Bye bye bread

Went for my annual checkup yesterday and, for the first time in my life, was told that I need to make some changes.

My LDL-P – which is a newer, better measure of heart health than the old cholesterol numbers we all know – is high. Like, really high. This despite the fact that my old school cholesterol number is in a totally safe range, all other health indicators are more or less perfect and despite the fact that my weight is better than it has been for almost my entire adult life.

Thing is, it may have always been high. Doctors are just now starting to routinely do LDL-P tests along with normal bloodwork that accompanies annual physicals. Seems that LDL-P counts correlate far better with heart health than traditional cholesterol numbers. The classic case of the totally fit marathon runner who drops dead of a heart attack? Dude likely had a high LDL-P and had no idea because he was fit and his “bad cholesterol” numbers were in good shape.

The culprit: carbs and sugars (like that marathon runner or gym rat’s carb load before workouts). In my case I don’t eat tons of bread, but I do eat a lot of breakfast cereal and pasta. And I have a bit of a sweet tooth. When I started to get in better shape two years ago I did so in part with the dietary know-how of everyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s: low fat everything. Whole wheat everything. Eggs are awful. Limit your meat intake.

Which was fine for my weight but, for purposes of one’s heart health, is exactly wrong. A better diet for me, my doctor tells me, is low carb, high protein and – as was always the case, even back in the 70s and 80s – lots of fruits and veggies.  I am to eliminate my daily bowl of Raisin Bran and cut out the pasta. He suggested that I go in the direction of those primal/paleo diets which are basically lean meats, eggs, and plant matter.

I imagine the natural reaction to hearing all of this yesterday would be worry or a crashing sense of one’s mortality, but I actually left the doctor’s office feeling pretty happy. I like that I caught something before it caused me problems (which in my case could have easily been a heart attack out of the clear blue sky in my 40s). I like that the diet that will help my heart out will make it even easier to maintain a healthy weight. Intellectually I’ve always known that such changes would probably be a good idea, but I never felt compelled to make changes. Now I do and I view it as a welcome challenge rather than some form of dietary punishment.

When I got home I chucked all of my breakfast cereal. I had a salad with grilled chicken, tomatoes and a homemade vinaigrette. This morning I made oatmeal with blueberries on it. I’m probably going to have edamame for lunch. I’m looking forward to finding new stuff to cook and eat.

We all get old and most of us hate it. I have found, however, that I grow more comfortable with myself every year I get older. Maybe it’s because things mattered less when I was younger and matter more now and I have always tended to enjoy challenges more than idle ease. I have a new challenge now and I find it invigorating.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.

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