What is it about the Tsimane diet that provides such impressive heart-healthy benefits? Let’s dig in.
1. There Are No Trans Fats
Our ancestors didn’t eat trans fats, and the Tsimane people don’t either. Trans fats are artificially created, genetically modified cooking oils, so they’re not found in fresh foods or foods with little processing, like rice or oats. But they are prevalent in highly processed foods, like cakes, cookies, deep-fried fast foods, margarine and anything made with Crisco. Eating trans fats raises your bad cholesterol while lowering the good levels, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s also been associated with a higher rate of type 2 diabetes.
In fact, one landmark study reviewed the published studies about trans fats, involving hundreds of thousands of people. Researchers found that people who ate more trans fats had a 34 percent higher rate of dying from any cause than those who ate less of the stuff. They also increased their risk of dying from heart disease by 28 percent and had a 21 percent higher risk of heart-related health problems. The Tsimane, with virtually no trans fats in their diet, don’t have this problem.
2. It’s Low in Sugar
In modern Western diets, it’s hard escaping sugar and sweeteners. Everything from bread to yogurt to pasta sauce has added sugars in it, and that’s before we even consider what sweetening, such as when we add honey to oatmeal or sugar in our morning coffee. The Tsimane, on the other hand, consume very little sugar. There are no modern foods with sneaky added sugars. Instead, the only sugar that the Tsimane people eat comes from the small amount of fruit they eat.
We know that added sugars increase the risk of heart disease. One major study that took place over 15 years found that participants who got 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to folks whose diets had less than 10 percent added sugar.
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