Eileen’s Going Lo-Co Inspired Grapefruit-Metamucil Smoothie

In honor of Thanksgiving week, I’d like to thank (see what I did there?) Going Lo-Co reader Eileen S. for sharing both her experience and the cholesterol-lowering recipe she invented. Inspired in part by my post, Grapefruit Pros and Cons (which will forevermore be dubbed, ‘the post that keeps on giving’ as I wrote about grapefruit way back in 2013 and Eileen ran across it two years later!), Going Lo-Co blog reader Eileen S recently invented a new cholesterol-lowering recipe.

As you may recall, Grapefruit Pros and Cons is about the amazing fact that grapefruit – plain old grapefruit – actually lowers cholesterol…so anyone who wants to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol naturally should add grapefruit to their diet** (as long as they are not taking a statin medication or any other medication that interact with grapefruit.)

You may also recall that at the end of that post, I wondered if you could mix cholesterol-lowering grapefruit with cholesterol-lowering Metamucil. But as grapefruit is too tart for me, I never tried the double-shot cholesterol-lowering Grapefruit-Metamucil mix.

But Going Lo-Co blog reader Eileen did!

She emailed me with her experience and the recipe she created – and I felt hers was such a clever idea (and I was so tickled to have been an inspiration for that idea) that I wanted to share her emails in case you have a similar experience and/or just want to try grapefruit mixed with Metamucil:

Eileen email #1 – about trying to incorporate Metamucil into her daily life to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol naturally, and how frustrated Eileen was with the sugar/sugar-free Metamucil options:

Hi Karen!

I came across your blog today about grapefruit and lowering cholesterol. At the very end you wondered if you could mix it with your Metamucil. Such a coincidence! I started taking Metamucil couple months ago to try to lower my LDL’s so that I don’t need to take a statin medication. After going through a whole container with artificial sweetener followed by a whole container with real sugar I realized I wanted neither and tried an unflavored unsweetened version. YUCK! Just yesterday I came across a recipe to throw red grapefruit into a blender with a little honey. Just this morning I decided to try the grapefruit with the Metamucil and the honey altogether. I’ll be going to the store today and trying the concoction tomorrow morning. Did you ever try this? I can let you know how it goes if you are still interested.


Eileen’s second email — she invented a naturally sweetened Grapefruit – Metamucil Smoothie (I assume it’s smooth so have dubbed it so) and the ‘recipe’ is included here:

Hi again!

So tonight after dinner I scooped out the inside of one grapefruit and put it in my Ninja along with a bit of honey and a few ice cubes.  Once that was blended I added a round teaspoon of plain psyllium husks and a couple ounces of cold water and blended it again. Not bad at all! Now I have a double whammy for lowering my  LDL without artificial sweeteners and colors that is much more palatable!  A win/win deal.  I would love to know if anyone else tries this.


So if you are looking for a more palatable way to take Metamucil and the idea of mixing it with cholesterol-lowering Metamucil appeals**, try Eileen’s Going Lo-Co Inspired Grapefruit-Metamucil Smoothie!  I’ve included a ‘recipe’ version on the Going Lo-Co recipe page.

A big thanks to Eileen for sharing (and giving me permission to post).  Comment or email if you try this or other cholesterol-lowering recipes: Eileen and I would love to know your experience and ideas.

** VERY IMPORTANT:  do NOT eat grapefruit if you take Lipitor or any other statin medication to lower cholesterol without speaking first to your doctor.  Same grapefruit warning exists if you take other types of medications that can also interact with grapefruit juice, including drugs for blood pressure, heart rhythm, depression, anxiety, HIV, immunosuppression, allergies, impotence, and seizures.  It is dangerous to start eating grapefruit if you take any of these medications – unless you speak to your doctor first.


Heart Surgery

I mentioned in my last post, Losing Lox, that my folks were staying with us for a few weeks. What I didn’t mention was why.  And heart surgery is the reason.

My step-father had an aorta valve replacement nine years ago. The ‘epic’ valve that was supposed to last 15+ years didn’t even make it 10. Epic Fail. (Sorry, could not resist).

