Heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans. Nutrition science continues to evolve over the years as we learn more about the mechanism of foods and nutrients. Unfortunately with the addition of medications, many Americans believe that lifestyle changes are unnecessary which could not be further from the truth. Medication in addition to diet and exercise significantly decrease heart disease risk.
Expert: Sharon Jacob, Clinical Dietitian at St. Francis Medical Center
Question: How do I know what to eat for a healthy heart?
The TLC diet or the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet from the National Cholesterol Education program is a great place to start. These recommendations have remained solid througout the years: Cut back on Saturated or solid fat, cut back on portions and simple sugars such as candy, dessert and soft drinks, keep total cholesterol to 200mg/day from foods and strive for 1500-2000mg sodium maximum/day.
Question: Can you clear up the confusion on fats? I recently heard butter is better than margarine and that all of our packaged cookies and crackers have "bad" fats?
It certainly has been confusing which fats or oils are best for our health. The exciting thing is that nutrition science continues to evolve as we learn more from studies. There is a strong evidence that animal fats such as lard or butter contain a higher proportion of saturated fat, which is associated with increased total and LDL cholesterol, which in turn increases CVD risk. Packaged cookies and crackers often contain hydrogenated oils or trans fat which are also not heart friendly. Plant fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and canola oil tend to have a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These liquid oils and whole foods with a high fat content may improve cholesterol numbers and insulin sensitivity.
Question: So should I be eating olive oil on my bread instead of butter?
Exactly! Always try to use the liquid oils in place of solid fats and even try substituting whole food fats such as avocados as a fat replacer in baked goods such as banana bread. Also, enjoy nuts more often as a snack and using nut butters such as almond butter in sauces and marinades to add great flavor and a dose of the heart healthy fats, fiber and phytochemicals.