We debunk five myths about heart-healthy diets and give you truths you can take to heart.
January 30, 2008
1 of 6Rita Maas
Myth vs. Truth
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, but the good news is that it can be prevented with lifestyle changes, particularly diet. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about what we should be eating to keep our hearts beating. With the help of the experts, we debunk five myths about heart-healthy diets and give you truths (and recipes) you can take to heart.
2 of 6Salmon with Almonds and Tomato-Lemon Sauce
Myth: A low-fat diet prevents heart disease.
Not necessarily. While it's true that a diet high in saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease, other types of fat are actually good for your heart. When eaten in moderation, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help decrease blood levels of "bad" cholesterol and the risk of heart disease and stroke. Try Salmon with Almonds and Tomato-Lemon Sauce for a recipe with three sources of good fat.
Myth: A low-cholesterol diet prevents heart disease.
This is partially true, but it's not the whole story. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, but weight, physical activity, age, and gender can also affect cholesterol levels. Plus, saturated fat and dietary cholesterol are both culprits in raising blood cholesterol, with saturated fat being the ring leader. For a satisfying entrée that is low in saturated fat and totally cholesterol free, try Asian Noodle, Tofu, and Vegetable Stir-Fry.
4 of 6Spicy Rubbed Flank Steak with Spicy Peach-Bourbon Sauce
Myth: Salt doesn't matter–only fat.
Salt does matter. Eating less salt/sodium helps to reduce blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks. And a new study reported by the American Heart Association (AHA) showed that a reduced-sodium intake also decreased the risk of death from heart disease. The AHA recommends less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, about the equivalent of about 2/3 teaspoon of salt. When trying to reduce the salt in your diet, don't deprive yourself of flavor. Try Spicy Rubbed Flank Steak with Spicy Peach-Bourbon Sauce at 425 milligrams sodium per serving.
Myth: Foods labeled "trans fat free" are heart-healthy.
Maybe not. Under FDA label regulations, if a serving of food contains 0.5 grams or less trans fats, the label can state "trans fat free". If one serving contains 0.4 milligrams per serving and you eat four servings, you've eaten close to the recommended limit of 2 - 2.5 grams per day. Also, some manufacturers are getting around the trans fat ban by replacing trans fats with saturated fats. Read the labels of all packaged food carefully, and, instead of fast-food fries, try our trans-fat-free Oven-Fries with Crisp Sage Leaves.
Not true–moderate amounts of sugar are just fine. It's also about choosing your sources of sugar wisely. For example, a smoothie is a better choice than a soft drink, even though they both contain sugar. Focus on sugar-containing foods that have other nutrients instead of just empty calories. Of course, if you have diabetes or are trying to lose weight, pay attention to any type of extra calories, sugar, and carbohydrate because eating too many sugar-containing foods can wreak havoc with blood sugars and also lead to weight gain.