So now, at 82, it was clear that he needed open heart surgery, again. Fortunately he is in great shape (other than the so-very-leaky aorta valve) and was thus a candidate for surgery — if he was diabetic or overweight, surgery might not have been an option. More fodder for eating well and exercising daily. But more on that later.

We found ourselves both grateful and worried. Grateful the condition could be fixed. Worried because this was a significantly more complicated surgery than the first valve replacement – so much so that his much-trusted cardiologist in Sarasota counseled he should NOT have the replacement of the replacement valve surgery done in Florida. He needed a surgeon and hospital with more expertise.

After a month of searching we concluded the best option would be for them to come to stay with us in Connecticut so the surgery could be done at NY Presbyterian – one of the top 3 cardiac hospitals in the country. They arrived in mid-January for the surgeon consult, surgery was scheduled ASAP which in this case was nearly three weeks later on February 4th (this surgeon is BUSY) and they need to stay here, near NYC, until the post-surgery follow up appointment on 2/27 where he will be cleared to fly home.

It’s been a long – a very long – process.  Personally, I was more worried before the surgery that his very compromised heart would give out while waiting for the surgery. And now post-surgery, his vitals and color look so much better that I feel palpable relief. My mom is the reverse — she had been living with him with his compromised heart so long that that was ‘normal’ — she was worried, of course, but it was what she was used to. And in a way, she’s more worried now, after the successful surgery, because everything is new and scary. Why is he suddenly hot, then cold? Why no appetite?  Why so much napping and not a lot of energy?  Me, I see he actually has more energy than before, but it can be hard for others to see that.

So we read and then re-read the excellent material provided by New York-Presbyterian (if you ever need heart surgery and live near NY, get thee to NY Presbyterian – they were amazing on all fronts) to see what normal was. And though the visiting nurse said the ‘feeling cold from the inside’ is something she does see as a symptom, it’s still hard not to worry.

So I am trying to channel the worry into action. One of the things they harp on in the hospital is ‘walk your way to health.’  Seriously, after a 5 hour open heart surgery, they have the patients sitting up in chairs THE NEXT DAY and walking within 1-2 days.  It’s astonishing.

And the at-home walking program is very clear.  The NY Presbyterian folks want their heart patients to walk 0.1 miles, two-times a day –  the FIRST day they are home from the hospital.  Day two that is upped to 0.2 miles, twice a day.  By day 7 — yes, just 1 week after returning home from open heart surgery — my dad must walk 0.3 miles, twice.

He and my mom thought this was too much.  So they didn’t do it the first day. Well actually, they did try.  They walked a few feet – three different times.

I explained that wasn’t good enough.  That the reason the doctor wants him walking ever-longer each day is to build cardiac strength.  That to build cardiac strength, it’s vital to walk the amount he’s supposed to walk – ALL AT ONCE.

They stared at me in disbelief.

And then, metaphorical whip in hand and cheerleading all the way, I told my mom to wipe that concerned look off her face, put on her ‘you can do it’ smile and help.

And we all three did it.  On day 2 home from the surgery, my Dad walked the 50o feet (0.1) mile all at once.  And said he felt better!

Not only that, his pulse rate barely increased and his color got better — all clear indications that the walking was doing him good.

Day 2 there was no argument.  Just ‘how many laps, Karen’ and off he went.  And again, he felt good while doing it.

Today the cardiac PT person is coming to the house and my Mom plans to ask what h/she thinks about how much my Dad should be walking. Sigh. I know she’s concerned and she has every right to ask. But I will be there to chime in — that he should be walking the program his surgeon provided. That every time he does the prescribed walk, his pulse goes up only 10-12 beats per minute and he is not out of breath. That he NEEDS to walk.

All that said, it’s still a difficult recovery.  My dad has no pain (amazing) but he is weary and bored and tired of it all. Which is totally understandable.

The thing my dad keeps saying to my husband and myself is to ‘take care of your heart – you don’t want to end up like this.’  And he’s right. Never have I had a more visceral visual representation of the benefit and importance of living lo-co.

