Getting to the Heart of Perfect Health

Brenda Watson, C.N.C., is nationally renowned as a digestive health educator, but this time she’s turning to heart health in her breakthrough new PBS show (airing throughout March) and book, The Heart of Perfect Health. Heart disease and its risk markers are very personal topics for Brenda. She’s seen too many of her family and friends affected by the preventable conditions that lead to heart disease, including diabetes.

The Heart of Perfect Health focuses both on prevention for those looking to maintain their good health and on a therapeutic approach for anyone already experiencing heart disease risk markers. In this revolutionary look at America’s #1 killer, heart disease, Brenda exposes how sugars in our diet contribute to heart disease risk and offers a simple formula for figuring out just how much hidden sugar is in the foods we eat. Brenda also talks about the big three risk markers we all need to watch out for:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar

The most important topic on the show, however, is the underlying contributor to heart disease, silent inflammation. Silent inflammation is happening to many of us every day. The show covers the surprising triggers of this condition, what you can do to reverse them, and silent inflammation’s connection to Brenda’s favorite topic, the gut.

Brenda debunks several health myths on The Heart of Perfect Health:

  • Myth #1: All cholesterol is bad.
  • Myth #2: Only diabetics need to worry about their blood sugar levels
  • Myth #3: Fat is bad for you

The Fat Factor, Getting to the Heart of Good Fat

One of the most important dietary and supplement recommendations Brenda makes on the show to help reduce your risk of heart disease is to get more heart healthy Omega 3 fats in your diet every day.*

Omega 3s are found primarily in cold water fish and certain nuts and in high potency fish oil supplements.

What to Look for in a Heart Healthy Fish Oil Supplement:

  1. High potency at over 1,000mg of Omega-3 per capsule. Brenda and other experts recommend up to 3,000mg of Omega-3s each day, which is pretty tough to get if your capsule only contains a few hundred milligrams of Omega-3. It is the Omega-3 that offers the heart-health benefits, not the amount of fish oil itself. Look for a fish oil supplement that contains at least 1,000mg of Omega-3 per capsule so you don’t have to take a handful of fish oil supplements each day.
  2. Enteric coated capsules for better absorption and no fishy burping. An enteric coating helps the fish oils reach the intestines where they are absorbed.
  3. Added vitamin D3 in your fish oil. Vitamin D3 helps to further offset silent inflammation in the body and support immune/heart health.ǂ
  4. Independently certified purity. The International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) program is the industry’s most stringent independent certifier of fish oil quality. Look for the 5-star IFOS seal on the package to ensure you aren’t getting any mercury, pesticides, or contaminants in your supplement.


* Supportive but not conclusive evidence shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Fat Is Not the Enemy—It’s a Nutrient

The low-fat diet craze has been popular since the ‘70s when scientists linked a diet high in saturated fat to raised cholesterol levels, and a low-saturated fat diet was found to be protective against heart disease. Somehow, because of the unhealthy qualities of this one type of fat, the entire fat category got a bad rap. Thus began the low-fat diet craze (which actually became the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet craze that continues to contribute to the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease we have ever seen).

The truth is we need fat. It’s one of the three main macronutrients—fat, carbohydrates, and protein—that provides fuel for our body and keeps us running. Every cell in the body is enclosed in a membrane made up of fats. Without fat, our cells cannot run efficiently. But certain fats are better than others, as scientists learned in the early studies investigating fat and heart disease.

The one fat you want to completely eliminate from your diet is processed trans-fat. The trans-fat found in hydrogenated oils (common in processed foods) has been linked to a number of health conditions. It’s best to cut this one out completely. The fat you want to greatly reduce is saturated fat. Although a natural fat, its saturated nature means that it is a stiff molecule, and stiff fats make for stiff cell membranes. This reduces the ability of the cell to maintain fluidity—an important characteristic of a healthy cell.

You don’t have to eliminate saturated fats, but be sure to eat them in moderation. Even better, obtain your saturated fats from coconut oil, a medium chain saturated fat considered a healthy saturated fat due to its shorter chain length and rapid metabolism.

The fats you do need to eat—probably more than you already do—are monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil) and the omega-3 fats (found in fish oil, flaxseed, chia seed, and walnuts). These fats are unsaturated, and contribute to the fluidity of cell membranes, as well as to the regulation of inflammatory response—all health-promoting actions.

A recent study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research highlighted the importance of eating fats along with vegetables. The researchers found that the carotenoid nutrients (beta carotene is a carotenoid) found in salads were best absorbed when eaten in combination with monounsaturated fats as opposed to saturated or even polyunsaturated fats. If you have been passing on salad dressing because you want to cut down on fat, you’re better off adding fat—use a vinaigrette made with olive oil. This week, add some extra virgin olive oil to your veggies and remember that fat is a nutrient—not the enemy. Just choose the right fats.