Eating healthy can be a challenge for many people; however, a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for cardiovascular health. DocWire News recently spoke with Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC, a preventative cardiologist who is the Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Step One Foods, a company focused on helping people reduce their cholesterol through nutritious eating. Find out from Dr. Klodas how small dietary changes can make a big impact on heart health.
DocWire News: Please provide us with some background on yourself.
Dr. Elizabeth Klodas: Sure. So my name is Elizabeth Klodas. I am a practicing preventive cardiologist. I trained at Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins and I’ve been in practice for almost 25 years. I’m also the founder and chief medical officer of Step One Foods.
How many people in the U.S. have high cholesterol, and what are some of the dangers associated with it?
Yeah, so high cholesterol is rampant. 94 million Americans have high cholesterol, so it’s very, very prevalent. And high cholesterol, especially high LDL or bad cholesterol, is really one of the best studied and most powerful risk factors for developing atherosclerosis and plaque in our heart arteries and arteries all over our bodies. So it’s a potent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, the need for bypass surgery, stent, things like that.
What is Step One Foods, and how can it help people improve their cardiovascular health?
Sure. So Step One Foods was designed specifically to help individuals improve their cardiovascular health and reduce their risk through nutrition. If you look at, specifically from the lens of cholesterol because that’s where we started, if you look at the foods or the food components that impact cholesterol, it’s whole food fiber. Fiber helps flush cholesterol out of our system through the digestive tract plant sterols, natural plant components that block cholesterol absorption in the digestive system. Any oxidants that are these powerful, free radical finding molecules that you can get from various whole plants. These lower the impact of any circulating cholesterol within our bloodstream and also help reduce inflammation and omega-3 fatty acids, these healthy fats that come from nuts, seeds, fish, and these help raise good cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and lower bad cholesterol, giving us a better cholesterol profile all around. These four main nutrients, Americans are woefully inadequate in these dietary components.
And so the goal of Step One Foods is to provide people with an easy way to fill those nutritional gaps through just two food servings a day. So really this is food as medicine, right? Drugs are formulated very specifically and precisely to address a health condition. Well, these are foods that are doses of nutrients and just with two servings you can fill those nutritional gaps. And the foods are very straightforward. They’re things that people are eating already, bars, pancake mix, instant oatmeal, and you think just two servings a day. What could that do? And it’s amazing what changing your food intake just by a small degree, when it’s done, what kind of health impact it can have. We showed with a study that we performed with Mayo Clinic and University of Manitoba that in 30 days, not 30 years or 30 months, in 30 days, you can see significant cholesterol reductions. In some cases as potent as you’d see with a drug. Not everyone has miracle results. I’m not here to say that, and I’m also not here to say that medications have no role. But look at what food can do, and this is something that we have control over that we can employ to help ourselves.
What advice would you offer to someone who’s battling high cholesterol?
So what I would say is look at what you’re consuming. Take a look and see, are you missing these nutrients? Is there a way to increase whole food fiber? Do you need to increase healthy fats through higher intakes of nuts and seeds and fish, et cetera. In general, the nutritional pattern that supports lower cholesterol as well as lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar, healthy weight is one that is based in a whole food plant-based approach. So eating lots of beans and legumes, leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, grains in their most whole and unprocessed forms, nuts and seeds, favoring these components in our diet can have a big impact on our cardiovascular health.
Any closing thoughts?
I think the biggest takeaway is sometimes we think that we need to change everything to have a health impact. And Step One Foods proves that even just changing out two small things a day can have profound impacts on health. So it’s not about necessarily turning your life upside down and changing everything. It’s about finding something you can do that’s approachable and sustainable, and then seeing the amazing health results you can achieve.