Frankly, some of this is genetic (which is why I mentioned he’s my step-dad – the heredity part of this doesn’t apply to me.) But a lot is related to cholesterol and lifestyle. My dad takes fish oil and a statin for high cholesterol, along with blood pressure meds.  So, continuing eating lo-co – and doing a better job than I have been – is important.  But watching the exercise literally help breathe life back into him is miraculous – and more motivation for my own exercise program.

Elliptical, here I come.


An Apple A Day Keeps Cholesterol At Bay

If you don’t fancy chickpeas for breakfast (and really, why would you?) perhaps adding some apple to your daily granola is more appealing as a healthy diet change?

Though I never planned to add chickpeas to my breakfast fare, I did intend to add it to my daily diet. OK, weekly diet. Indeed, so intrigued was I to learn that chickpeas lower cholesterol (see, Don’t Like Oatmeal, Try Chickpeas!), that I decided it was a good idea to try to make my own hummus from scratch.

On Christmas Eve.

A good idea it was not.

My homemade hummus experiement failed epically. Hence my latest research into apples, which I cannot make from scratch.  Just add to my diet. (Maybe. As I dislike apples only slightly less than salad.)

But I digress.

TahiniLet me explain about the hummus.

First of all, have you ever tried to stir tahini?  No? Well, imagine stirring cement. Because that’s what it felt like. Check out this spoon standing up on it’s own, and just imagine the huge sucking sound when I tried to free the spoon from the evil tahini.

Let’s just say that the ensuing emergency load of laundry was not in the timeline for Christmas Eve preparations. So, um, things got a little messy.

But after a good ten minutes (and I am not exaggerating) I managed to get 1/3 cup of tahini into the food processor, along with the requisite amount of drained chickpeas, garlic, salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, water and hot sauce.

Yet this time, both of my usually reliable cookbook resources failed me. Barefoot Contessa AND epicurious  both called for 4 cloves of garlic.  FOUR cloves.  And yet the title was not GARLIC hummus. Though it should have been.

I should have known  better.  It did strike me that 4 cloves of RAW garlic was going to be, um, garlicky.  But I like garlic.  And figured maybe it would be mitigated by the tahini (as if it might ‘cure’ the garlic or magically blanch it or something.) In the end, the fact that both recipes said to use 4 cloves gave me confidence. Which was misplaced. I served my Christmas Eve guests – who were all eager to try my homemade hummus – a mouthful of very raw, garlicky hummus.  Not ideal.

So we all had more to drink. Far more.

Also not the plan.

So I’ll now be buying my hummus from Trader Joe’s.  And this epic fail left me searching for a different cholesterol-lowering food I could easily add to my daily diet.

Which is where apples come in.

Now unlike chickpeas, my doctor definitely told me to eat apples. And for a while there, I dutifully added sliced apples to my daily oatmeal. But that oatmeal gave way to a bagel and lox, so the apple thing didn’t last long.

As I threw my tahini-strewn shirt into the washing machine, I got to wondering what it was about apples that was good for lowering cholesterol.  I knew about dietary fiber, but was there another, compelling reason to add apples to my diet?

What I learned is that apples pack more cholesterol-lowering punch than just dietary fiber. They are rich in phytonutrients, which  help regulate blood sugar…and are also flush with Vitamin C and with antioxidants, which attack free radicals.

Blah, blah, blah…  Apples are good for you. Yeah, I know, my doctor told me to eat them. But why? Are they just healthy, or do they actually help lower cholesterol?

Yes, Virginia, they do.

As I explained in Health Benefits of Apples, actual research studies have proven that apples lower cardiac disease risk:

The Iowa Women’s Health Study reported that, among the 34,000-plus women it’s been tracking for nearly 20 years, apples were associated with a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.”  In a very specific small study conducted in 2011, Florida State University researchers asked 160 women aged 45-65 to eat dried apples or prunes every day; they proved that in just 6 months, LDL (bad) cholesterol was reduced by 23% and HDL (good) cholesterol rose by 4%.

Now as it happens I don’t love raw apples (though I do enjoy them, if someone (else) slices them and sprinkles them with cinnamon or dices them for oatmeal), but dried apples as a snack could be something I can easily add to my diet.

So I’m off to Trader Joe’s to buy some hummus AND some dried apples.

