It’s been a fast-moving decade for those of us trying to eat a healthy diet, as nutrition research has forged ahead, revealing more about what we do and don’t know. Deciphering the news can be more than slightly confusing, so here’s how to tell between food facts and fiction!
- The Nutty Facts – No longer considered a “bad” snack, but grab an ounce or two – not a handful! Recent studies show that nuts can help prevent heart disease. They are rich in unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated fats, as well as vitamin E, fiber, folic acid, and other B vitamins. Walnuts are especially rich in heart-healthy oil.
- Pass on the Butter, Please – Some new types of margarine contain no trans fats. If you can find it, canola oil margarine is a good choice. Try liquid, tub or “diet” margarines, which have less trans fats. Margarine has no cholesterol (as it is made from vegetable oil), and much less saturated fat than butter. But the hydrogenated varieties, which contain trans fats, are as bad for your heart as the saturated fat in butter. To reduce your blood cholesterol levels, you might also try the new margarines such as Benecol or Take Control, which contain a cholesterol-lowering ingredient.
- Skipping the Salt – High sodium intake may not lead to high blood pressure, unless you are sodium-sensitive. However, it’s impossible to know who’s sodium-sensitive in advance, so consume less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day. But beware of the shaker, because high sodium intake may reduce bone density!
- I’ll Take Wine – Good news for the occasional drinkers of any alcoholic beverage – moderate consumption of red or white wine, beer, or spirits- can be heart-healthy. Moderate means one drink a day for women, two for men. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
- Eggs with a Sunny Side – Now that we know that saturated fat plays a bigger role in raising total blood cholesterol than found in foods (dietary cholesterol), a daily egg may be back on your meal plan. Eggs, it seems, have little saturated fat, which seems to have little effect on the risk of heart disease in healthy people.
- Chocoholics Unite – No longer the forbidden food, it’s OK to indulge in an ounce or two. Chocolate contains large amounts of the same beneficial plant chemicals in tea. One large, ongoing study of the benefits of e3xercise found that men who eat chocolate in moderation (that’s the key) live longer than those who eat none. Nobody knows why – but does it really matter? Enjoy!