dropping the fruit, or at least substantially reducing it, and the grains.

Marla Heller (36:54): And the non-fermented dairy.

Allan (36:57): Okay, non-fermented dairy. So you’re making some pretty big cuts there, some eliminations for this first little period, and it is going to be not the funnest eating opportunity. You’re going to have to get a little creative, which is really cool, because the book also comes with recipes.

Marla Heller (37:14): Think about it as one day at a time, or one hour at a time. “I can do this for this next period of time. I can keep going.” Just in little bitty steps, because you are re-learning how to eat, and this is going to be the benefit for the rest of your life.

Allan (37:30): Absolutely. So, after you’ve been on this for a while, then you can start adding in some grains and some fruit, and that’s going to give you some great information. Anytime you do an elimination diet like this and then you add those foods back in systematically, you’re able to see how well your body uses that for fuel, for building materials. If you have any sensitivities to dairy, you’re going to notice it. If you have any sensitivities to sugar, you’re going to sense it. If you have any issues with grains, be it gluten or whatever, you’re going to figure that out when you go through a process like this.

Marla Heller (38:11): A lot of people tell me that when they’re going through this jumpstart phase, their heartburn disappeared, they didn’t feel as bloated. As you say, it’s food sensitivities that people are eliminating that were causing them to not feel as good. That also makes this something you want to keep doing, because you want to feel good.

Allan (38:35): And sometimes that’s the wine. Wine can cause the acid reflux and that heartburn kind of feeling. That’s another thing that’s not in the jumpstart; there’s no wine for that first little bit.

Marla Heller (38:48): If you have some wine, it can also reduce your inhibitions, so you’re thinking, “Well, maybe I’m going to start eating sugar.”

Allan (38:55): “Let’s make some chocolate chip cookies.” Like I said, I really appreciate the opportunity to go through and get a better feel for what these diets are and where they can add value. I also appreciate when they’re put together and they give you a comprehensive program, because they tend to be number one and number two in the health studies that are out there of best diets. When they do the polls of what’s out there, what the science is showing, those guys are always on the top of those lists.

Marla Heller (39:30): Absolutely. It is because they are fundamentally good and they’re something that people can follow for a lifetime to stay healthy. We all want to live a long time, but we also want to be healthy that whole time. We don’t want to start losing our ability to do all the things we want to at a relatively young age.

Allan (39:53): I agree. And food is a big, big part of that, so getting your food right is really the first step in regaining and maintaining your health.

Marla Heller (40:03): Absolutely.

Allan (40:04): Marla, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?

Marla Heller (40:14): One of the first things is to ensure as you get older that you’re having a little bit more protein in your diet, because that is something that helps your body maintain muscle. And the more muscle you maintain as you get older, the better you feel. And it helps to prevent disabilities and so forth. If you can do the things that you want to do and feel like your body is young, then you’re going to be happier. A lot of times it’s these disabilities that really grind on people, whether it’s something where they have a pain syndrome or a bunch of chronic health problems, that can be a problem. One thing we didn’t really talk about through this is a situation called metabolic syndrome, where people tend to gain more weight around the waist, they may have high triglycerides and low HDL, which is a good cholesterol. Their blood pressure may be higher than they would like it to be, and they might not respond as well to insulin as they used to, so their blood sugar may be more on that rollercoaster. All of these diseases go together and they increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. All of those are challenging to deal with through your life. So if you’re choosing a diet plan that helps to naturally lower your blood pressure, naturally healthy with not having your blood sugar be as high, it helps you with keeping your good cholesterol at a good level. Those are all things that are going to make you feel better and help you have a better quality of life for the rest of your life.

Allan (42:04): Good. Marla, thank you so much for that. The book is The DASH Diet Mediterranean Solution. If someone wanted to learn more about you or the book and get the book, where would you like for me to send them?

Marla Heller (42:18): The website is DASHDiet.org. That will take them to the site and they can learn about it. We also have the Facebook page that is also The DASH Diet. And we have some support groups for people who are trying to follow the diets. Some people have all kinds of great ideas, they have questions and so forth. The Facebook groups are DASH Diet 2, and the other one for the Mediterranean diet is Med DASH Diet. Those are all good ways.

Allan (43:06): Okay. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/371, and I’ll be sure to have the links there. Marla, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.

Marla Heller (43:18): Okay. I really appreciated having the opportunity to talk to you.

Allan (43:22): Thank you.

I hope that you enjoyed today’s episode and that you took something valuable from it. I work hard to try to bring the best possible guests to the show. Typically, that’s me reaching out to them. Occasionally, publicists will also reach out to me. But it does take some time to get them scheduled and get them on the show and make sure that we’re giving you the best possible content that I can from their book and from what their thoughts are. And I do hope that you’re getting some value out of each and every episode, because I do put a good bit of time into making sure that happens for you.

And if you are, I am just going to ask you for one thing. Would you become a patron for the show? It’s not very expensive. It can be a dollar a month, I don’t care. I’d love to have your support. There are support levels on the Patreon page. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon, and by going to that page, you’ll be able to make a monthly donation. If you make a $4 donation, I do acknowledge you. That’s pretty much a buck a show. If you think the show is worth a dollar – please, please do go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon so you can support the 40+ Fitness podcast. Thank you.

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