And I think I’ll get some raw apples, too. Because hey, maybe I can convince my husband to slice them for me. And then I can try – just once this week – to have oatmeal for breakfast instead of my beloved half-bagel and lox.

I’m going for a valiant effort at eating some cholesterol-lowering food … that has zero chance of resulting in additional laundry.



Don’t Like Oatmeal? Try Chickpeas!

Every morning I feel guilty as I eat my half-bagel with a smidge of whipped cream cheese and fresh lox – guilty because I know I should be eating that miracle breakfast food, oatmeal. I know oatmeal has a lot of dietary fiber, and dietary fiber reduces cholesterol. But I just don’t care for oatmeal all that much.

So imagine my surprise when I learned while researching for my Answers.com article, Chickpeas Help Lower Cholesterol (who knew?!) that chickpeas have a lot of dietary fiber. And I mean A LOT.



Why didn’t my doctor mention this?

She did say to eat a lot more fiber. She did say to eat oatmeal and fresh vegetables and take Metamucil.  But nary a word about chickpeas.

Which is a bummer because I can easily pop open a can of chickpeas and toss a handful in a salad. I’m far more likely to do that than eat oatmeal (Yes, I know – I always write about how I don’t like salad. That said, I am having far, far more success eating salad for lunch than I’ve ever had eating oatmeal for breakfast!)

So I did a little more research – and guess what? A mere half-cup of canned chickpeas packs 5 grams of dietary fiber, compared to 4 grams of that pain-to-make steel cut oatmeal (!) and 3 grams of fiber in instant oatmeal packets. The only oatmeal with more dietary fiber than chickpeas is that new Quaker Instant High Fiber Oatmeal (which I haven’t yet tried but guess I should?)

Check out this nutritional comparison I did using the Quaker site — comparing 1 serving of three different Quaker Oatmeals with 1 serving of Eden Organic canned chickpeas (the Goya and Progresso sites did not have all the nutritional info but I’m betting it’s similar). My guess is that you’ll join me in both searching the web for hummus recipes and popping chickpeas into your salads.

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FDA: Trans Fats Are Not GRAS

On Thursday, November 7, the FDA proposed a new law which would effectively eliminate partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) or artificial trans fats.

Why does this matter?

Because PHOs are in a LOT of the processed food we Americans eat. According to the FDA, PHOs are “the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food.” In fact, PHOs are a key ingredient in many popular snack foods. The NYT article, FDA Ruling Would All But Eliminate Trans Fats, explains that artificial trans fats “still lurk in many popular products, like frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers.”

And I’m betting you (and I) eat plenty of these items — even as we try to watch our cholesterol.

I mean, all of us trying to lower heart disease risk by keeping our cholesterol in check know to avoid red meat and processed food in general. But frozen pizzas? And the occasional bag of microwave popcorn? These seemed to me (until I read about PHOs this week) fairly innocuous.

Apparently not so much.

Which is why the FDA acted. And it was a BIG play they made — the FDA has declared PHOs as “Not GRAS.”  Or, in regular-person-speak, if the FDA proposal passes, partially hydrogentated oils would now be known to be NOT ‘Generally Recognized As Safe.’

This is a radical shift.  HUGE.  The FDA is now saying that this common food additive IS NOT SAFE.

If, after the 60 day comment period, this proposal passes, food companies will not be able to use trans fats – AT ALL.

Which, frankly, is amazing.

It’s been a long time coming.  According to the FDA Targets Trans Fat in Processed Foods article on the FDA website, the FDA proposed all the way back in 1999 that food manufacturers had to specify the amount of trans fat per serving on Nutrition Labels. And it took until 2006 for trans fats to appear by law on nutrition labels.

So it took 7 years to require food labels show trans fats. And 7 years later the FDA wants to ban the use of trans fats.


According to the FDA site, it will save thousands of lives:

“… there are still many processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food. Trans fat has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, in which plaque builds up inside the arteries and may cause a heart attack.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a further reduction of trans fat in the food supply can prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t take 7 more years for the FDA proposal to take hold and for PHOs to be declared unsafe.

We’ll see what happens after the 60 day period for public comments.